In 1969, a meteor fell to Earth near the town of Murchison, Australia. Together with water, which was trapped inside the meteor for possibly billions of years, a range of amino acids linked to the precursors of life were discovered inside the carbon-rich meteorite. This led to the conjecture that cosmic forces help create the building blocks of life. Forty-five years later, life’s building blocks such as organic compounds and water were confirmed in many other extraterrestrial phenomena such as comets, quasars and even stars. Water is quite literally everywhere. Wherever there is life, there is water; wherever there is water there is possibility of life.
Water’s Life-Giving Anomalous Properties
Water’s other-worldly characteristics make it one of the most weird compounds Earth, logging in some seventy anomalous properties. And virtually all of them are life-giving. For instance, because water is more dense as a liquid than as a solid, ice floats; this lets fish and other aquatic biota live under partially frozen rivers and lakes. Water—unlike most other liquids—also needs a lot of heat to warm up even a little, which allows mammals to regulate their body temperature. Life’s cellular processes rely on water’s ability to act as a universal solvent. The high diffusion rate of water helps transport critical substances in multicellular organisms and allows unicellular life to exist without a circulatory system. One important result is that the viscosity of blood, which behaves in a non-Newtonian way (its viscosity decreases with pressure), will drop when the heart beats faster.
Water & Negative Ions Bring Well-Being
As a little girl, I used to get caught in the odd thunderstorm that swept through my small town on a sudden wind. I could taste the fresh air after the storm and felt exhilarated by it. What I didn’t know then was that the air was charged with negative ions from both the lightning and the rain.
We are all familiar with the feeling of well-being we get from moving water—rivers, waterfalls, crashing or surging waves, thunderstorms, fresh snow, transpiration by plants, even showers and fountains. Part of this feeling comes from negative ions in the air. Negative ions are basically oxygen ions with an extra electron attached, produced in water molecules.
As early as the 1700s, with the work of Swiss researcher Horace Bénédicte de Saussure, scientists have shown that negative ions are generated by moving water and also by plants when exposed to intense light during photosynthesis. Negative ions actually clean the air. They do this by attaching to positively charged particles such as pollen, mould, bacteria and dust, which then become too heavy to stay airborne. A country meadow typically contains from 2,000 to 5,000 negative ions per cubic centimetre (cc); mountains, forests and seashores provide up to 50,000 negative ions/cc. Niagara Falls generates anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 negative ions/cc in its air. The negative ion concentration is well below 100/cc on a city freeway during rush hour or even in an office environment. Rooms with air conditioners contain the lowest concentrations of negative ions. This is because they produce positive ions, as do most electrical equipment, carpets, upholstery and many synthetic materials.
Installing a water fountain and live plants in your home and avoiding the use of synthetic fibres in furniture and clothes, in favour of natural fibres such as cotton, linen, bamboo and wool will help you maintain a healthy negative ion concentration in your environment. Dry your clothes in fresh air instead of using a clothes dryer, and let your hair dry naturally when you can. Replace bright fluorescent lights with low-wattage bulbs. Hand-wash clothes instead of taking them to the dry cleaners.
Why We Feel Good in a Forest
Water courses through the veins, arteries and capillaries of Earth, nourishing, recycling and communicating. At the heart of water’s network are trees, pumping, breathing, and dispersing. Trees are highly evolved water management specialists, writes Jim Robbins, author of The Man Who Plants Trees. “A forest is a soft carpet on the landscape that allows a downpour to reach the ground gently rather than in a torrent.” This one fact reminds us of Nature’s intricate fabric of intelligence and how water works with all the components of our natural world. Trees and forests are the highest functioning members of ecological society, Robbins tells us. They “create rain; render … toxic wastes in the soil harmless; neutralize harmful air pollutants in their tissue; offer shade; provide medicine. They sustain wildlife [with] food and shelter. They are the planet’s heat shield, slowing the evaporation of water and cooling the earth. They generate vast clouds of chemicals that are vital to … the earth’s ecosystems and … to our health and well-being. They are natural reservoirs—as much as a hundred gallons of water can be stored in the crown of a large tree. The water they release is part of a largely unrecognized water cycle.”
