Will Great Rivers Die – Yes

All things will die, eventually. And they will come to ‘life’ again, eventually. We live on a dynamic planet that is constantly changing and evolving throughout time. Unfortunately, the natural rate of change has been exacerbated through intensive human interaction with the planet. Water intensive agriculture, water polluting industries and the inefficient use and wastage of pure water on the domestic level, have impacted our hydrological systems, including rivers, wetlands, lakes, groundwater and spring complexes and has resulted in a less than peak-healthy world. Our activities that sustain our lifestyles as we know them have exploited and degraded the natural environments around the globe in an unsustainable manner, to the point that we are seriously risking future survival of life as we know it. Some say we have already gone too far.

If you believe in earth science and geological time, the oldest life on earth is around 3.5 billion years old, as demonstrated by the stromatolites on the coast of Western Australia. Since this time the earth has gone through several incarnations, with both global and continental glaciations, species extinctions and species explosions. One remarkable event occurred in the precambrian with the evolution of the ediacaran organisms, strange large complex organisms with no hard body parts such as shells or skeletons. These lived on our earth around 500 to 600 million years ago, with evidence in the fossil record spread across several continents including Russia, Africa and Australia. These strange organisms are still being debated by palaeontologists around the world – were they early experiments in plant, animal or fungi?

But I divert. My point is that the earth is changing constantly, but on a much grander scale than we, as organisms with a very short life span when compared to the vast depth of geological time, can comprehend. We are currently coming out of a mini-ice age with our ice caps melting and temperatures generally heating up; again, the rate at which this is happening has been exacerbated by humans. Our river systems will die, and we have increased the rate at which they will dry up. In several hundred, thousand or million years they will have reverted back to wetter environments, perhaps several times, a result of a constant cycle of ever changing weather and climate patterns.

If we continue to use water inefficiently for intensive agriculture, industry and domestic use, our rivers will dry up and die, certainly within our lifetime. If we decrease our inefficient usage, if we transition to less intensive use and make more use of recycling technologies, our rivers may still dry up and die, within our lifetime or in the future, simply as a result of a changing climate as part of a dynamic earth