Your best insurance for the Apocalypse: a stash of ammo or a block party with your neighbours?
All summer long, I’ve had water on my mind. The shocking baldness of the mountains as glaciers vanished, the dry creek behind my house, and my parched garden ratcheted up my water stress.
The squall passed quickly, as Pemberton’s Sylvie Allen, mountain bike guide extraordinaire, anticipated. (Nothing an extra cup of coffee in camp couldn’t cure. Thanks, Andrea.) Two hours later, our five-woman strong posse of riders had crested the Pass, and from the stark alpine of 2300 metres, a whoop-inducing hour-long singletrack descent awaited us.
Trudging through clay and rock up that last push up the Pass, I had glanced continuously across to Mt Sheba, benchmarking our progress and watching with fascination as the last of the winter snowmelt trickle-flowed down the mountain’s side in little rivulets and runnels.
I’ve read the claim before that “mountains are the water towers of the world”, but I’d never envisioned just how organic and un-industrial that is.
I stared at the little trickles and braids of melt that wended down the hillsides, joining up, as quickly as possible, with other rivulets, gathering force to become creek, to etch valleys, to morph and amass as stream, river, and eventually lake. It struck me as embryonic and deeply poetic. I was bearing witness to the very conception of a river, peeking at an enduring primal affair between granite and sky.
It was probably the altitude. No one else seemed distracted from the task of hike-a-biking and taking photos. But I couldn’t help but feel the force of this revelation: if even water molecules are drawn to other water molecules, then we humans, 72% water, must be drawn to each other too.
But more practically, experts recommend that you invest now in developing good relationships with your neighbours. (There’s an incentive for a block party if ever I heard one.)
A decade ago, I visited the ancient Roman ruins at Baelo Claudio. Situated on the southern tip of Spain, it was a major sea trade port and a fish-salting factory in its heyday of 41 AD. It had temples, a forum, baths, a sewer system, and three aqueducts that supplied the town with water – sophisticated gravity-fed public engineering works that the Romans were famous for and that have rarely been reproduced in modern times.
We may have a measureless amount of information at our fingertips, today, but data doesn’t make us smarter.
In his book Hope Is An Imperative, David Orr writes,
“There is an appropriate velocity for water set by geology, soils, vegetation, and ecological relationships in a given landscape. There is an appropriate velocity for money that corresponds to long-term needs of whole communities rooted in particular places and the necessity of preserving ecological capital. There is an appropriate velocity for information set by the assimilative capacity of the mind and by the collective learning rate of communities and entire societies. Having exceeded the speed limits, we are vulnerable to ecological degradations, economic arrangements that are unjust and unsustainable, and, in the face of great and complex problems, to befuddlement that comes with information overload.”
Just because the amount of information available to us has exploded since Roman times, our ability to absorb that into bodily knowledge has remained constant over millennia. So, the crucial difference that determines whether a community has enough clean water for everyone, or is in total disarray boils down, quite simply, to the way we organize ourselves.
Stockpiling ammo or practicing playing well with other kids? I know where I’d rather put my energy.