Thursday, August 2, 2012

Water Changes Everything -- for Liz/Taylor

The original Blue Marble taken by Apollo 17
[courtesy of NASA]
Earth is the water planet. Our blue marble is blue because of our vast oceans. Science believes so deeply that water is the critical element of life that all searches for planetary life research at least the presence of water in one of its various forms. It is certainly the most precious element on earth. Without it we can live only a matter of days even though we can survive without food for weeks. And yet, diamonds and gold are valued more highly for trade.

Despite the seemingly huge resources of fresh water from the Great Lakes of America to the lochs of Scotland to Lake Baikal, the grand lakes of Africa and the frozen glaciers of Antarctica and Greenland, there is a finite supply of drinking water that is not being replaced as quickly as it is being consumed. There is no shortage of salt water in our oceans, but that requires processing to be drinkable, and processing requires energy, another resource that is diminishing.

Rain bands over the river
Coastal North Carolina has received good rain this summer, nourishing local crops to produce the blood red sweet succulence of Bogue Sound Watermelons, the savory Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes and the rich sugary Silver Queen corn raw off the stalk. It has been a good year for fresh local vegetables.

We live on a boat on the coast, surrounded by water, our days marked by sunrise over the Neuse River and sunset over Whittaker Creek. Our days are also marked by the wind and waves of passing fronts and storms, the rain that refreshes us and the lives that are dependent upon a healthy estuarine system: mammals, fish, crustaceans and birds. 

It is the water environment that draws me in a way that land alone does not. So, watch the video of Danny MacAskill as he dances his bicycle from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye. Water is the subtext. Scotland is a water country, bounded on three coasts by islands and salt water, carved by whitewater streams tumbling from the mountains of the Highlands, and split by the Great Glen with its series of lochs and locks from Inverness to Oban. If you have seen it before, it is worth watching again; if you have never seen it, you are in for a treat. The music is outstanding. This was sent to me a couple years ago by my Scottish cousin who labelled it "his" trip across the Highlands. A joke of course. But the water in these sequences increases for me the appeal of Danny's stunning skills, how he moves with elegance, strength, power and restraint.

A key to Danny's success on the bike is his ability to move with the bike, not to overpower or overwhelm, but to adapt, allowing motion to synchronize with immovable fixtures such as the rocks and walls. He merges geometry with physics to achieve the weightlessness that permits him to avoid crashing from the heights. It is an elegant dance, like water in a river as it meets the boulders and shorelines that deflect it. For me, Danny's cycling is very life-affirming because he is not overcoming anything except his own fears.

When storms pass, we sometimes get the bonus of a rainbow. Last year, and again last week, we heralded a double rainbow. We cannot help but smile, even if we never find the pot of gold. Like last year, these arched from shore to shore across the river, the brightest of the two with an almost surreal brilliance.

Second rainbow faintly to left in photo
May your stormy days be followed by rainbows. Take care.

"The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.  It is a little star dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched." 
                                                ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden 

With two-thirds of the world's fresh water locked in frozen glaciers and polar caps, only one percent (1%)  is available for consumption. Not all of that is clean and drinkable. One third of the world population has no access to clean drinking water. Another one third plus live in areas experiencing either physical or economic shortages. 
Even here in eastern North Carolina, where we have enjoyed a healthy source called the Castle Haynes Aquifer, the water table is falling. We simply withdraw more than nature can replenish, especially in times of below-average rainfall. Fifty years ago, the population was half what it is today, and we used two-thirds less water. Please conserve.]

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