Matt Damon disproves the stereotype of celebrities as selfish, spoiled individuals who waste their fortunes on frivolous purchases like ostentatiously large homes and thousand-dollar shoes without giving any of it to charity. Despite what people may think and the persona that some celebrities seem to give off based on their portrayal in the media, many celebrities are actually involved with charitable missions and Hollywood A-lister Matt Damon is one such celebrity.
Damon attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week to address the global water crisis before a crowd of 3,000 delegates. Through water.org, the non-governmental foundation he established in 2009 with Gary White and his partnership with Belgian beer company Stella Artois formed five years ago, Damon hopes to bring awareness to the shortage of clean and accessible water around the world. According to the water.org website, the organization has already provided access to safe water and sanitation to 5 million people around the world, but they aim to reach millions more.
Water scarcity has been on the World Economic Forum’s list of top threats for the past seven years, but the main hurdle in the shortage, according to Damon, is “just explaining that there is an issue.” Because access to sanitary water is second nature to first world nations, many people do not even realize that there is a problem, or they do not understand the severity of the global water crisis. “One of the first hurdles we have in the west is that it’s really hard for people to relate to this,” said Damon. “If you grow up in Europe or America, chances are you’ve never been thirsty in your entire life, and you’ve never been more than five meters away from a clean drink of water.”
Yet, the WEF classifies the lack of access to clean water as a “risk multiplier,” meaning it contributes to the major issues plaguing the world today, such as the refugee crisis and lack of growth in developing nations. Research from the World Bank has found that “water stress” could limit growth in some nations by up to 6 percent by the year 2050, which is likely to cause “extreme societal stress” in regions like the Middle East and Africa, triggering mass migration in the search for water and survival. Furthermore, the World Bank predicts that water availability in cities could decline by as much as two thirds by 2050 due to climate change and competition over energy generation.
One of the campaigns that Damon is working on with Stella Artois is called the “Buy a lady a drink” campaign because it is predominantly the women and girls in developing nations who suffer the most from the shortage of water; they are the ones responsible for collecting water, and their education often suffers as a result. This campaign is encouraging customers to purchase branded chalices, for which Stella Artois will donate $6.25 to water.org for every chalice sold. AB inBev, Stella Artois’ parent company, is also pledging to provide six months of clean water for someone with every pack of beer bought over the next month.
Ricardo Tadeu, African Zone President of AB InBev, Stella Artois’ parent company, is confident that their combined efforts will make an impact in the global water crisis. Water.org and Stella Artois have worked together for five years, brining clean water to 800,000 people. Tadeu believes that they will accomplish their goal of reaching 3.5 million people by 2020, and that if they double their efforts over the next five to ten years and get about 50 more companies around the world involved, that could be the solution to ending the global water crisis.
Damon, too, has faith that the millennial generation is engaged with and attuned to the world’s problems, and that the opportunity to change someone’s life with a pint of beer will have a huge impact on combatting the world’s water shortage.