Water is life

In the wake of Earth Hour on Saturday, here’s an appropriate post for All Fools’ Day.

Although there are many things about which there is disagreement, there can be no argument that water is necessary for life. Humanity’s probes into the cosmos strongly suggest that life can only exist in the presence of water. In all our travels, we have found just one place where life exists: and that place is our home planet.

There is a lot of water on Eaarth. About 70% of the surface is covered by the stuff. But, as with so many things, how one looks at it can make all the difference.

Eaarth, showing available water as globules on the surface (a surprisingly small amount!)

Most of the water is in the oceans. It’s salt water — and that’s toxic to beings such as us. We need fresh water to survive; and only a tiny fraction of all the water on our planet is in that form (the smallest of the three blue bubbles in the image above).

It’s surprising how much water is needed to provide us with all our stuff. For instance, it took several hundred pints of water to make the four pints of beer I had down t’pub last night.

Unsurprisingly, one of the many thresholds humanity is approaching is peak water. And yet, instead of making the most of what we’ve got, we’re busily polluting what we have.

Homo fatuus brutus is really, really good at taking natural resources from our planet and using it. We destroy whole mountains to get at the minerals below. We eradicate entire forests to cook the bitumen underneath for (a very poor EROEI) oil  — and then argue the toss about whether we should build pipelines to shift the toxic stuff.

In the UK this past winter, we’ve suffered a record deluge that flooded huge tracts of land. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe we ‘share’ there has been a high profile record drought.

So here’s a thought: instead of discussing how we’re going to fund the additional flood defences needed by rising seas and increased precipitation (not to mention continuing to argue, in the face of all scientific evidence, whether anthropogenic climate change is causing this), and whittering on about the need for dredging (which wouldn’t work anyway)…

… why, instead, aren’t we considering how to capture all that additional fresh life-sustaining water the heavens will deliver in the future, totally free of charge, and then shipping it off where it’s needed?

Stupid question. One that would only make sense if we were capable of thinking holistically instead of parochially.

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About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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17 Responses to Water is life

  1. John Crapper says:

    Our management (of lack of it) is totally insane. A quick thinking on our sewage systems illustrates this fact.

    Only 1% of global water is drinkable, therefore, it is a precious resource. Water used in flush toilets is often of drinking quality. . Each of us pays good money to have purified water pour into our toilets. We then do our business and flush it into the sewer system. We also pay hard-earned money to carry our excrement away to a sewage treatment plant. Along the way it is mixed in with all kinds of foreign substances including chemicals, solvents and medical waste. At our sewage treatment plants varying energy intensive expensive processes are utilized to separate out the contamination from the water to return it to as pure a state as possible to be recycled.

    As John Crapper I think about this kind of stuff.

    • pendantry says:

      Someone has to think about it. Me, I’m one who goes by the “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” rule… and when I think that there are no doubt some who turn up their noses and think “that’s disgusting”, I have to remind myself to be true to myself. The concept of ‘being polite’, as with so many things, can depend a great deal upon one’s viewpoint.

      Speaking of mellow yellow, a quick YouTube search led me to this guy, who might be of interest to you, JC. He seems to know a lot of shit about water:

  2. John Crapper says:

    Thanks! I love the bong picture! Think ecological sanitation which is mostly a foreign concept in western societies.

  3. ccgwebmaster says:

    Mostly because it’s too energy hungry to easily ship long distance in the volumes needed. Makes better sense 1. not to mess up the distribution of it to start with and 2. to not predicate ridiculous fancies on unsustainable ground water (as you inflate the bubble before it bursts, which when we’re talking population…)

    • pendantry says:

      Ironic, is it not, that homo fatuus brutus can find the will to move toxic black stuff by ship, rail, pipe and truck all across the planet, and yet cannot find the wherewithal to do the same for the water of life?

      • ccgwebmaster says:

        The Chinese are having a go…

        http://www.theguardian.com/environment/chinas-choice/2013/jun/05/chinas-water-diversion-project-south-north

        But the black stuff – we need it see, that’s why it matters more than food, water, the future… our descendents… we needssss it….

        • pendantry says:

          Grrr… I wrote a big response with lots of links about the plans to flood places like the Qattara Depression, the Dead Sea, Death Valley and in particular the object lesson posed by the Salton Sea — but then pressed the wrong dang key and lost the lot. Please remind me not to try to write long replies using the WordPress ‘onboard notification system’ thingy, because it’s caught me out like that a few times now. I should learn… but I never do. Character flaw (… in the species?).

