Water, not land, is the overwhelming feature of our world. 70.9% of the earth’s surface is covered by water; nearly all of it is salty and only 3% is fresh water. Of all this water, humans can directly use just 0.3%, and most goes into large scale operations such as irrigation and electric power generation.
At home, the average US citizen consumes almost 100 gallons of water each day — toilet flushing is the largest single use. In contrast, half of India’s population — 620 million individuals — has no access to a working toilet or latrine. They defecate outside in the streets or countryside.
Water exists in three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. Glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are reported to hold over half of the earth’s fresh water. The oceans are almost as old as the planet itself and have stayed the same in terms of volume and chemistry for the past 600 million years despite their containers, the ocean basins, being altered due to shifting tectonic plates — otherwise known as continental drift. And our atmosphere contains more water as gaseous vapor — humidity and clouds — than all the rivers on earth combined.
Carbon-based life requires liquid water to exist.
Although our planet and its oceans were formed 4.5 billion years ago, it was not until 3.5 to 2.0 billion years ago that oceanic life forms had developed chlorophyll. From the cyanobacteria and other early photosynthesizers did the processes commence that emitted oxygen into the atmosphere, and around 600 million years ago oxygen concentration finally reached 20%, sufficient to support land-based life. Prior to then, those parts of continents extending above sea level had remained de facto sterile. Thus, marine life had created the atmosphere we know today, and it had set the stage for life’s evolution onto land.
Water is special. Its properties are universal, yet one in particular needs emphasis in light of the current debate about climate change: water possesses the second highest heat retention capacity of any molecule. Only ammonia has a higher ability to hold on to heat. One molecule of water vapor retains 90 times as much heat compared to one molecule of carbon dioxide. Therefore, water vapor is the most potent greenhouse gas in our atmosphere; not methane, not ozone, not CO2 or other molecules.
The trinity of water forms — ice, liquid, and vapor — has fundamentally shaped all physical and organic existences on our globe as well as the evolution of carbon-based life. Our planet Earth orbits our sun between the planets Venus and Mars. Humans christened the planets…perhaps we now know enough about our origins so that we should rename our unique sphere…the Planet Water. Our existence utterly would not have happened without water.
For those who might be interested, within the novel, Spirit Made Smaller, there is much more about alternate theories on climate change and carbon-based evolution predicated upon DNA’s double helix, and how both combined to shape our very essence.