Ecosophy, or ecological wisdom starts with one’s wisdom about their own bioregion. As a Pagan, and a person that feels quite strongly about their bioregion, I think it our duty to get to know our personal loci and how interacts with the earth as a whole. As a witch, I think a useful way to do this is to look at the elements of our ecosystem as…well, as Elements.
If you have other activities or ideas that you can think of, particularly anything pertinent to a different ecosystem than mine, feel free to chime in!
Water is the only substance found naturally on earth in all three physical states–gas, liquid, and solid. In a 100-year period, a water molecule will spend 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, about 2 weeks in lakes and rivers, and less than a week in the atmosphere. In terms of volume, if Earth were the size of basketball, its water would be the size of a ping pong ball. Water covers some 72% of the Earth’s surface, and 96.5% of it is ocean. Another 2% is frozen in permafrost, glaciers, and ice sheets. Most of the rest is groundwater, more than half of which is saline. The world’s rivers are the most used source of water, but if all the water in the world were “boiled down” to a single gallon, the world’s rivers would only be about 9 drops of water.
1) What is the water cycle and how does it work? Draw a picture of the water cycle.
2) List the Earth’s major oceans and river systems. How much is seawater, freshwater, landlocked, in the icecaps?
3) What watershed do you reside in? What type of pollution is the water in your watershed exposed to? How many people reside in your watershed area? How much area does it cover? What are the usage pressures on your watershed?
4) Where does your water come from, and how is it treated? In your home, what do you use water for? How much water do you use? How much water is used in household activities? Can you reduce the water you use?
5) Learn 5 species of native fishes. Are they common or are they threatened or endangered? What are their lifecycles? Do they face any ecological challenges? What role do they play in their ecosystem? Are they edible or useful to humans? What can you do to help to help their ecological success? If it is possible, go out and find them.
6) Learn 5 species of native aquatic plants, algae, or plankton. Are they common or are they threatened or endangered? What are their lifecycles? Do they face any ecological challenges? What role do they play in their ecosystem? Are they edible or useful to humans? What can you do to help to help their ecological success? If it is possible, go out and find them.
7) Learn 5 species of other native organisms such as shellfish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, etc that primarily reside in your area’s waters. Are they common or are they threatened or endangered? What are their lifecycles? Do they face any ecological challenges? What role do they play in their ecosystem? Are they edible or useful to humans? What can you do to help their ecological success? If it is possible, go out and find them.
8) What species in your watershed are invasive? Where are they found? How did they get there? What are the challenges of getting rid of them? How are they being combated? What species do they threaten and/or problems do they cause? What can you do to help remove them from your ecosystem? If it is possible, go out and find them.
9) How does the local population interact with your watershed? If you live somewhere where water is plenty, is there a dam or mill, is the economy dependent on commercial fishing or recreation such as boating or fishing, is there a naval base or coast guard station, or a port? If you live somewhere where water is scarce, how is water use managed? What are the challenges for farming or ranching or other water dependent activities?
10) Using the information in questions 2-9, revist question 1 and recreate the water cycle as it occurs in your specific watershed. Include yourself as part of the water cycle.
Action Bonus: List the things that you can do to protect your local watershed. Look up local organizations doing this work and volunteer and/or do some of these things on your own. Make this a regular part of your life, whether it be helping with the annual beach clean-up or taking a trash bag with you and cleaning up a local creekside trail as you hike once a week.
Activities to try: (some ideas, which may or may not be applicable to your ecosystem) Swimming, fishing, boating, catching frogs, taking a visit your local water treatment plant, foraging for aquatic edibles, colleccting shells, surfing, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, skipping rocks, visiting an aquarium, tending a home aquarium, volunteering with stranding rescue, cleaning up your local waterways, teaching water safety, etc
With kids: A dip net and a coffee can (to make an underwater view-finder) will go a long way. Add a bucket, a magnifying glass, and a field guide, and things get even more fun. There are any number of teacher’s guides online (like this one for 6th grade or this entire program) that offer lesson plans on stream ecology and stream sampling–many of these can be adopted for a family (heck, you don’t even have to be a kid to get something from it!). If you are willing to spend a little bit of money, a kit like this will help
(For another sort of discussion of Water as an Element check out this previous post of mine!)