What sustains us?

mars with water

An artist’s impression of what ancient Mars may have looked like

On the last weekend in November, organisers are hoping to create the biggest climate march the world has ever seen. In anticipation of that, I thought I might write a little about the water that sustains us.

Unlike most, I don’t drink coffee. I’m a connoisseur of water, mostly from the tap and very rarely the bottled variety. Room temperature is my preference, not boiled or chilled. Love it.

I love, too, to use my five senses to ‘take-in’ where it comes from. When lashes of lightning startle the sky at night-time, we have a habit in our household of turning off all the lights and watching and listening, without speaking. Our roof is made of steel, so it acts as a kind of amplifier.

The meteorological experts are warning us not to expect much rainfall this spring. The effects of the natural cycle known as the El Niño have already begun. As I understand it, the name of this phenomenon emerged in the 1600s describing a sustained period of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean around Christmas time.

The anchovy fishers apparently called it El Niño, the Spanish name for the Christ Child. But this Christ Child does not arrive with seasonal gifts like hope – or does it? Certainly it can afford us an opportunity to refocus on what’s important.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) that has recently provided the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars where the search has taken more than 15 years to establish these definitive signs.

John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington recently said, “Our quest on Mars has been to follow the water, in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected.”

There are many who are fascinated and enthralled with the discovery of water on another planet. Surely, this discovery on Mars should serve as a reminder that we live on a planet, which already has finite resources and that all of us need to care for the gift of natural resources that the Earth provides.

When oceans, inland seas, lakes, glaciers and polar icecaps are included, 74.35 per cent of the planet’s surface is covered by water. Yet more than 97 per cent of that water is salty. Of the water that is sufficiently free of salt to drink, more than 90 per cent is locked away in glaciers and ice and deep underground. Only about 0.0001 per cent of fresh water is readily accessible according to environmentalist David Suzuki.

Fresh water, like air, is essential to our survival. Whereas the lack of air will kill us within minutes, the lack of water takes longer to make its necessity known to us. Water is a fundamental sustainer of life. We need it because we are made of it. The average human being is roughly 60 per cent water by weight (babies 75 per cent).

There are numerous Biblical references to water – in creation, baptism, blessing, cleansing and nourishing it is invariably a living spring, welling up to eternal life.

“Water” Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr said, “is almost always an invitation to that first, subtle religious experience, when the desire just laps up against you and your mind and heart are opened for the first time. It’s the first gnawing, inviting sense that there’s something more…”

I believe that the ‘something more’ is telling us that we need to pay more attention to our natural world … and everything that we stand to lose, as our planet is undeniably warming up.

While El Niño is a natural cycle, its frequency seems to be increasing due to many unnatural factors, and these can be seen as frightening or as an opportunity.

The Uniting Church has long been committed to caring for creation and working for the life of the planet and future generations.

It’s time to consider the values and the principles we need to guide us to more equitable, peaceful and sustainable ways of living.

That’s why we’re marching on the weekend of 27-29 November in the People’s Climate March, a global movement which will take place in Australia just before world leaders gather at the UN climate talks in Paris.

This march gives people in all walks of life the opportunity to come together to demonstrate a broad, united and powerful coalition committed to change and much more global action on climate change.

Dan Wootton

Share Button



Comments are closed.