“Looking out the window, I would see the great sources of freshwater,” said Jerry Linenger as he orbited the Earth in the Mir space station in 1997. “Lake Baikal, deeper than deep. The Great Lakes, well-named. The mighty rivers of the world – Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Amazon – defining civilizations, past and present. But still, when stepping back and looking at the big picture, not so much different than our little orbiting space station. A closed ecosystem. Only so many sources of life-sustaining water. And all the creatures of Earth, just like the three of us circling it, all dependent on water.”
This ultimate big picture, seen through human eyes, shows us the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our blue planet. We have developed other ways, less poetic but just as prophetic, to view Earth and the exquisite interplay of systems that sustain our life.
They warn us that the blue planet is thirsty.
Our satellites, our sensors, our computers and our consultants describe a reality so profound that the numbers are impossible to perceive. That more thantwo billion people are without access to a reliable supply of safe drinking water, and some 4.5 billion do not have safe sanitation services. That 80% of the water humans contaminate is released, without treatment, back into the environment. That in a dozen years, 700 million people could be water refugees.
For all the data, projections and prognostications, all the headlines and the heartbreak, we as a global group still don’t grasp the difference between what we think and what we know to be true. Between our perceptions and Earth’s reality.
We think we can use water like we always have, because it is there, and it always will be. We rely on our senses and experiences on which we have founded our actions for millennia.
Read the full article in The Guardian.