07/24/2013 02:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When It Rains, It Pours

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

When people think of Earth's terrestrial environment, they invariably associate it with the color green. Green, in fact, has become code for "eco-consciousness." But, as that famous photo of Plant Earth taken from space plainly shows, this is a blue planet.

Earth is the only planet known to have water. Oceans and rivers, ponds and streams, lakes and falls, glaciers and seas run like veins through a living body, carrying refreshment and nutrients to all its parts.

But despite the fact that the surface area of our planet is more than two-thirds water, usable water is not necessarily readily available. Most of Earth's water is in the seas and marshes, and consequently, way too salty to be potable. Most of the rest is frozen solid, locked in ice or perpetual permafrost.

Replaceable only by rain, fresh water above and below ground, represents a tiny fraction -- only, unbelievably, less than 3 percent of the total water supply on Earth. It was not much of an exaggeration for Coleridge to write "Water, water, everywhere. Nor any drop to drink."

Rain is the vital, vivifying fluid, which flows down from the heavens to recycle and replenish the world's water stores. Rain refreshes and revitalizes the lands and all those species who live upon it. Celestial substance of necessity, rain is absolutely elemental and essential. But quite quirky. You never know with rain. Too Much. Too Little. Too Late. Too Soon. Too Hard. Too Long. You can't really depend on it. And yet you have to.

In the best of times, precipitation is seen as beneficent, raining down life-sustaining liquids for our benefit. And then we are grateful, or ought to be. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing when rainstorms become deluges and nearly drown us in the stuff -- a situation that is becoming increasingly common.

Over the past 20 years, storms have become more and more severe and are occurring ever more frequently. As the climate continues to heat up, rainstorms and snowstorms with heavier precipitation than normal are expected to put communities around the globe at risk for devastating flooding. As I write this, Toronto is suffering the effects of its worst rainstorm ever, and Sichuan, China is buried under as much as twenty feet of water in its worst recorded deluge.

Extreme storms -- typhoons, hurricanes, nor'easters, tropical storms and tornadoes -- leave the earth saturated, soaked and soggy until everything is completely waterlogged and there is no place left for the waters to go except up. Rivers rise. The overflow flushes away fertile soil and uproots trees. It rushes down city streets, the drains overwhelmed by the onslaught. Towns, fields and highways are inundated. Dams, bridges, houses and lives swept irrevocably away.

People have long believed that bad weather is the expression of vengeful divine retribution -- punishment for our earthly misbehavior. But, of course, weather is not personal. Weather is weather, a neutral force. Our perception of whether weather is good or bad is based solely and myopically on our own immediate enjoyment or inconvenience.

Just look at what we gave the Poor Old Dear for Mother's Day in gratitude for all of Her great gifts to us: greenhouse gases, radiation leaks, drilling, fracking, missile tests, oil spills and chemical trails. -- Donna Henes

However, in light of the fact that the escalation of super intense storms is a direct result of our exploitation and misuse of the bountiful resources of our planet home, a little soul-searching introspection is in order here. We are guilty. And divine Mother Earth is distraught at our matricidal malfeasance.

She sobs torrents of tears, tantrum outpourings of Her disappointment in us, Her errant and arrogant offspring. How could we be so disrespectful? So stupidly short-sighted? Just look at what we gave the Poor Old Dear for Mother's Day in gratitude for all of Her great gifts to us: greenhouse gases, radiation leaks, drilling, fracking, missile tests, oil spills and chemical trails.

Maybe these mammoth rains are part of Mother Earth's deep cleansing purification rite, during which She purges the toxins from Her soiled body and profound pain. Picture Her, our precious mother, our sole source of survival, standing under a pounding shower like any victim of abuse, for hours, days and weeks at a time, trying to wash away the dirt and degradation that we have heaped upon Her.

These storms are definitely watery warnings. We had better buy some Wellington boots, reinforce the roof and raise some flood barriers. Better yet, let's move to higher ground and build a safe, waterproof ark where we can collect, preserve and protect, two by two, all of our best intentions and human qualities -- compassion and connection, hope and love, charity and understanding, forgiveness and peace, environmental response-ability and reverence for all life -- before they are totally submerged and lost to us forever.

Before She washes Her hands of us for good.

Just a little rain.
Just a little rain.
What have they done to the rain?

- The Searchers 1969

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