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Water, water everywhere

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — when a city hits water zero, & when a vast aquifer is up for commercial grabs ]

I would like to scare you two ways:


The Guardian’s Cape Town headline (upper panel, above) alerts us to the imminent failure of the first major global city’s water supply:

The head of Cape Town’s disaster operations centre is drawing up a plan he hopes he never has to implement as this South African city on the frontline of climate change prepares to be the first in the world to turn off the water taps.

“We’ve identified four risks: water shortages, sanitation failures, disease outbreaks and anarchy due to competition for scarce resources,” says Greg Pillay. “We had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis.”

Anarchy due to competition for scarce resources — would you care to say more about how virulent that strain of anarchy might be, and how its epidemiology would intersect with those of water shortages, sanitation failures, and disease outbreaks?


The lower image, above, shows the extent of the Guarani aquifer — water supply for the vast lands above it, and the fauna, flora and humans who inhabit those lands.

What’s the problem?

As a Canadian government page puts it, Barlow warns Nestle is seeking control of the Guarani aquifer in South America:

Mint Press reports, “A concerted push is underway in South America that could see one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle. According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years.”

Cash would dance in the heads of the relevant CEOs — “including Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris” — while guns would no doubt protect their “rights”.

We’ll copyright it, we’ll patent it, no, we’ll — bottle it!


Justice William O Douglas in A Wilderness Bill of Rights, argued the need for a “Bill of Rights to protect those whose spiritual values extend to the rivers and lakes, the valleys and the ridges, and who find life in a mechanized society worth living only because those splendid resources are not despoiled.” In his now celebrated dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton, he suggested the courts should give standing “in the name of the inanimate object about to be despoiled, defaced, or invaded by roads and bulldozers and where injury is the subject of public outrage.”

In the High Country News article, Should nature have standing to sue? from which I’ve taken those quotes, we discover:

Douglas’ views were inspired by his own experiences in the wild. He grew up in Yakima, Washington, hiking the foothills and peaks of the Cascade Range, and he sang the praises of nature throughout his life. “When one stands on Darling Mountain, he is not remote and apart from the wilderness; he is an intimate part of it,” he wrote in a typical passage from his memoir, Of Men and Mountains. “Every ridge, every valley, every peak offers a solitude deeper even than that of the sea. It offers the peace that comes only from solitude.”

Solitude. Can you believe it? Such a value!



Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation

Let therefore the Guarani aquifer have standing to sue for all the inhabitants of the lands above it, else — in the prescient words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, speaking in the parched, blistered voice of an Ancient Mariner:

Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.



Oh aye, they play soccer, the Guarani —

— and are warriors in protection of their native forests:

Brazil, Guaraní tribe attacked by ranchers who want their land.

Attacks on indigenous people by armed gunmen working for ranchers continue: a slow genocide, the result of the occupation of indigenous ancestral lands.

A slow genocide.. As above, so below.

Patterns: knots in wood, eddies in river flow

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Gen Mattis gives Pres Trump pause ]

Reporting that Secretary Mattis influenced President Trump regarding the number of troops in Afghanistan, WaPo made a remarkable comment that caught my eye:

In the end, Trump decided to nearly double the size of the force in Afghanistan to 15,000 troops. In announcing his decision, Trump said he was acting against his “original instinct.”

That last remark, with President Trump admitting that he’s acted “against” his celebrated flow of instinctural utterances, struck me as pretty much unique in my reading — and as akin to a pattern I’ve long had an interest in: that of knots in wood and eddies in flowing water.


The point about eddies that interests me is that they represent a reversal of flow within a larger flow-stream. And the point about Trump is that if he goes against a previously unbroken (or seldom broken) flow of some particular behavior, that’s something we should take special note of.


From here on in this post, I’m exploring matters of pattern, with no necessary relationship to Trump or natsec.

I’ve long thought of eddies as equivalent to knots in wood: now I’m not so sure — I’m learning, or at least I hope so. Eddies are commonly caused by some upstream perturbation — a rock in mid-stream, for instance, or the arrival of a flowing source in an otherwise calm body of water. It may be that the heart of a knot is some such “rock in mid-stream” in wood, in which case this “drag force” diagram may give us a better picture of the knot and eddy:

Knots in wood commonly have a vertical (oblique) dimension, as when they represent the formation of a branch or twig that’s oblique to the main trunk or branch..


In all this, we are getting close to the Karman Vortex Street which may be familiar from the cover of Gary Snyder‘s (wonderful) poetry book, Regarding Wave (a study of Snyder’s book covers would be a study in a variety of natural patterns):

or from my own favorite DoubleQuote, between the Karman Vortex Street (here represented diagrammatically) and Van Gogh’s night sky:

Ah, from wood and flowing water to the sky.


