A few days ago, I had the chance to see an IMAX movie that reminded me of the critical importance of water: “A Beautiful Planet.” This documentary has been “made in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)” and it “features stunning footage of our magnificent blue planet […] captured by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).” While I went to the theater with a few friends just to relax and have a good time, the experience quickly transformed into a fascinating water policy class.
In the documentary, NASA scientists explain why water matters on planet Earth, but more importantly why it matters to life. Without water, there would be no life on Earth, and without life, there would be nothing. Period. The film was a stark reminder of how critical water is. Without water, there would be no energy, no education, no social services, no life. In fact, this movie reminded me that water is the base of everything.
The movie closes with a fictional representation of Earth without water. At first you only see the lakes and rivers slowly drying out, but then you see the vegetation completely disappearing as well. At the end, you realize that when all the water is gone you are no longer on Earth. You are on Mars. In fact, according to a research released by NASA in 2015, “perhaps about 4.3 billion years ago, Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet (137 meters) deep. More likely, the water would have formed an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere, in some regions reaching depths greater than a mile (1.6 kilometers).”
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
This raises a number of fundamental questions. For example, what happened to all this water? Where did all this water go? Has there ever been any form of life on Mars? Could the same thing happen on Earth? It is not possible for the time being to answer these questions with certainty. However, all these unanswered questions clearly show how critical it is to continue the programs to explore Mars and better understand what happened there and also what the future has in store for both Mars and Earth. While we have plenty of water on Earth now, it may not be here forever.
The situation on Mars is intriguing primarily because there are no clear answers to all the questions. For earth, the future is not yet written. “A Beautiful Planet” was a good reminder from NASA of the importance of continuing to adopt and implement public policies aiming to better conserve and protect our water resources on Earth. Protecting and conserving water is not an easy task. However, it is possible to better protect and conserve our water resources while also growing the economy. What we need is leadership and a political will. And there is no doubt here that new technologies and energy efficiency research are part of the equation to solve this complex problem.
NASA’s ingenuity has shown us life on Earth without water. Let humanity’s ingenuity and creativity ensure that never happens.
-A Beautiful Planet, retrieved June 19, 2017, http://abeautifulplanet.imax.com/.
-“NASA Research Suggests Mars Once Had More Water Than Earth’s Arctic Ocean”, March 5, 2015, https://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/march/nasa-research-suggests-mars-once-had-more-water-than-earth-s-arctic-ocean.