World Water Day is March 22, but we can celebrate and care for water every day. Among the reasons I and so many others celebrate water and act to care for it are these:
– It is the origin of, and requirement for, life on Earth;
– It is a revelation of Earth’s awesomeness;
– It is an essential component of life (e.g., blood) and for enriching our lives;
– It helps us “metaphor” divinity;
– It has a limited presence and a precarious future because of climate chaos, waste, pollution, poor infrastructure, privatization, and poor distribution.
– In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls attention to the water pollution “produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities … and [d]etergents and chemical products [that] pour into our rivers, lakes, and seas.” (par. 29)
Understandably, “. . . nor any drop to drink” [sic] is a mighty fearsome possibility!
Origins of Earth’s Water
Learning about water is actually learning about our ancestry! (Berkowitz: “We’re really made up of trillions of bags of water — our cells.”)
For decades I thought water on Earth was the result of steam turning to rain and deluging the land. Relatively recently, I learned that water on Earth most probably came from comets and asteroids that regularly strike Earth. I admit I didn’t think much about how water got into them.
In 1927, scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey accidentally tuned in to the cosmos and heard radio waves. This led to experiments in locating and identifying molecules that permeate the universe, the remains of supernovas that date ultimately to the origins of creation.
Finding that the cosmos contained molecules — two or more atoms bonded together to form a chemical compound — was a “quantum leap” in the non-scientific understanding of that word. Free-floating molecules form a unique fingerprint, making it possible for scientists to identify – and potentially find — each chemical. And in time, scientists did find them!
Discovery of Cosmic Water!
In 1938, Charles Townes and his research group identified this three-partner dance in the cosmos — water!
Why care? Well, cosmic water is part of the story of who you and I are and the story of where we live.
Our beautiful, blue, wet planet is floating in a Universe awash in water in some form, mostly very cold gas or ice. Ice is found around new stars and old ones; it’s near black holes as well as in the heart of galaxies; it forms around dust grains and it is frozen in ice balls.
Astronomers have detected water vapor whose light fingerprint had traveled from 12 billion years ago, and
the amount in the Universe is staggering!
None of this water was “just here” in the cosmos; each single water molecule was formed from stardust elements!
Many Earthlings enjoy being in or near moving water: rivers, lakes, oceans, pools, even bath tubs. We instinctively feel a unity, a peace, a renewal.
Knowledge about cosmic water and our mutual beginnings from stardust can add to our feeling united to the entire Universe!
Call to Appreciation and Action
We humans have the awareness to appreciate water wherever it is, and to take action when it is threatened – as it now is!
Let’s deepen our appreciation of water everywhere on World Water Day March 22 — and beyond.
Let’s deepen it whenever we look out at the heavens.
And, for sure, let’s deepen it when we realize the number of our brothers and especially our sisters who lack adequate water and sanitation now.
Let’s take action to stop wasteful and polluting mining, agricultural, and industrial practices.
Let’s stop large scale commercial water bottling operations like Nestlé that pump and sell water even from sources in drought (e.g., California).
Let’s increase renewable energy, best farming practices, and funding to provide clean water and sanitary services, especially for the poor.