charles-fishman

Occupy H20? World Water Day Blogging:

Water’s political nature often goes painfully and shortsightedly overlooked, or worse, outright abused. In Alabama, denial of water access is currently being implemented as a means of encouraging self-deportation of undocumented immigrants. A key issue in the Israel-Palestine struggle is the decisions over water rights, usage and control. In terms of bigger picture water policies, momentarily overlooking changes necessary to individual usage, the need for corporations, states and municipalities to treat their water practices with greater concern and conservation is an issue of equality as much as it is an issue of environment or of basic availability. It’s a prime candidate for the concern of Occupy Wall Streeters and more those who challenge inequality, both economic and political.

Charles Fishman's The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Waterwhich I’m reading at the moment,is so far an excellent window into the nexus between water consciousness and social consciousness. Fishman presents a fairly optimistic front (at least as optimistic as one can get about a coming crisis), offering us up a lot of information about the ways in which some states, municipalities and corporations have stepped up to the plate in adapting themselves to the idea of changing their core water culture and drastically reducing the wasteful ways in which they made use of water. While this does highlight the ways in which we make positive change, it also highlights the exploitative and carelessly luxuriant ways in which the rich and corporate have become accustomed to using (and making others use) water: from the decorative waterfalls that ornament parched Las Vegas’s hotels to the use of community drinking resources to water upscale golf courses. 

Today is World Water Day, and in recognition of that I’d like to promote the idea that water be really central in some of our discussions about class, race and gender. Overuse of drinking water instead for non-drinking purposes, for example, deprives communities of the extra cushion in their water supply that might protect them from going dry - a problem that is a growing concern. A Guardian article from last year says that in Britain, “water poverty” looks to be the new “fuel poverty.” As I noted above, in Alabama, a portion of anti-immigration legislation includes the ban on business transactions between public institutions and undocumented immigrants, which ultimately requires people to prove their so-called “legal” status to access public water supplies. Across the world, female farmers (who make up huge percentages of the subsistence food producers in many regions) are left out of irrigation design and policy planning, forcing them to rely on rainwater. Women are equally ignored in community water access planning, despite the heavy toll that water carrying takes on their bodies and their time and their ability to forge personal and financial independence. As Fishman notes, it can be hard to comprehend the truly powerful political nature of water or water crisis living in a position of 24-hour hot and cold running tap water that is virtually always safe to drink. But the not-so-hidden element of water is the incredibly divisive nature of its politics.

Photo: A boy drinks water straight from the tap. Agartala, India. Shushanta Das/AP.

Not one of the 35 largest cities in India has water service more than an hour or two a day–including the name-brand cities we’ve all heard of: Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi. Many visitors to India never realize this, because hotels, offices, and upper-class homes have pumps and tanks that provide fake 24-hour service–the moment water pressure comes on, the pumps pull as much water into the tanks as possible. The result is a kind of illusory water service for a small slice of the population, and an undermining of efforts to improve overall municipal water service.

Almost half of Indians don’t have access to clean, safe reliable water–540 million people in just a single country. And one in six Indians relies on water that has to be carried home by foot–a time-consuming chore almost always handled by women and girls.

When you tote that 24-pack of half-liter water bottles home from the supermarket next time, try balancing it on your head, like many Indians do. That’s 26 pounds of water–just three gallons. Enough for one U.S. toilet flush.

The Big Thirst: The High Cost of Bad Water

The Dangerously Clean Water. By Charles Fishman

The ultra-pure water used to clean semiconductors and make microchips would suck vital minerals right out of your body. Plus it tastes really nasty.

FACT: Water can be too clean to drink–so clean that it’s actually not safe to drink.

That’s the kind of claim about water that people scoff at–it seems ridiculous on the face of it.

Water too clean to drink?

Give me a break. It’s water. Cleaner is better.

But this is one wild water story that’s true.

Every day, around the world, tens of millions of gallons of the cleanest water possible are created, water so clean that it is regarded as an industrial solvent, absolutely central to high-tech manufacturing but not safe for human consumption.

The clean water–it’s called ultra-pure water (UPW)–is a central part of making semiconductors, the wafers from which computer microchips are cut for everything from MRI scanners to greeting cards.

Chips and their pathways are built up in layers, and between manufacturing steps, they need to be washed clean of the solvents and debris from the layer just completed.

But the electronic pathways on microchips are now so fine they can’t be seen even with ordinary microscopes. The pathways are narrower than the wavelengths of visible light. They can only be seen with electron microscopes. And so even the absolute tiniest of debris can be like a boulder on a semiconductor–so the chips have to be washed, but with water that is itself absolutely clean.

The water must have nothing in it except water molecules–not only no specks of dirt or random ions, no salts or minerals, it can’t have any particles of any kind, not even minuscule parts of cells or viruses.

