“Thousands have lived without love, but not one without water.”
– W. H. Auden
”All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
– Toni Morrison
So far in this series, we’ve covered the importance of sunlight and clean air to healthy human and planetary life, and have related some suggestions for applying simple exercises that will impact our personal and planetary health. Now let’s turn our attention to the third element in the primary scheme of life: water.If sunlight represents vital essence, and air the breath of life, then following that analogical pattern, water would be the circulatory system – the heart and vessel system of life. All life on this planet cycles water.
We all know that the earth’s surface is composed of about 70 percent water, and that the human organism has a correspondent physical make-up. In fact, not only all life, but also all culture and all society depend on water not only for their health, but also for their very existence. When I look at the way we, as humans, have so far interacted with and utilized this crucial and essential resource, it brings to mind the old Star Trek television show scene where an alien life form called humans “ugly bags of water.”
Water culture and economics
In the 20th century United States, there was probably nothing that was taken for granted more than clean water. It was akin to some kind of American birthright that remained unspoken, this in spite of the colorful and marked history of water-rights wars and water brokering in North America, and late 20th century water-contamination problems. Increasingly in the 21st century, the topic of water quality has come to the forefront, and people’s general consciousness and concerns about water have started to become important topics of conversation. Economically speaking, some pundits say that the next “oil” will be water. Already the US water industry is valued at $4,000 billion per year, including $100 billion in bottled water annually. Currently worldwide, 70 percent of annual water use is agricultural, 20 percent industrial and 10 percent individual human use.
Destruction, disease and death
Let’s review some interesting facts about the issues surrounding clean water just from an environmental and health perspective. Of the world population of 6.8 billion people, more than two million die from waterborne disease annually, and most are children under five years old. That is more people than those that die of malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined each year. Additionally, in the United States alone, more than seven million people a year are made ill by their tap water.
How dirty is our water?
Even confining our discussion to contamination in the U.S., the facts about water contamination are astounding. In the US more than 10 million gallons of rocket fuel [yes, rocket fuel!] is dumped into ground water per year by the US government. Untold amounts of human and animal waste, more than 116,000 different man-made chemicals, plastic residues, millions of tons of medications and cosmetics are dumped into our water supply every year, and the list is growing in number and amount annually. More than 110 industrial toxins have been found in the body fat of cetaceans (dolphins and whales), fish, humans and human breast milk. These are just a few examples of the toxic soup we are cooking up.
In the next installment, we’ll ask “When is it Too Late?” to do something about our self-destructive behavior.