Friday, January 11, 2013

Wilderness Survival - Part 5: Water

Water.  What could be more plain than water?  No color.  No real flavor.  Just a couple hydrogens and an oxygen doing a molecular dance.  These days, even in the desert, with the twist of a knob we get water.  It is like a genie at our beck and call.  Water cleanses our homes, washes our bodies, sweeps away all manner of nastiness; out of sight and out of mind.  Do you suppose we take water for granted?

Water.  We often hear that the surface of the earth is two thirds water.  And we hear that our bodies are up to 60% water.  Funny to realize that we are all large water bags sloshing around.  So now this gets a little more personal.  Water is a part of us.  Without water, life on this Earth would not exist.  Water is not just our servant, then.  Water is us.  It is a component of life.  Just a couple of hydrogens and an oxygen doing a molecular dance…, with all the billions of life cells in your body. 

And water carries information.  While this might not yet be considered scientific fact, I am convinced it is so.  No two snowflakes are alike.  Why not?  How many crystal designs can two hydrogens and an oxygen make?  How is that possible?  There must be a nearly infinite number of ways that two water molecules can cling to each other when they slow down enough to grab hold.  And this foundation is built on to form a snowflake governed by the form of these first two molecules.  Our digital age is based on just 1s and 0s.  Two things.  Our DNA is also digital, but it has four digits that define the vast, VAST warehouses of information that govern how the elements come together to form our bodies.  But what about this water thing?  Just two hydrogens and an oxygen but their relative positions result in a nearly infinite number of snowflake shapes.  How much information could we store in that mechanism?


But what is more interesting, is that there has been shown a correlation between the structures water crystals form and influences to the water before freezing.  Anger and violent music directed toward water result in chaotic crystal patterns, while love and harmonious music result in ordered  and symmetrical patterns.  Really?

Similarly, homeopathy, though not the usual focus of modern medicine, still gets impressive results.  How does that work?  A substance that creates similar symptoms to an illness is put into solution, and then the solution is diluted.  It is diluted to the point that odds are there is NONE of the original substance left in final product, remedy pills.  But those pills trigger amazing results.  How?  Information, that’s how.  The water used to dilute the substance to form the remedy seems to capture instructions from the original substance.  That information is read by our bodies, and the homeopathic remedy actually reprograms how our bodies behave.  This information programs our immune systems.  We do not know exactly how this works, but it does.  What is amazing is that the more diluted the substance—the more water is used—the more potent the remedy.  That is counter intuitive!  But then water is often counter intuitive.

Consider for a moment that when free flowing liquids freeze, the general rule is that these busy molecules or atoms quit bouncing around so much and become denser.  They lock into a solid that is smaller than the space taken up by the liquid it came from.  Makes sense.  This is intuitive.  But not so with water.  Water gets larger—less dense—when it gives up energy and freezes into ice. 

So why the science lesson?

If water did not get less dense (a very abnormal behavior) when it freezes, then life as we know it may not be possible.  The mountains would not be weathered by water.  Rivers and streams and ponds would freeze from the bottom up trapping all the aquatic life on top of the ice.  Can you imagine all those wiggly and squiggly things flopping around on top of the ice until they died?  And there would be no polar ice floating around on the arctic sea.  Ocean currents would not flow as they do now, and the entire biosphere of this planet would be shaped by vastly different weather systems and even climates.

Water is special.  It is not like other substances.  There is a mystery there in that simple molecular dance.  Though water is a very plain molecule, we really have only just begun to learn how it really works.

As I type this, this morning, I have watched a sunrise followed immediately by a snow storm.  This water has filled the air with trillions of individual snowflakes, all formed with the unique information of those first two molecules that grabbed hold of each other. If we could decode all the information, what would it tell us?

Would water tell the story of the creation of life?  Would it tell us the secrets of the stars?  Does water store information in it from the very formation of hydrogen at the big bang, or from the formation of oxygen as the plasma of stars ran out of fuel and collapsed into heavier elements?

Water.  It is the lifeblood of the Earth.  Without it, plants could not grow.  The mountains would not crumble into minerals that the plants use to form structure and nutrition.  If water did not adhere and cohere as it does, then plants could not pull water up from their roots to supply the leaves and flowers.  There are dozens of characteristics of water that make life possible. Dozens that govern our weather. Dozens that shape our biosphere.  And I presume that there are thousands of yet undiscovered aspects of water that shape our existence in ways we do not yet imagine.  Water is not just water.

If you want to know if you are sick, then go get a blood sample taken.  Doctors will analyze that bit of blood, and tell you what kinds of diseases you have.

If you want to know if the Earth is sick, take a sample of water.  Is it clean?  What disease does it carry?  Does the water carry life-giving information that brings health and strength to an environment, or is that water carrying the stories of poisons and toxins and the abuse of the Earth.  Interesting, isn’t it that a little rain water causes a garden to flourish.  More tap water irrigated to the same garden does not have the same effect.  Why is that?  Not all water is the same.

We need to understand water is more than we have understood.  We need to respect water as a substance that allows for life.  Water.  It cleanses.  It nurtures.  It shapes.  It informs.  It matters.

But let’s push all that aside for a moment.  When it comes to survival in the woods, we can only live a few days without water.  But more importantly, when we get dehydrated we lose energy, our performance level drops, we start losing the ability to stay warm, we can’t digest our food properly, our blood gets thick and acidic, the chances of stroke and heart attack increase markedly, and we begin to store toxins in our fat reserves and other tissues.  Nice, huh?  When it comes to wilderness survival, water REALLY matters.

Now that I have built the case for the importance of water, perhaps we will approach water differently than before.  We can now better protect and respect this life blood of the planet.  We can enjoy the mystery of water and perhaps even unlock some of the secrets of life and the creation of the universe.  And especially, when we are in the wilderness, we can understand and utilize water better.

 In my next post, we will explore how to find pure water where there seems to be none.  We will talk about ways to make water clean enough to drink without causing illness.  We will introduce simple practices that keep wilderness water pure and life giving.  So check in soon for the tricks to wilderness water.

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