Monday, November 28, 2005

Stones Inside Us

Around 97% of the earth's water is salty sea water. This means that only 3% of the earth's water is freshwater. Two-thirds of this freshwater is locked within glaciers and ice-caps. The other third is under the ground, circulating as groundwater. Only a tiny fraction of the earth's total water is found in rivers and lakes (about 0.03%).

The human body is around 65% water. Babies are even more watered down, up to 78%. Humans cannot survive for much more than a week without water. Finding clean water is not easy. Imagine if you could not turn on a tap or go to a shop to buy a bottle of water. You would very soon have to go looking for a stream or a river. Personally, I would not want to drink from our local river, the Seine. In fact, I would not even want to bathe in it. In summer, when we go walking beside the Seine, it actually smell of rotten eggs despite the fact it is a very large flowing waterway.

I'd guess that the water most city dwellers in the west drink comes from aquifers under the ground. Aquifers are fed by rain that falls in the hills and soaks into the ground. To get to an aquifer well, it will probably have to flow for tens of kilometers through the ground. This is the water that Roger Caillois refers to in the poem that I published yesterday.

The flowing water carries minerals through the rock. Water extracted from chalky rock contains a lot of calcium. If the calcium isn't deposited in a water filter or in a kettle, it may end up deposited in the natural filter of your body, your kidneys, as a kidney stone. Water forms a sort of natural continuity between the earth and the human body, bringing the solid substance of the earth inside us.

Kidney stone formation generally indicates some disfunctionment of the kidneys. Depending on the nature of that disfunction, different minerals can form, with peculiar results. The picture at the top of the page is a kidney stone recovered from a dog.

There are a lot of people in the world that would benefit from clean water. We take it so much for granted that we forget how difficult life must be for people who's lives revolve around simply trying to ensure a constant supply of clean water for themselves. You could help them.


Loren said...

Well, that would certainly explain why it would be so painful to "pass" a kidney stone, wouldn't it?

What it doesn't explain is why so many people are utterly careless about the way they pollute water.

Jonathan Wonham said...

Hello Loren,

I don't know why people are careless. If they are, and get away with it, it's because governments and authorities allow them to be.