And so every microchip factory has a smaller factory inside that manufactures ultra-pure water. The ordinary person thinks of reverse-osmosis as taking “everything” out of water. RO is the process you use to turn ocean water into crystalline drinking water. And in human terms, RO does take most everything out of the water.

But for semiconductors, RO water isn’t even close. Ultra-pure water requires 12 filtration steps beyond RO. (For those of a technical bent, the final filter in making UPW has pores that are 20 nanometers wide. At the IBM semiconductor plant I visited, they send the 20 nm filters out to be inspected by a private company, using a scanning electron microscope. They want that company to find filters with nothing in them.)

Just the one IBM microchip plant in Burlington, Vermont, makes 2 million gallons of UPW a day for use in manufacturing semiconductors, and there are dozens of chip plants around the world. UPW is also used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, but it is a purely human form of water–water that is literally nothing like the stuff that exists naturally on Earth.

Water is a good cleaner because it is a good solvent–the so-called “universal solvent,” excellent at dissolving all kinds of things. UPW is particularly “hungry,” in solvent terms, because it starts so clean. That’s why it is so valuable for washing semiconductors.

It’s also why it’s not safe to drink. A single glass of UPW wouldn’t hurt you. But even that one glass of water would instantly start leeching valuable minerals back out of your body.

At the chip plants, the staff comes to regard UPW as just another part of a high-tech manufacturing process. One senior IBM official was stunned when I asked her what UPW tasted like. Despite presiding for years over the water purification process, she not only had never tasted it, it has never even occurred to her to taste it. One of her deputies had, though, and he piped right up. “I stuck my tongue in it,” he said. “It was horrid.”

In fact, super-clean water tastes flat, heavy, and bitter. The opposite of what we like. The appealing freshness in water comes not just from it’s temperature and its appearance, but from a sprinkling of salts and minerals that give it a crisp taste.

So there it is: Not only is it possible for water to be too clean to drink–it’s exactly that kind of water that makes your iPhone possible.

Adapted from The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, to be published in April by Free Press / Simon & Schuster. © 2011, Charles Fishman.

4

Water is History

Jamie F Simpson 2013

This work consists of 24 aged containers of water and a list of historical people and animals with details of the water being connected to them in fluids. They were found in the river Eden and some have been there for 5 years and some for 50 years all with a constant supply of water running through them.

The human body contains on average 65% water (Helmenstine, 2013) which is being constantly replaced every time we eat or drink, this water comes out as urine, sweat, semen, rheum, saliva etc. the water that we drink has been filtered and processed so that is it suitable for human consumption, therefore all water has a memory.  

All the water on earth was formed in space, in interstellar gas clouds. It was delivered here when the earth was formed or shortly thereafter, in exactly the form it is in. So, all the water on earth… is 4.3 or 4.4 billion years old. No water is being created on earth; no water is being destroyed on earth… …Every drink of water you take, every pot of coffee you make is dinosaur pee because it’s all been through the kidneys of a Tyrannosaurus Rex… many times. Because all the water we have is all the water we have ever had… (Charles Fishman, 2011)

The Big Thirst: A Brief Recommendation/Review. This book, by Charles Fishman, is absolutely loaded with information about water use and politics, and is a particular indictment of the indulgence of the water culture of us 24-hour-hot-and-cold running Westerners, or rather more specifically, an indictment of our water policies (both governmental and corporate) and the water culture that those policies and official stances ultimately promote.

A choice quote….

Bottled water is the final flowering of the old water culture. Nothing says indulgence, in fact, like paying for something you don’t need to pay for, like paying for something you don’t need. Superficially, it looks like a somewhat silly triumph for capitalism - look what really smart, creative people can do with something as utterly pedestrian as water. In fact, it’s a reminder of exactly the opposite - the market has created very persuasive solutions for water problems that don’t exist, while failing to find any solutions for real water problems. (137)

[Amazon]

Would you believe that highly purified water is like acid to your body? Of all the crazy things I have heard about water, this tops my list as the most insane:

FACT: Water can be too clean to drink–so clean that it’s actually not safe to drink.

That’s the kind of claim about water that people scoff at–it seems ridiculous on the face of it.

Water too clean to drink?

Give me a break. It’s water. Cleaner is better.

But this is one wild water story that’s true.

Every day, around the world, tens of millions of gallons of the cleanest water possible are created, water so clean that it is regarded as an industrial solvent, absolutely central to high-tech manufacturing but not safe for human consumption.

The clean water–it’s called ultra-pure water (UPW)–is a central part of making semiconductors, the wafers from which computer microchips are cut for everything from MRI scanners to greeting cards.

Once again our resident waterologist, Charles Fishman continues to blow minds and spread the word about The Dangerously Clean Water Used To Make Your iPhone.

fastcompany.com
Scientists Discover The Oldest, Largest Body Of Water In Existence - In Space

Equally stunning is the age of the water factory. The two teams of astrophysicists that found the quasar were looking out in space a distance of 12 billion light years. That means they were also looking back in time 12 billion years, to when the universe itself was just 1.6 billion years old. They were watching water being formed at the very start of the known universe, which is to say, water was one of the first substances formed, created in galactic volumes from the earliest time. Given water’s creative power to shape geology, climate and biology, that’s dramatic.