          Thanks for the link about that Chinese megaproject. I think the last line sums it up:

          “I think you have to see it as a whole, at all the options that they are proposing. But it doesn’t account for environmental impacts of diverting this water.”

          Though I might try to argue that diverting water that falls as ‘too much’ rain (as with the UK floods last winter) is different from diverting existing land flows, it might be risky trying to go down that path (because of the ‘not thinking holistically’ trap). A flow from the sky is still a flow, and diverting it could have unconsidered effects. But then: once one starts to think that way, where does it stop? Shouldn’t really get out of bed in the morning because I might trip and fall down. Complicated thing, this ‘life’ malarkey 🙂

          • ccgwebmaster says:

            I think the question really is – what is ‘too much’. The natural world has tremendous variation in rainfall. People have managed to adapt to a very wide range of it. So – now we have variation in what we used to have – it’s only too much to us locally, not in the bigger picture.

            To stand a chance – at some point we have to live with nature and deal with what we get – instead of perpetually fighting it. In that measure, rain that deviates from the norms we regard as “just right” is our reward for having already made the wrong choices.

            Consequently I view perpetual (and climate change isn’t going anywhere…) transfer of water from regions with “too much” as just another form of the same hubris that took us here – in the same category as making artificial islands to protect New York from storm surges.

            In any event – common sense says you shouldn’t engineer vulnerabilities into a system, and if you predicate the future upon such transfers of water, that’s a vulnerability you don’t need (ie one day they will break).

          • pendantry says:

            Agreed completely. “Too much” is any amount upon which we come to depend, because, just like the rodents from which we evolved, we inevitably outgrow our food supply.

  4. Oh dear! You know it and I know it and but the people in charge cannot , now less then ever, hear the words “free of charge”. In stead The Monsanto Mob is draining water to sell it in bottles which also adds on to the wrapping polution. ( to ship that bottled stuff takes just as much energy as a shipload of water tanks ( (@ ccgwebmaster )

    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for reminding me about the phlyarologism of bottled water. Not only do the plastic bottles end up in the trash, the contents often aren’t anywhere near as clean as the marketing would have us believe, either…

  5. penpusherpen says:

    Just been sitting here, Pendantry, watching the videos, and agreeing wholeheartedly.. . Yellow Mellow, which actually makes a heck of a lot of sense, (and something we’ve been doing in this house for a while now) and the bottle answer to serilising water, at source.. . Move the goalposts
    Water, is life…but for some it spells death too, in it’s dirty state. Thinking about it, you would’ve thought with evolution we’d have gained an internal filter? Just a thought… then again maybe Mother Nature has a plan in mind for us, one she’s keeping close to her Green Chest… Who knows? I certainly don’t but what I do know is she’s a natural recycler. so mayhap we’re heading for a tip-ping point? xPenx

    • pendantry says:

      I believe that it’s clear we are heading for a tip-ping point (nice wrong hyphen placement that: I like it!), and moving the goalposts seems to me to be the only chance we hooman beans have got to come out the other side in a good way. We either reinvent everything (socio-economic-diplomatic-the-works) or we try to continue business as usual and… everything and the kitchen sink heads south.

      Nice idea on the internal filter. Maybe we’d get one, eventually, though the changes we’re bringing on are rather faster than Mother Nature is used to dealing with. I do hope that’s not what the ‘no-need-to-mitigate-we-can-adapt’ crowd has in mind; I’m not sure I’d like to put my lips directly to a cesspit even if my body could be redesigned so that it could filter out the crap… could the ultimate end result still be considered ‘hooman’? Another ‘possible win scenario’ I do hope folk aren’t considering is throwing everything into AI and letting the machines take over when we can no longer breathe the air, but you never can tell (there’s nowt so queer as folk). (When people say we should adjust to climate change, do they understand what that actually means?)

  6. Eric Alagan says:

    The question you pose at the end of your post is not at all stupid and worth exploring.

    I can hear howls of protest – cost benefit and so forth. But we do have the knowledge and the technology – but not the will – to draw fresh water other than by old and expedient ways.

    I’m actually posting about water next Friday 13 June – hope you’ll catch it.

    Peace,
    Eric

    • pendantry says:

      Thanks, Eric.

      (I was going to take the liberty of adding a link in your comment to your water post… I went fishing, but couldn’t seem to catch it: a pointer would be appreciated!)

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