We live on Earth – The Blue Planet. A rock floating through empty space along with many other rocks. Yet this particular rock is veiled in a thin layer of cosmologically rare organic materials and unstable gasses which is only present thanks to an abundance of water. Most of Earth's surface is covered with this chemical unison of hydrogen and oxygen and since it reflects light waves of 440 to 490 nanometers Earth appears “blue” to astronaut visitors to the space around it and alien pilots of UFOs who happen to have vision in this spectrum. A beautiful sight in the lifeless universe by any standards.
Only one productive process is taking place on Earth: photosynthesis. Everything else depends on breaking down the products and by-products of photosynthesis. And photosynthesis depends on water. And, of course, sunlight for providing the energy needed and carbon dioxide for the basic building block of life. Everything – as in everything – else depends on breaking down the sugars and breathing the oxygen produced from photosynthesis. A beautiful theater of birth, death and evolution.
Our earliest ancestors were “simple” bacteria-like organisms who lived in water and invented photosynthesis. Later generations walked the earth only after countless generations of plants had created a breathable atmosphere. Even to this day – millions of years later – us relatively advanced Homo sapiens depend on the plants alive today to create oxygen for us to breathe and sugars for us to eat. Advanced?
“Look at life from our perspective, and you eukaryotes will soon cease giving yourself such airs. You bipedal apes, you stump-tailed tree-shrews, you desiccated lobe-fins, you vertebrated worms, you Hoxed-up sponges, you newcomers on the block, you eukaryotes, you barely distinguishable congregations of monotonously narrow parish, you are little more than fancy froth on the surface of bacterial life. Why, the very cells that build you are themselves colonies of bacteria, replaying the same old tricks we bacteria discovered a billion years ago. We were here before you arrived, and we shall be here after you are gone.”
- Thermus aquaticus in “The Ancestor's Tale” by R. Dawkins, page 572.
That bacteria may not be as arrogant as it sounds. The need to coordinate, expand and protect agricultural activities has to a large extent been about the construction of irrigation. Thus, the onset of agriculture provided the environment for stratified and defensive societies; some of which evolved into stratified and aggressive societies. Droughts or a bad harvests could have inspired early civilizations where the food had run out to simply attack neighboring villages that had food reserves. Read more about water wars throughout history in my next articles.
That day may in fact come when bacteria is all that is left on Earth. Because while we humans may be advanced in some respects but we are also very primitive by nature. Murderers, polluters, liars, greedy bastards or ignorant fools most of us. A brief look at the history of the human race and how we have treated water brings to the surface an abundance of evidence that above anything else water is a weapon. The alpha male that secures access to a water hole secures his leadership of the flock. The tribe that can cut off its neighboring tribes' access can defeat it. The castle with a moat is a castle with a safe warlord in it. Not much has changed in this respect except the relative supply and demand.
Rising demand from a growing population and increased wealth of parts of the population, mismanagement caused by ignorance and poverty,climate change causing an over-all drying out of vast land areas. Subscribe to TH!NK5 right away to read more about all these issues and the World Water Day 2010.
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