And it’s not as if this intergalactic water can be of any use to us here on Earth, of course, at least not in the immediate sense. Indeed, the discovery comes as a devastating drought across eastern Africa is endangering the lives of 10 million people in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. NASA’s water discovery should be a reminder that if we have the sophistication to discover galaxies full of water 12 billion light years away, we should be able to save people just an ocean away from drought-induced starvation.

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In a visit to The Lavin Agency’s Toronto office, The Big Thirst author Charles Fishman talks about how, a few years ago, Atlanta came within just eight days of running out of water. The situation revealed a lot about America’s blasé—and dangerous—attitude toward our most precious natural resource.

Bottled water is a rip-off only because we're willing to pay for it.

Or at least too lazy to resist the temptation to buy it!

Listen to this report and read about why we pay billions of dollars a year for bottled water. 

I think bottled water actually represents a kind of caricature of… the global economy… It provides people in the developed world with 20 or 30 varieties of something for which there is no actual variety.” - Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst

Fact: We hear all the time that “only” 2% of the water on Earth is fresh and available for human use–only 1% if you exclude glaciers and polar ice caps. It’s true, it’s just not very meaningful, and it’s misleading.

About 97% of the water on the surface of the Earth is in the oceans. But the oceans aren’t a static pool of unusable water–they are a vast desalination system, making water for human use every second of every day.

The ocean and the atmosphere, with the help of the sun, are moving around volumes of water that are truly stupendous–measured in a standard unit rarely heard outside the world of geology and atmospheric science: the cubic kilometer.

That “only 1%” figure is designed to galvanize us. But if it ever struck people as dramatic, it’s lost it’s power. As well it should.

Charles Fishman continues to unpack staggering water facts in his Fast Company series, The Big Thirst based on his upcoming book of the same name.

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life
by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover

From Academy Award–winning producer Brian Grazer and acclaimed business journalist Charles Fishman comes a brilliantly entertaining peek into the weekly “curiosity conversations” that have inspired Grazer to create some of America’s favorite and iconic movies and television shows—from 24 to A Beautiful Mind.

For decades, film and TV producer Brian Grazer has scheduled a weekly “curiosity conversation” with an accomplished stranger. From scientists to spies, and adventurers to business leaders, Grazer has met with anyone willing to answer his questions for a few hours. These informal discussions sparked the creative inspiration behind many of Grazer’s movies and TV shows, including Splash, 24, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Arrested Development, 8 Mile, J. Edgar, Empire, and many others.

A Curious Mind is a brilliantly entertaining, fascinating, and inspiring homage to the power of inquisitiveness and the ways in which it deepens and improves us. Whether you’re looking to improve your management style at work or you want to become a better romantic partner, this book—and its lessons on the power of curiosity—can change your life.

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Charles Fishman, coauthor of A Curious Mind, speaks at the Rotman School of Management, Canada’s top business school, about the importance of curiosity.   

Water is Cosmic Juice

Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst, was interviewed on NPR today. Fishman’s research has led him to create a fresh position on water usage:

“All the water on earth was formed in space, in interstellar gas clouds. It was delivered here when the earth was formed or shortly thereafter, in exactly the form it is in. So, all the water on earth… is 4.3 or 4.4 billion years old. No water is being created on earth, no water is being destroyed on earth.

“What that means is, the whole debate about reusing waste water, is kind of silly because: all the water we have right now has been used over and over again. Every drink of water you take, every pot of coffee you make is dinosaur pee because it’s all been through the kidneys of a Tyrannosaurus Rex… many times. Because all the water we have is all the water we have ever had…

“Water is incredibly resilient. It’s unlike fuel or other natural resources: it can be used over and over again. And it emerges, except for needing to be cleaned, ready to be used again: exactly as water.

“Water is cosmic juice that came from interstellar space.”

Hear Fishman’s entire interview, here: freshair.npr.org

In Philadelphia, there are 3,300 miles of water mains in the city and they replace 20 miles a year. They’re on 160-year replacement cycles. One of the officials from the Philadelphia water utility said to me ‘We want to make sure we get the 20 miles right.’ That’s not a question of money, it’s a question of public resistance to digging up streets.’
—  Charles Fishman on the antiquated municipal water systems in the United States. 
Healing Waters

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ezekiel 47

Healing Waters

Water can either drown or save, flood or quench. Mariners study charts of tidal patterns in order to make port or set sail at propitious times. Enormous damns force water into sluice ways, churning over mighty dynamos that produce electricity to power society. Creeks, rivers and bays move headlong to oceans while quiet backwaters and bayous…

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