Some Thoughts About Water

By: Nate Wolf

I had a water emergency at my house this weekend, and I’ve been thinking a lot about water.

Pros and Cons of Water

Pro:  It keeps us alive.  Con:  We need it to stay alive.  Pro:  It tastes delicious when you’re thirsty.  Con:  Causes a lot of damage when it floods your basement or your house or your entire city.  Pro:  You can clean things with it.  Con:  Since we need it every day, people may have to either spend a lot of money on piping, plumbing fixtures, etc., or walk a couple of hours to the river just to carry back a few gallons.  Pro:  If you have some barley and hops (whatever hops are) you can make beer with it.  Con:  It is an important part of the life cycle of several of the world’s most devastating diseases, those diseases that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people, such as malaria and  several of what are known as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), including schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and lymphatic filariasisPro: It makes crops grow.  Con:  If crops don’t get it, they won’t grow.  Con:  Drinking bad water can cause other types of diseases, such as cholera or rotavirus (rotavirus also spreads in other ways, making it particularly dangerous).  Pro:  Water can be used to create energy.  Con:  Watering crops with infected water is one way to spread roundworm, the most common of all NTDs, affecting an estimated 800 million people around the world1.

I could go on, but let’s just say water is the ultimate paradox.  You can’t live without it; you can’t live with it all over your basement floor.  To paraphrase Homer Simpson of the long-running TV series The Simpsons:  “Water—the cause of, and answer to, all life’s problems.”  (The actual quote is “Alcohol—the cause of, and solution to, all life’s problems.”)

Other great Water Quotes:

“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”—Bruce Lee

“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”—unattributed, possibly Mark Twain

“Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much… the wheel, New York, wars, and so on, whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely the dolphins believed themselves to be more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I knew Jose Mondragon couldn’t go through his entire life without attempting one great thing.”—Ruby Archuleta in John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War and Robert Redford’s movie of the same name (I know that doesn’t say it’s about water but that’s what she’s talking about—read the book or see the movie, both are great (the book is better, of course))

“Whiskey.  Double.  Not what he craves at all.  What he wants is a few gallons of water.  But he figures some things you can get in here and some you probably can’t.”—from Robert Coover’s Ghost Town

And this one from Mike Judge’s Idiocracy:

Attorney General: “So wait a minute. What you’re saying is that you want us to put water on the crops.”
Joe: “Yes.”
Attorney General: “Water. Like out the toilet?”
Joe: “Well, I mean, it doesn’t have to be out of the toilet, but, yeah, that’s the idea.”
Secretary of State: “But Brawndo’s got what plants crave.”
Attorney General: “It’s got electrolytes.”
Joe: “Okay, look. The plants aren’t growing, so I’m pretty sure that the Brawndo’s not working. Now, I’m no botanist, but I do know that if you put water on plants, they grow.”
Secretary of Energy: “Well, I’ve never seen no plants grow out of no toilet.”

1.      Hotez, P.J. (2008). Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases – The Neglected Tropical Diseases and Their Impact on Global Health and Development. Washington, D.C.: ASM Press.

Nathaniel Wolf is the Information Specialist at Sabin Vaccine Institute.  His favorite author is T. R. Pearson and most of his favorite movies are written or directed by Wes Anderson or the Coen Brothers.

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