A World Out of Balance – Air and Water – World Water Day 3/22/2011

 “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”  ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Did you know that Tuesday, March 22 is World Water Day?  Were you aware that there is a World Water Day?  Are you curious about why there is a World Water Day?

Our diminishing supply of water is a growing problem world-wide.  Over a billion people lack safe drinking water.

It should come as no surprise that water is a precious commodity in the middle-east, much of which is desert.  But there is clear evidence that the area is running out of water.  And that will lead to a cascade of other problems, not the least of which is civil unrest. 

But if you think this problem is confined to the middle-east, or Africa, or third world countries alone, think again.

We are facing a water shortage of our own right here in the United States, particularly in the American southwest. 

Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the lower 48, is currently only 40% full.  The water supplies of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California are threatened as a result. 

In addition to facing a shortage of water due primarily to climate change, we are engaged in activities that are polluting our existing water supplies in the name of “natural gas production”.

The wisdom of this is highly questionable, given the research, which shows the following:

  • Hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”) – one of the methods used in natural gas production – produces waste that contains radioactivity which is hauled to sewage plants not equipped to hand it.
  • The waste winds up in rivers that feed our drinking water supplies.  The waste contains things like corrosive salts, benzene (a known carcinogen) and radium (a radioactive element). 

The New York Times published a great article on this issue in February.  It bears a full reading.  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?_r=2&hp

One of the experts quoted in this article says “We are burning the furniture to heat the house”. 

That is an appropriate description.  Our behavior with respect to our environment has become irrational.

We don’t have to look any further than Japan to see where our arrogance has gotten us.  Rather than taking a long view and developing alternative renewable energy programs, we have witnessed the results of a decision to place a nuclear facility in an earthquake zone subject to tsunamis. 

As I recently stated on Twitter, if you build a nuclear plant to withstand an earthquake magnitude 10, Mother Nature will send you an 11.  If you make it safe from tsunami waves of 20 feet, Mother Nature will be sure you get 30. 

Mother Nature always bats last!  When are we going to take this truth seriously?

The January 2011 Issue of National Geographic highlighted “Population 7 Billion” as its cover story, because this year, the population of this big blue marble that we all live on is going to hit that number.

Even if you have not read this story, it is hard to ignore the effect mankind is having on the environment.  We have been living as if there is no end to finite resources, and no consequences to using them up.  

A figure of 7 billion souls brings with it an increased sense of urgency for solutions to some of our major environmental problems – air and water being just two.  

There are others, but as I indicated in a prior post, air and water fall neatly on the base of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” along with food.  They are basic.  Without air, water and food, mankind no longer exists.

Dr. Charles David Keeling was the first person in the world to develop an accurate technique for measuring carbon dioxide in the air.  A machine to capture these measurements was installed on Mauna Loa in the 1950’s.  At that time, his measurement was 310 parts per million – meaning that every million pints of air contained 310 pints of carbon dioxide.

In 2005, when Dr. Keeling died, that number was 380 parts per million. 

It is expected to pass 400 within 5 years.  Current projections put the number at 560 before the end of the 21st century.  This is double what it was before the Industrial Revolution.

Let me summarize:

  • 1950    310 parts per million
  • 2005   380 parts per million
  • 2100   400 parts per million

We don’t really know exactly what levels like this will do to the earth, but it seems clear that the increased levels have adversely affected our climate.   And this is a threat to human welfare and survival.

What we are risking are melting ice sheets, a rise in sea levels globally, increased droughts, heat waves, flood, storms, depletion of sea life, and extinction of plants and animals.

These things are already occurring but these activities can only intensify if we don’t do something. 

And what is the present U.S. House of Representatives – recently infused with an influx of new blood from the Republican Party – doing in the face of this overwhelming evidence that we are destroying the very environment that has sustained life (all forms of life) on this planet for millennia? 

Gutting the budget and slashing anything that protects the public’s air, water, and food, or supports the efforts of scientists engaged in the study of effects of climate change!

Why? Because we have a “budget crisis”. 

Wake up people!  We have an environmental crisis.  And if we don’t tighten out belts and deal with that problem – right now – we won’t have to worry about a financial crisis. 

Because we won’t be here.

According to the 2009 Pew survey, 35 percent of Republicans say there is no solid evidence of global warming.  And they are engaged in a disinformation campaign to influence the public – a campaign that says environmental scientists are all crackpots!

It appears to be working.  Between 2007 and 2009, the number of Americans who believe in climate change dropped 20%, from 77% to 57%.

Who are you going to believe – a member of Congress, or Dr. Charles David Keeling, a man who spent his entire life studying climate – a man with a professional reputation for meticulous research and documentation?

Many of the politicians in Washington D.C. appear to be behaving as if there are no environmental problems.  Some of them are outright “deniers”. 

But who is going to pay the price for their denial?

The lack of quality in our air is already causing major health problems – anyone with allergies, asthma, COPD or any other respiratory condition is already suffering.  That means more visits to the doctor or the hospital – if you can afford it.

But what about all the people in the United States who are suffering and can’t afford medication?  What is their suffering costing us in terms of productivity?  What is it costing them emotionally and physically?

More importantly – how can a child who is suffering from allergies or asthma be fully present in school every day? 

The evidence that we are killing our planet is striking.  And if we kill our planet, where are we going to live? What will become of our children?  What kind of world will they inherit?

Despite all this bad news, I am hopeful that the climate crisis is the one that will ultimately bring all the people of the earth together with a set of common goals – to create sensible programs that sustain the resources of the planet and promote health and well-being for all its creatures, everywhere. 

I honestly believe we have no other choice.  If we don’t, we won’t be here much longer.

And ultimately, I believe we love our children too much to let that happen. 

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.  ~Native American Proverb

For more information about the impact of our dwindling water supplies and other environmental issues, please visit the links I have posted at http://www.bonniejpreston.com/environment .

About bonniejpreston

Life is an adventure. Make every day count. Enrich the lives of those you meet along the way. Don't show up at the end with a wish list. Invest in your health - the dividends paid are priceless. Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Enjoy the journey. Namaste
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