Posted by: shipbright | August 11, 2009

WATER WATER EVERYWHERE AND NOT A DROP TO DRINK

Hello everyone and thanks for checking out my blog.  My eldest son Toby said to me over a beer one night down in Boston a month or so ago, “Dad, why don’t you start a blog and a website for all your freshwater stuff…you know your stuff and its important”.  I love my kids…they are wise beyond their years and I’ve gotten smart enough as life and time marches on to be able to listen to them.  Thanks Toby…

So here is what this blog is all about:

FRESHWATER

When I was a kid I remember my dad telling me about his adventures during World War II when he was an officer in the Coast Guard.  First he was on the Greenland Patrol, earned a Navy Commendation medal with “V” for Valor when he lead a raiding team and captured a Nazi weather station.  Turned out it was an important weather station for the Nazi’s during the battle of the Bulge.  I have the medal, the citation, and the pictures…he is a hero and I’m proud he is my dad.

Then he was off to the Pacific…the stories become a bit more muted and he talked about manning an LST [one of those troop landing craft] and coming back after dropping off the troops and something about his ship or one right next to it blowing up and then the stories trailed off,  I understand now after serving in the Navy.  Greenland was scary but less blood was shed, the Pacific was another story…

What does this have to do with water? 

Dad always used to say to me: “water water everywhere and not a drop to drink”.  He worked on a project to have manual Reverse Osmosis [R/O] water kits in all the life rafts.  Apparently whatever they had were almost worthless and hardly ever worked.  He picked up survivors once and they were in very bad shape from dehydration.  He would look into my eyes and I could see his earnestness, “Shippy, you can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water”.  I was maybe 8 or 9 years old.  He and my mom died when I was 15 but I can close my eyes and see him there beside me looking at his WWII scrapbook and saying those words to me.  Read the accounts of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the madness that dehydration visits upon those that suffer it.

So as I have journeyed through this great adventure I have found myself pulled again and again to issues of freshwater.  At first it seemed like perhaps THE MOST BORING TOPIC or issue anyone could be interested in…after all, I live in Maine now and we have plenty of water.  But as my global understanding of issues expanded it became more and more apparent that the issue of freshwater is the single greatest carrying capacity issue for all non-marine life.

As time has marched on, this issue is only now truly beginning to dawn in people’s minds.  This is what this blog is about.

The paradox of plenty is paucity of attention

I’m going to post some discrete issues so as to not overwhelm with data to demonstrate and then of course like most blogsites I’ll share my opinion  I hope to learn from those that read…as I have learned over the years, the more I know the more I know I don’t know.

Website is going to take some time so this will be the main venue.

I am uploading my research project I have begun to undertake but need funding to complete and then present my data to the burgeoning conferences that are springing up around the world around freshwater.  The Fifth World Water Conference as held in Istanbul, Turkey in March of 2009 and more conferences are blossoming around this topic for forward thinkers. 

I am using the example of a Small Island Nation, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, as an indicator for the rest of us.  I spent my summers growing up on Monhegan Island. That taught me that islands and their limited carrying capacity issues and easily understood finite boundaries are the “Miner’s Canary” for the rest of us.  Miner’s would bring a canary into the mine with them and if the canary died they knew they had a problem that they needed to take action on before they succumbed… islands are a “Miner’s Canary”.

My friends give me a lot of grief that its the Bahamas..it is true if it was Greenland I’d be grinning and bearing it..and I offer as proof of that ability to grin and bear it I was in Alaska all last winter working on a water issue [yes three weeks of minus 30 temps and my eyelids froze shut one day].  So look beyond the obvious benefits of palm trees, turquoise waters, and cold kaliks [Bahamian beer….mmmm beer] and see the issue for what it is:

A fundamental carrying capacity issue effecting the national economy and security of  The Commonwealth of the Bahamas and its  probable effect on the United States. 

The New York Times just ran an article about how policy makers are realizing what some of us have been saying for a number of years…Global Climate change is a national security issue because of its far reaching effects to our environment and our economy.

Please click on the “Small Island Nation project–The Miner’s Canary” to read the project proposal [My son and now blog coach Toby has told me to put the heavy lifting stuff on separate pages]…

FUTURE TOPICS:  I’ve already gotten some requests for future water topics–Rebecca K. wants to talk about privatization and John M. about Reverse Osmosis.  Thanks Rebecca and John, they are on the “to-do list”…what are your suggestions?  This blog is meant to be an opportunity for thoughtful discussion and your input is wanted and valued.

on the list are topics like:

  • Reverse Osmosis [R/O] …also known as desalinization plants;
  • freshwater and health issues;
  • what’s a fresh water lens?  new contact lens product?
  • Global primer…the big picture
  • water and ethics…whats a “right”

What’s your idea?

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Responses

  1. I’d just like to say this is a brilliant website. I go to school in the UK and we’re having to study water conflicts in our final course. Just a thank you for all the help that this website has given me in researching!

  2. omg goodddd story. I’m an elephant with problems… meow.. opps that’s a cat

  3. great story i had tears of joy. i’m crying of happiness towards this water thing lovely, write a book of tears and joy. absotly lovely

  4. HEY DAD ITS SUMNER!!

  5. I’d like to have conversations about coastal waters, culverts and climate change, and catchment systems in Maine. Any interest in those topics?

  6. being a neophyte when it comes to the blogging world, I thought I would taake time to check out your new initiative….it looks great and it has started a whole new tangent of brainstroming for me….water, water, everywhere…the very essence of life on our planet today….the possibilities are endless…and such an incrdedibly important topic for which the current day issues associated with it, need to be brought to the forefront of our (general population) awareness. Keep up the good work!

  7. I am a fan and we need you to get the stories out, particularly the facts about the Bahamas. Is hter anyway you could have a page only for the Bahamas?

    • hhmm…I’ll check into that…I am hoping that others, who may have never been to the bahamas ,can learn from your experiences and your personal validation that these issues are important and severe…when i do my research I’ll definately have a page for that! hopefully a website devoted just to the issue there…UPDATE: working on the graphics and how the blog will lay out but I’ll definately have a new page up on the header devoted to the The Bahamas…I might just create a page saying “reserved for Bahamas”

  8. One more question: What is “scarcity”, as used here?

    (PS – Neat resources in the second two “possibly related posts” WordPress generated!)

    – John

  9. Hi Ship –

    Interesting project, and I agree, a subject that is underserved at present, but will get (and richly deserves) increasing attention as time passes. A couple of thoughts:
    1 – Either the first line of your “background” section contains a typo or I’ve misunderstood you. Since a mile is a much larger unit of measure than a kilometer, I think that 333 million cubic miles must be much greater volume than 1.39 million cubic kilometers?
    2 – If your audience is a general interest one, may I respectfully suggest some more quantification for those of us unfamiliar with the problem and its dimensions? For example, how much energy is required for R/O at usable community scale, and what is the carbon footprint of such an installation? Is there anything to be done about the saline backwash from an R/O plant, or is it just dumped into the water (which I imagine is truly nasty, particularly in communities with any scale of subsistence fishing or tourism-based fishing, both of which are present in COB)?
    3 – A glossary may be of use in time as well, to make some of the presentations clearer to the uninitiated.

    Welcome to the blogosphere, and good luck!

    – John Mooney

    • Excellent suggestions. I’ll look at the data, incorporate a glossary, and the topic of R/O is on the list per your suggestion. I’m looking at trying to update once a week…we’ll see…this is a steep learning curve with a son who is now “coach” who is fresh out of law school who LOVES to mark up my writing…whose idea was it to have kids anyway, oh, right, mine…


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