Ecology And Environment

Global Water Crisis United Nations Conference Wuxi Lao Tzu Dh Lawrence

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On November 8-9, 2009, the People's Government of Wuxi Municipality and the UN Global Forum on Human Settlements co-sponsored the 5th UN Global Forum on Human Settlements.

The forum, designed to broach several environmental issues such as pollution generated as a side effect of economic growth.attracted international dignitaries, leading UN figures, and key members of China's Central Committee. Multinational and national companies such as General Electric and Suez Environment exhibited projects to show their commitment to an environment friendly vision for the future.

Wuxi was selected as the site for this important meeting because China has a severe water resource shortage, and the Chinese government attaches such high attention to water environmental improvement that sustainable development is a state policy.

But Wuxi can be thought of as an ideal place to meet for a different reason. It is perfect because China is the homeland of the Old Boy, the revered and beloved world saint Lao Tzu. Here are his observations:

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.


The ancient Masters were profound and subtle...
Fluid as melting ice...
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

From among all saints and seers, perhaps Lao Tzu above all others most fully intuited the eternal and the divine in water.

Importantly in the wisdom of Lao Tzu is that in his few and fleeting words he captures both sides of the truth of water, the nature of the water without, and its mirror in the water within. The great German, Romantic philosopher Novalis said, Our bodies are molded rivers.

Al Gore in Earth in the Balance said the same thing (but please do not tell Mr. Gore that Lao Tzu already knew it 2700 years ago, Mr. Gore thinks he discovered it), He said:

Human beings are made up mostly of water, in roughly the same percentage as water is to the surface of the earth. Our tissues and membranes, our brains and hearts, our sweat and tears-all reflect the same recipe for life, in which efficient use is made of those ingredients available on the surface of the earth.

What I would like us to do in the few moments I have to present my thoughts is open ourselves and seek for starting points in the magic and the divine in our quest for a healthy and happy world, and a cure for the global water crisis.

I believe the frame of mind and the way of being that can guide our path toward good outcomes and the rescue of our planet lies in the secret voice in water itself. Loren Eiseley, the great natural science writer and recipient of 36 honorary degrees said, If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. (Loran Eisley, The Immense Journey, 1957)

But perhaps the one voice that captures most perfectly the needed starting point for resolving the water crisis is that of D.H. Lawrence, from his 1929 poetry collection Pansies (a play on the French word Pensees). He says, Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water, and nobody knows what that is. (D.H. Lawrence, Pansies, 1929)

It is vital that we ponder, remember, and honor that third thing, for if we do, and when we do, we lose our indifference, we could no more hurt water than a loved one, and we could no more ignore the thirst, the deaths, and the suffering of the billion, and the little ones, than we could ignore falling into the grip of thirst ourselves.

Certainly the water crisis is a problem for science. And yes it is a problem for policy makers, city planners, and valiant warriors for the rights of the oppressed. But it's deepest face of horror lies within each one of us, it lies in whatever allows me to walk peacefully through life while 3 million water related deaths each year take the lives children under 14.

It is this frightening indifference in us that must be addressed if we have any hope to effectively engage the current and growing global water crisis conversation.

Wherein lies my blindness, my dullness? What is missing in my life, that allows my sense to be so dull? What am I not seeing, not feeling? For each of us is just a single step different from the factory polluting CEO. I lie to myself if I think otherwise.

If we find that we are aware, alert, and invested in rescuing our planet, our brothers and sisters, and the little ones, we can only be thankful for the unknown and unseen that allows us to be awake with a passion and devotion to the grand and pressing a cause.

The secret to saving water is contained in water itself. It cries out to us water to water. The dew drop and the rapids try with beauty and power to speak to its own self within us. It knows already the path to its rescue. Chuang Tzu (c.360 BC - c. 275 BC) says, The sound of water says what I think.

It is us. We are it. It lives, we live. It dies, we die. The holy Qur'an says, "We made from water every living thing (Qur'an, 21:30).

Water itself contains the secrets, and reveals to us the way to its own rescue. The first of these secrets was recognized by by Lao Tzu when he points out:

The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

It is humility, and the contentedness with low places, together with the interior nature to live for the benefit of others that is required at this time to reverse the horrible trends that threaten our fragile environment. The spread of these virtues bode the rescue of water.

Environmental science is vital, it is needed, but the best of it cannot contend with a disordered race whose inner nature wars with our very aqua vita within. It is not the lack of environmental science that has defiled earth's magic, it is an avarice against which Lao Tzu quietly and gently warned, a lack of contentedness with the low places, the lack of a natural impulse to live for the benefit of others and not contend with them.

The second secret (also already mentioned) comes from the great thinker and poet D.H. Lawrence, Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water, and nobody knows what that is. When I read these words of Lawrence and pause to release the voice of water in me, I think of a couple in love, I think of my own wife and me. A marriage is H2O one part me, and one part the woman I love, but there is a third thing that made us a couple, and nobody knows what that is.

The mystery, beauty, and life giving power of water is the secret of love. Of how two become one to become an ever giving and ever sustaining source of new life.

Humility, contentedness with the low places animated by living for the benefit of all, and the bond of love, care, and respect for the other are the secrets of water that can awaken us to turn back from our careless, violent, and polluting era.

I am 71% water, and so are you. Maybe we have a chance.

More about this author: Frank Kaufmann

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