The Sacred Planet: Rainwater
In 1957 when I was eight, I moved from the U.S. to Thailand, to live in my family's country. A few days after arriving I remember sitting on a beautifully polished wood floor at my grandmother’s house in Bangkok. The adults were lounging in wicker chairs enjoying an evening chat. One of my uncles carefully handed me a glass of water. After I had taken a sip, he smiled and asked me how did it taste? I said it was pretty good. He laughed and said, "You’re never going to taste water better than that!"
For the next 8 years, I drank this wonderful water from the sky. it came down in warm torrential sheets during the monsoons*. We filled large clay pots with the rain flowing off the roof tops. The water we collected lasted us throughout the whole year. We used this sky water for everything: drinking, cooking, washing and bathing.
People in all parts of the world had been collecting rainwater since antiquity. There is even evidence that the great pyramids of Egypt were used to harvest rainwater (pyramid rain catchment theory), among the first of these was said to be the step pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara.
In Southeast Asia, collecting rainwater in the traditional jars and pots can be traced back to over two thousand years.
The Plain of Jars in Xiangkhoang Province in Laos is a magnificent ancient Megalithic landscape consisting of thousands of stone jars scattered about. These prehistoric jars look very much like the clay jars, "Ong Nam", used by more modern Southeast Asians to keep rainwater in, except these are larger and made out of stone. Like the pyramids in Egypt these stone urns may have also been used for burial purposes along with rainwater harvesting.
My parents eventually had an Artesian well with a water storage tank put in . An outdoor faucet was installed at the same time. It seemed more like a novelty. We still collected rainwater for most of our needs. We still didn't have any indoor plumbing to speak of. Of course over the years we did gradually make the transition to using mostly well water.
I returned to live in the U.S. in 1965. During the subsequent years, 'Acid Rain' became a nasty side effect of modernization. A term coined by a Scottish chemist, Robert Angus Smith in 1872, it wasn't until the early 1970's, that acid rain was recognized as not only a serious threat to the well being of humans, but to all forms of life on earth: forests, fresh waters and soils, killing insects and aquatic life-forms, as well as causing damage to buildings.
Like a plot in an over imaginative sci fi movie, "The once pure rain turns into a deadly acid destroying everything it touches".
The burning of coal and other fossil fuels to generate electricity and power modern industry in general has been the main contributor to the acidification of the planet's water. Governments and businesses are aware of this disastrous situation and have been taking measures and passing laws and regulations to try to manage this problem.
In the meantime, we can all help by supporting the development of renewable energies, by discontinuing the use of harmful chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, by being conservative and efficient with our water usage, by adding rainwater catchment, grey water systems, bioswales and permeable surfaces to our landscape and garden designs. These are all beneficial and healthy practices for our natural environment.
"Instead of looking only to someone else to solve society's problems;
instead of clamoring only for corporate social responsibility, or for
government action on every crisis, we should ask ourselves:
What have I done to help, even a little bit,
on any of the problems I am fussing about?
How much have I put back into the soil of America
that has yielded so much to me?
How good has my stewardship been?
When I am through, will I leave my part of this
world in as good condition as when I entered it?"
-Louis B. Lundborg
former board chairman,
Bank of America,
in Future Without Shock
*The months of June through October