Our alienation from the world of wonders, with which we evolved, has only intensified since David Bowie described a girl stumbling through a “sunken dream”, on her way to be “hooked to the silver screen”, where a long series of distractions diverts her from life’s great questions. The song, of course, was Life on Mars.
"Think of what would change if we valued terrestrial water as much as we
value the possibility of water on Mars. Only 3% of the water on this
planet is fresh; and of that, two-thirds is frozen. Yet we lay waste to
the accessible portion. Sixty per cent of the water used in farming is needlessly piddled away by careless irrigation.
Rivers, lakes and aquifers are sucked dry, while what remains is often
so contaminated that it threatens the lives of those who drink it. In
the UK, domestic demand is such that the upper reaches of many rivers
disappear during the summer. Yet still we install clunky old toilets and
showers that gush like waterfalls.
As for salty water, of the kind that so enthralls us when apparently
detected on Mars, on Earth we express our appreciation with a frenzy of
destruction. A new report suggests
fish numbers have halved since 1970. Pacific bluefin tuna, which once
roamed the seas in untold millions, have been reduced to an estimated
40,000, yet still they are pursued. Coral reefs are under such pressure
that most could be gone by 2050. And in our own deep space, our desire
for exotic fish rips through a world scarcely better known to us than
the red planet’s surface. Trawlers are now working at depths of 2,000
metres. We can only guess at what they could be destroying."