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  • 01.06.10

LIGHTS, CAMERA, WATER

As with AIDS in the early 90’s, celebrities are beginning to play a key role in raising awareness and galvanizing support for clean water, an issue often easily ignored in the comfort of our living rooms.

It was not until 1987, that President Ronald
Reagan publicly mentioned AIDS, despite its emergence in the earlier part of
the decade. By 1991, the
HIV/AIDS epidemic was in full swing.
A decade after the first cases were discovered, the disease had already
begun to affect the poor and marginalized in the US and across Africa and the
Caribbean. That year, Magic
Johnson announced that he had tested positive for HIV and planned to retire and
use his celebrity to help educate young people about the disease. The actors group, Broadway Cares,
worked with several NGOs to establish the red ribbon as the international
symbol of AIDS awareness. Soon
after, the red ribbon was pinned to the lapels of every celebrity on the red
carpet of the Academy Awards and other major celebrity. It was a turning point in winning the
country’s hearts and minds to address the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The press started to pay
attention. People started talking
about the disease and took to the streets to advocate for funding and support
for prevention, treatment and care.
Today, the United States is investing tens of billions of dollars each
year, and for the first time, the disease is on the decline.

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As with AIDS in the early 80s, today the public
is mostly unaware of the global water challenge and resulting waterborne
diseases – and thus, they are neglected by governmental and private donors. More than 1 billion people on our
planet lack access to clean water.
As a result of limited access to water, and inadequate hygiene and
sanitation a child dies every 15 seconds from diseases such as cholera. Despite the magnitude of the crisis,
the United States invested only $200 million AID to fund water programs in
Africa last year, less than 1/5th of the funding for other chronic and
infectious diseases. We spend HUNDREDS
OF BILLIONS of dollars in search of water on distant planets, but throw PENNIES
at helping people access water here on earth.

Today,
I am joined by a team of celebrities and global influencers brought together by
singer/producer Kenna to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and raise global awareness and
resources as part of Summit on the Summit. The team includes Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsh, Lupe Fiasco,
Santigold and Isabel Lucas. In
addition to myself, the team of educators and influencers includes Alexandra
Cousteau, Elizabeth Gore, Kick Kennedy, Jimmy Chin, Michael Muller, Jason Walsh
and Bernise Ang. With support from
Hewlett Packard, Procter
& Gamble’s PUR
brand and Microsoft’s Windows 7, Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent among
others, OUR GOAL is to put this issue in the eyes and ears of the public like
never before…to leverage the reach of our collective celebrity and influence –
and the interest in the press (and paparazzi) and have the issue of water
pop-up on the pages of People Magazine, US Weekly, MTV as well as mainstream
news outlets. Our job is to help
amplify the outstanding and effective work of communities, NGOs and government
aid organizations that are already bringing clean water to the communities in
need.

Let’s be clear, Hollywood and Madison Avenue cannot
save the world. But celebrities and consumer brands, like those involved on
this program, can play an important role in raising awareness and galvanizing
support for those issues often easily ignored in the comfort of our living
rooms. At the end of day, however, the heavy lifting in addressing this
issue must come from government AND FROM YOU.

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Learn how you can get involved at http://www.summitonthesummit.com 

Happy trails from the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

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