The deep roots of mature trees bring up negatively charged water along with vital minerals and trace elements, acting as bio-condensers and “harmonizing positive energy from the sun with the negative energy of the earth,” writes Alick Bartholomew, author of The Spiritual Life of Water. Evapotranspiration from leaves of trees and shrubs is a balanced creative energy, he says. Trees are the lungs and air conditioners of our biosphere, breathing water in and out to help balance the water cycle. Scientists in Germany and the UK demonstrated that trees create and release atmospheric aerosols—biogenic volatile organic compounds such as alcohols, esters, ethers, carbonyl, terpenes, acids and other compounds—that essentially filter the sun’s radiation; and they do other things we still don’t understand. Terpene aerosols help create clouds and produce an albedo effect, reflecting more sunlight back into space. One large tree produces the cooling effect of ten air conditioners operating 24 hours a day.
The tree “is a chemical factory,” says botanist and biochemist Diana Beresford-Kroeger. They broadcast a host of chemicals into the environment that may travel for hundreds of kilometres, as well as affect the immediate area. Researchers found over 120 substances in California’s Sierra Nevada forest; only 70 could be identified. Aerosols released by trees are part of a sophisticated survival strategy, Beresford-Kroeger adds. Two studies published in 1983 showed that willow trees, poplars and sugar maples warn each other about insect attacks; undamaged trees then pump bug-repelling chemicals to ward of the attack. Black walnut trees emit juglone, an aerosol that repels competing nearby plants and some insects. Some tree roots emit a volatile substance that attracts useful fungi. Karban and his team at theUniversity of California–Davis, demonstrated that airborne communication between individual sagebrush plants (called “eavesdropping”) helped neighbouring plants resist attacks. Beresford-Kroeger believes that trees help maintain the health of the natural world, as they constantly shower healing chemical mists into the air. “These substances are at the heart of connectivity in nature,” says Beresford-Kroeger. For instance, during a walk through a pine forest on a warm day, the sharp pungent smell of pinene (a monoterpene), helps to relieve asthma. Another monoterpene aerosol, limonene, has an ability to fight cancer, demonstrated by Dr. Michael Gould at the University of Wisconsin.
The notion that forests are linked to health is practised seriously in Europe and the East, in countries such as Japan, Russia and Korea. Shinrin-yoku (Japanese for “forest bathing”) is a recognized practice in the East and is gaining interest in the West as a natural form of aromatherapy and relaxation therapy. When I enter a forest or woodland, a calming force descends upon me; perhaps it is the healing mist of trees. My mind quiets and embraces a state of meditative well-being, soothed by the gentle rustle of leaves or the clanking of tall poplars in the wind. Many of us feel a sense of peace in a forest. I have no doubt that this is the result of several factors including sounds and frequencies (e.g., infrasound), increased negative charge, scents, wood essential oils, genetic heritage and memory, and simple aesthetic appreciation and beauty.
Water’s Life-Giving Message
The Chinese art of feng shui, which translates to “wind and water,” also means “that which cannot be seen and cannot be grasped.” Essentially, a philosophical art form of harmonizing a person with their surrounding environment, it relates to one of the Five Arts of Chinese Metaphysics called Xiang (i.e., the study of forms and interpreting nature). Those who practice feng shui determine the flow of lung-mei (“dragon currents”) and arrange one’s abode to conform to these currents. Determining factors include local features such as water bodies, but also the position of the stars and cardinal directions. Feng shui considers Qi (chi) energy, yin and yang polarity and the bagua (eight trigrams). The eight trigrams, used in Taoist cosmology, represent eight concepts of the fundamental principles of reality and have correspondences in astronomy, astrology, geography, geomancy, anatomy, and family. According to Guo Pu, the Qi (chi or life force) “rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when it encounters water.” In modern feng shui, the water element is considered flowing and truth-seeking, replicating the flow of Qi energy. Water is “reflective” on many levels, from its mirroring polish to its archetype—the philosopher, who helps explain the mysteries of the world.
Water doesn’t just help us live; “Water teaches us how to live,” says Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto. Water teaches us “how to forgive, how to believe. If you open your ears to the possibilities in life, you may just be able to hear the sound of the pure water that flows through your body even now. It is the sound of your life—a melody of healing.” Emoto adds that, “The human body is … a universe of its own. Our bodies consist of some 60 trillion cells, each carrying out its specialized responsibility while simultaneously harmonizing with other cells in a wonderful way to make us who we are. The organs, nerves, and cells of the body have their own unique frequency. The body is like a grand orchestra consisting of the harmonization of various sounds.” Water is the great conductor.
“We are water. What we do to water we do to ourselves.”—Nina Munteanu, Water Is…
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press(Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in May 2020.