Okay, as I said, this is my learning curve this am, and I am humbled to add one more DQ to this small collection, this one featuring a Vortex like Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud formation (upper image, below):

and a lenticular cloud formation (lower image, above).



And (liquid) water.

Hey, in his far subtler and more complex way, Leonardo was a keen observer of these phenomena of flow and eddy too:

On play as wildness

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — what’s true of hex maps is true of all mental models ]

There’s a certain let-your-hair-down quality to play.

It appears that one Tausendsassa Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser said or perhaps wrote, muttered, whispered, shouted, or simply thought out loud, “the straight line is a godless line” — at any rate, someone noticed and recorded the phrase, and now it’s scattered across the net and difficult to track to its source.


But we do love order, don’t we?


And so the rivers on our hexagonal maps all too easily follow the hexagons..


when they’d more realistically cross over them, following their own courses:


and note how easily even our efforts to bring natural variety to our hexagonal mappings conform more to hexagons than to variety.



Zennist Thich Nhat Hanh in Listening Deeply for Peace writes:

A traditional Vietnamese Zen garden is very different from a Japanese Zen garden. Our Zen gardens, called hon non bo, are wild and exuberant, more playful than the formal Japanese gardens with their restrained patterns. Vietnamese Zen gardens are seriously unserious. For us, the whole world is contained in this peaceful place. All activities of life unfold in true peace in the garden: in one part, children will be playing, and in another part, some elderly men will be having a chess game; couples are walking; families are having picnics; animals are free to wander around. Beautiful trees are growing next to abundant grasses and flowers. There is water, and there are rock formations. All ecologies are represented in this one microecology without discrimination. It is a miniature, peaceful world. It is a beautiful living metaphor for what a new global ethic could bring.


Here is the wrestling of a tree with such angels as gravity, sun, wind and rain:


Here is the wild calligraphy of the Rio Mamoré across the forests of the Amazon basin:


Christianity, ready for the stars

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the Russians were first with Sputnik, can Orthodoxy in space be far behind? ]

lift off

Unfinished TV tower in Yekaterinburg may be turned into St. Catherine Church:

Yekaterinburg architects created a concept of the highest church in the world: they suggested combining in one project a cult building and the notorious unfinished construction, Yekaterinburg TV reports.

“According to the concept, they are going to combine the unfinished construction and the cult building in one cosmic-shaped construction, though it is far from architecture of Orthodox churches,” the TV channel reports.

According to the authors of the idea, they wanted to suggest an alternative to “the church on water,” which was voiced among others projects of Yekaterinburg church.

Church or TV? What’s your preference?


Then there’s that enchanted phrase, “the church on water”..

Well, there’s the church of Our Lady of the Rocks in the Bay of Kotor, off Perast, Montenegro:

Our Lady of the Rocks, Perast, Montenegro
photo: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

It’s supported on water, to be sure, though it doesn’t appear to walk on it —

More explicitly, there’s the church that seems to be actually named Church on the Water in Hokkaido, designed by architect Tadao Ando

Church on the water, Tadao Ando ,Hokkaido (1)


In what might be seen as an interfaith move, Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando also designed the Water Temple in Hompukuji, on the island of Awaji, Japan:

Water Temple

Wikiarquitectura tells us:

The Water Temple is the residence of Ninnaji Shingon, the oldest sect of Tantric Buddhism in Japan, founded in 815.


Revelation 22.17:

And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

The trouble with moral high ground

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — fitness landscapes and the Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond ]

With the rise and fall of sea levels, sky levels, land emerges or submerges, mountain ranges with scattered lakes in their valleys transform into archipelagos, island clusters surge up to become continents — rise and fall, ebb and flow, wave upon wave..

I mean, really, what of the moral high ground?


Consider these:

Figure 13: Schematic “adaptive” or “fitness” landscape. 

Adaptive Basins and Strange Peaks

Biologists talk about adaptive landscapes. In these metaphorical places, species climb uphill towards optimal fitness. Going up is a struggle. Climbing takes energy. Optimal peaks can be hard to attain. Many species are distracted by getting stuck on sub-optimal false peaks, or waylaid by the intervening rugged landscape.


  • ResearchGate, Schematic “adaptive” or “fitness” landscape
  • The Technium, Adaptive Basins and Strange Peaks
  • **

    Nemesis and the Prophets are agreed:

    Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill made low

    — or as Mary said of her son’s father:

    He buffets proud folk about like leaves in a gale.
    He upsets those that hold themselves high and mighty
    and rescues the least one of us.

    Ursula le Guin voiced Lao Tzu for us in English:

    True goodness
    is like water.
    Water’s good
    for everything.
    It doesn’t compete.

    It goes right
    to the low loathsome places,
    and so finds the way.


    What’s softest in the world
    rushes and runs
    over what’s hardest in the world.

    The immaterial
    the impenetrable.


    O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road, And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye

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