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Oil and Water

Our abundance gives us the luxury to learn from it. If we manage and preserve our water properly, we can teach the world.

By Kevin Somers
Published June 27, 2007

The two most precious and perilous resources on the planet are oil and water. Contrary to the popular "oil and water" analogy, they're more similar than you'd think.

Oil and water are both integral to our lifestyle, for example. Human settlement, and civilizations has always been determined by water and what it can provide, but fossil fuels have changed everything.

Oil

In less than 200 years, petroleum products and mass marketing have us hooked crude. Oil has put men on the moon, two cars in every driveway, and a billion more on the QEW et al.

Every link in our food chain is greased with oil and oil barons run the world. Oil is coveted for many reasons: its a burns and lubricates well; it is simple to transport; relatively easy to get; and there's a huge demand that's getting huger every second.

The problem with oil is, once combusted, it is gone forever. We are all witness to billions of people burning fossil fuels indiscriminately in great quantities (NASCAR, NASA, QEW, 401, I95, AIR TRANSAT, SUV, YYZ…).

Adding to the pileup, industries are racing to China and India where billions live and the citizens suddenly crave oil as badly as we do.

It's inevitable humans will run out of gas and have to live without it, again, as we have for most of history. It's been more fun than the Portuguese Empire, but the Petroleum Epoch will also be but a blip on time's radar.

Shortages, price hikes, and the exhaustion of oil are facts we have to live with. Too many politicians, developers, boomers (and now their manically consuming, wretched offspring) don't get it, but the second half of the oil era won't be as fun as the first.

It's over. Get used to it. The oil party is done.

We're down, but we're not out.

Water

Our way of life and standard of living are afforded by oil, but water is our essence. More than two thirds of our weight is water, a higher percentage at birth. (The brain is almost all water.)

Water regulates body temperature and weight, lubricates joints, eliminates waste; every aspect of our anatomy requires water to function properly. The easiest way to lose weight and feel better is to drink water. Everything we eat requires water, as well, meat especially.

Unlike oil, water doesn't vanish. Water changes states and moves around, but the amount of water on earth is constant and has been for a long time: we splash in the same water the dinosaurs did; the global drinking water fountain is also its sewage system.

Water is wonderful; more wonderful, in fact, than oil. The problem with water, however, is its scarcity. We can't make more of it or use alternatives.

Water is the most basic human requirement, yet more than a billion people already don't have clean drinking water and adequate sewage.

Lack of a toilet prevents many poor girls from going to school. Millions die and half the world's hospital beds are occupied because of unfit water.

Adding fuel to the flame, all over world aquifers and wells are being permanently damaged through irresponsible draining and drilling – the water table under Beijing has dropped 200 feet since 1980.

Surface water is also being defaced by untreated sewage, industrial dumping, and oil spills. And population growth means the consumption of water doubles every 20 years.

Crisis and Opportunity

We have to accept the reality of oil depletion and begin weaning from it while developing alternatives. Every half-witted, obtuse middle-manager and bureaucrat knows the Chinese character for "Crisis" is the same as it is for "Opportunity." [Hey, if it ain't true, it oughtta be -Ed.]

Canada, despite being bloated with half-witted, obtuse middle-managers and bureaucrats, is well suited to ride out the impending oil crisis because we've got water: our opportunity.

Like weeds, humans will persist without oil but we will perish without water and Canada has abundance in a world of need. China, for example, has less water than Canada and over a billion people.

They also have a huge army and everyone knows Canadians are unarmed, poorly managed, and generally fat and lazy. I figure the Chinese could have a soldier on every street corner within a week, no problem.

Canada should lead the world with rigorous investments in irrigation techniques, crop selection, sewage treatment, rainwater harvesting, water conservation, and protection of water.

Our abundance gives us the luxury to learn from it. If we manage and preserve our water properly, we can teach the world.

Otherwise, a bigger, better-armed country might invade us because we have imaginary WMD. Or Stevie Harper has us on a Chinese "axis of evil" list.

Or the senate compromises democracy and has to be overthrown and its members incarcerated or executed. Or we're not sufficiently Christian. Or Communist. Or something.

Or they simply want our oil and water.

Kevin Somers is a Hamilton writer.

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