22 October 2018

We carry magic. But so does everyone.
It lies in water.
Human beings are mobile wells of mildly salty water. As every schoolchild knows, our bodies contain the same fraction of water—71 percent—as the portion of the Earth’s surface that is covered by oceans. This is no mystery. We are water animals born into a water planet. Water is everywhere and nowhere. It is a restless compound—transitional, unstill, always on the move. It shape-shifts constantly from gas to liquid to solid and back again. (Even frozen at the South Pole into a mile-and-a-half deep cap of ice that is one million years old, it still flows, albeit slowly.) The oceans hold 97.25 percent of all the water on the globe. The poles and glaciers trap 2 percent. The absurdly small, drinkable droplet that remains— the precious 0.75 percent of liquid fresh water that Homo sapiens relies on for survival—we squander like madmen raving in a desert.
. . . 
One oxygen atom. Two atoms of hydrogen.
Water molecules are bent like an arrow tip, like an elbow. This gives them a certain polarity, an infinitesimal charge, that collectively shapes the world. They are the magical solvent, binding and dissolving brain cells, mountains, the steam of morning coffee, tectonic plates.

Paul Salopek

This is the river, a short walk from our garden gate, after a hot summer without rain.

This river, our river, the Rhine, is fed to a large extent by glaciers in the Swiss Alps. Here, we see the development of water strored in these glaciers. According to various climate scientists, all in agreement, more than 70% of the remaining volume of water stored in these glaciers will have disappeared by the end of this century (my source: Swiss Federal Office of the Environment, FOEN, 2012).

 (Image: FOEN 2012)


  1. Your river is dear to me. It hurts to see what has happened to it. Just this morning I was recalling what my friend who came from Vietnam as a refugee in 1975 said about water. She said that if she couldn't be a human being she would like to be water because of nature of water to never die. Sobering to know how little of the earth's water is drinkable. My friend was on to something.


    Love from your friend who loves rivers, too.

  2. There is absolutely nothing to say in response to the truth.

  3. I will admit to being transcended by the meaty and substantive introductory writing, Sabine. It was, in fact, magic. Then I tried to imagine living a life where the Rhine was my river. Finally, the potential loss of this magical entity there and everywhere. It is too much loss. There comes a time when one must stand up and say "Enough." That time has long since arrived. If we are not standing, we are collaborators.

  4. The news about our planet, our water, ourselves has knocked me down. Yet as Colette writes, if we are not standing, we are collaborators. I will stand and march and scream, ENOUGH. Will we be heard? Is it too late? I don't know anymore.

  5. they say the next war will be fought over water, potable water, that 3/4% we need to survive. We may not survive long enough to get to that point now that Trump and Putin are ditching the nuclear arms treaty. this planet will become a radioactive wasteland with those two in charge and potable water will only be a memory if anyone survives to remember. not feeling very optimistic these days.

  6. The loss of magic. How can it be? The cycle was designed to be endless. But man (and I mean man, not humanity) intervenes.

  7. In restaurants when asked if I require water I reply: Why? Is there a fire that needs putting out? I jest. You are serious. I particularly like: "Water molecules are bent like an arrow tip, like an elbow. This gives them a certain polarity, an infinitesimal charge, that collectively shapes the world."

    On the one hand a molecule, on the other an oblate spheroid weighing 5.972 x 10^24 kg. The latter vitiated by the gradual disappearance of the former. To die from thirst is to proceed first into madness. And one assumes this awful death will be visible from outer space: Earth will I take it remain blue because of the oceans, but the green will become brown. All our cerebral endeavours turned into a desert. Clever man (for men will be the most blameable) having entertained himself by reading stories about his ancestors' misbehaviour turns himself into a myth - but there will be no one there to record Man's second fall, and no one to appreciate the irony.

    In my beginnings is my end.

  8. I’ve been so focused on our U.S. water issues, particularly in the Southwest and especially Southern California, I’ve not attended to Europe. What you share here about your Rhine is sobering, to say the least — mirroring what we experience here which is not surprising.

    Thank you for this succinct description I plan to share with others lest they be unaware.

  9. This is enlightening ... der liebe Rhein ...