Posted by: Ken Homer | March 20, 2008

Water water everywhere… or so we were taught to think.

Water water everywhere and all the boards did shrink.

Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink.

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

e055330-global_water_and_air_volume-spl.jpg 

ADAM NIEMAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Global water and air volume. Conceptual computer artwork of the total volume of water on Earth (left) and of air in the Earth’s atmosphere (right) shown as spheres (blue and pink). The spheres show how finite water and air supplies are. The water sphere measures 1390 kilometres across and has a volume of 1.4 billion cubic kilometres. This includes all the water in the oceans, seas, ice caps, lakes and rivers as well as ground water, and that in the atmosphere. The air sphere measures 1999 kilometres across and weighs 5140 trillion tonnes. As the atmosphere extends from Earth it becomes less dense. Half of the air lies within the first 5 kilometres of the atmosphere.

I spent a lot of time around boats when I was a child and later joined the Coast Guard as a young man. I love the ocean and have lived near it my whole life. While for some old salts there may be seven seas, there is in truth, only one ocean. 

Life as we know it does not exist without water, and all water is ocean in one form or another.

The liquid ocean of salt water that we gaze at in wonder, whether standing on the shore or upon the bridge of a great ship, is part of the same ocean of fresh water that migrates up to the heavens above and pours down life nourishing rain on fields and forests, creating rivers, lakes and streams as it does so.

The solid ocean of ice that makes up the great glaciers, ice floes and snows that cover mountains is also the ocean that melts in our mouths, swims in our veins, passes through our bladders and falls from our eyes.

Water, air and land seem to be quite distinct and separate from each other. They are different systems with permeable boundaries connecting them, and while they are bounded, they can not be separated from each other for they form an indivisible whole.

Earth is the ultimate recycling system, connecting everything and everyone in a constant flow of extraordinary complexity and beauty. Recently there has been a lot of concern about the discovery of prescription medication in our drinking water supplies. To quote a teenage friend of mine, “Well duh!” 

The image above shows that we have is a one time endowment – ruin it and game over.

For us to achieve a sustainable – and by this I mean livable, meaningful and fulfilling future for all of humanity – we’ll need a different relationship to air and water than the one governing our current collective behavior.

We need to shift from viewing and treating air and water as  “resources to be consumed” to recognizing that “water and air are us.”

No air and water = no life.

Toxic air and water = no life.

Water and air are finite with only so much of them to go around, when we degrade them we degrade ourselves – our bodies, our minds, our genetic pool and our children’s future.

If we act wisely now we can ensure that children far into the future will be grateful for our actions today.

Image courtesy of Science Photo Library. 

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Responses

  1. Thank you. We need to spread the word.


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