20 October 2011
My morning shower offers more than a meditative ritual, it provides a cocoon for creative thinking and dreaming (on my Homepage under Writings, 1970s-2010, you can read an essay about “The Morning Ritual;” scroll to 04 September 1998). Today my mind branched into thoughts about the gift of water–our literal source of life that has given rise to our abuse and admiration. Even its vulnerability and wavering abundance have not incited universal action. Africans, Chinese, Texans, and a multitude of others (including non-humans) across the planet can attest to their suffering in its absence. So I wonder why we still have people wasting this precious life source. Concerns spill from my mind’s reserves, especially ones that circle around contaminant-free bathing and safe drinking water.
We’ve done a pretty good job of tainting its purity. A July/August newsletter from the World Wildlife Federation, which is a major protector of the coasts and seas, screamed with statistics that tell part of the story: “Seventy per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Yet less than two per cent of the world’s oceans, bays, estuaries and coral reefs are under any form of formalized protection.” And only one per cent is usable by land animals and humans.
Nay sayers discount the science behind the ill-health of the planet and shifts in the weather patterns. Tell that to the low-lying countries that are being effected by the rising sea levels. See the slide show and article at http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/no-place/?scp=1&sq=As%20Water%20Rises&st=cse that documents life on a disappearing island. Tell that to the extinct or endangered species and the ones loosing their habitats from the environmental domino effect. It makes my heart ache.
I have a stockpile of articles about the environment, the planet’s health and sustainability that I’ve been collecting since the end of the twentieth century. Some people collect antiques or cars or memorabilia; my passion is clipping articles about my interests. Occasionally, I sit and sift through them–discarding and savoring.
On October 16 The New York Times ran “Where Did Global Warming Go?” In the article Elisabeth Rosenthal says, “This fading of global warming from the political agenda is a mostly American phenomenon.” I guess Americans must have crisis after crisis before the health of the planet becomes (and very well it should be) the most important issue that our country confronts. Other nations have made the commitment. What has happened here? It’s a mystery to me, a very worrisome one. Sure, there are vocal advocates such as Robert Redford (see his video from 19 October 2011 about the Keystone XL Pipeline that would go from Canada through the American heartland and to the Texas refineries on the Gulf of Mexico: http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/10/17/opinion/100000001117482/stop-the-keystone-xl.html?scp=1&sq=Robert%20Redford%20and%20Keystone%20XL&st=cse), but we seem to be slipping backward. How we will get to the tipping point where the collective unconscious understands that we must act? We must act before solutions become exponentially outrageously difficult to rescue us. Yes, rescue all of us.
I speak with a quiet voice that I wish at times was megaphone loud. But I am thankful for the perseverance of many nonprofits that aim to protect and sustain the oceans, seas and other waterways. I remember clearly the first Earth Day, and still have two identical magnets on my refrigerator from those early times of environmental concerns. They scream in bold blue caps on a white background: WATER. Think about it…(and conserve).
Among other prominent publications that have devoted entire issues to the planet’s ills, the April 2010 special issue from National Geographic magazine was called “Water, Our Thirsty World.” I recommend it for a broad and wide view of what Barbara Kingsolver’s article calls “the primacy of water.”
I am reminded of the saying from my childhood, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” Apparently, a little editing changed this small excerpt from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798): an albatross is shot by a mariner and a spell is cast that makes it impossible for those on the ship to reach fresh water; when the ship finally returns to shore, the mariner realizes that his fate is tied to the curse and its resolution. The mariner must spend the remainder of his days retelling and retelling that story as a warning to others. The moral: be beholden and kind to nature and human nature.
“Water, water everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.”