Water demands my presence.
I cannot go anyplace where some water feature does not speak to me in some fashion or another.
The sound of the sea on a sandy beach at sunset is rich with longing and a sense of timelessness.
The gentle waves of a lake shoreline beckon to the dreamer in my heart and mind.
Roaring waterfalls beg to be allowed to pound on my head and shoulders, or to sing me to sleep.
Salt marshes beckon to the anxious spirit through a languid breeze - tossing the slender necks of miles of graminoids basking in the full sun.
Backwater swamps wait patiently for the canoe, while headwaters forested wetlands and seeps sing with seasonal abundance to the bold, adventurous, and imaginative.
In my recent fieldwork with wetlands in Ireland and Scandinavia, a friend made a statement that really stood out in my mind. He said, “While it is logical to be pessimistic, it is magical to be optimistic.”
I am not one-hundred percent certain to exactly what he was alluding to, but in light of the state of the planet, I could not agree more. It is logical to recognize that we have many global issues to solve. It is logical to recognize that climate change is real. It is measurable and directly observable. Anyone who has been on the planet for more than a few years can see through empirical data that the climate is changing in our lifetime. Perhaps it is debatable whether the cause, or amplification, of climate change is anthropogenic, but it is certainly a very real phenomenon that impacts economics, politics, planning, and urban resiliency. In the Arctic Circle of Scandinavia, the consequence of changes in climate on the migration of species north is directly measurable in a year over year means. Climate change is measurable and observable, not a hypothetical concept of armchair environmentalists and politicians.
It is magical to recognize that change in climatic patterns recorded in the geological record is part of our planet’s life cycle. Heraclitus encapsulated it so well in his stoic optimism recognizing that just as the rising tide will wash away all of our sandcastles, “the only thing that is constant is change”. The planet has undergone climate change hundreds if not thousands of times in human history and prehistory. The planet is resilient. Humans are resilient. Yet, if we want to continue to thrive in our thin biosphere here on planet Earth in the fashion that we have come to appreciate, certainly we must aid in the planet’s resiliency. Like a garden, the biosphere requires tending and care to encourage the best harvest.
Additional stresses to our fragile ecosystem of interdependent life only hasten the likelihood that we may no longer be able to thrive on our own planet – many human populations already do not. Macroscale, landscape-level, global, or nationwide decisions and agreements such as carbon offsetting, renewable energy sources, waste/pollution reduction, and the protection of fisheries and waters of the world are crucial for sustaining the habitability of the biosphere for humans and all species. To thrive, we have to have clean water, clean air, clean food, and clean hearts/minds.
While here in Lapland, my team conducting wetlands studies in respect to the effects of climate change on plant demographics was able to drink water straight out of the blanket bogs, tundra, and fens that we were working in. The water was not only potable, but it was of the best tasting water I have ever had anywhere in the world. Absolutely delicious it was and humbling to know that at some point in time, everywhere on Earth had water which potable. The vast majority of water in world now needs to be purified in order to be potable.
Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.
The classic rhyme by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, now holds true not only for the sailor on a becalmed ship and surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink, but also by the citizen of Earth who has little access to true clean water that is not centralized or privatized.
Clean water is crucial for life.
The wetlands we were working in throughout the Scandinavian countries provide some of the best drinking water anywhere in the world. Thousands of square miles of uninterrupted tundra, blanket bogs, and fens sit at the heart of the most pure ecosystem on the entire planet. These wetlands provide the single most important ecological function of the water cycle through ecosystem level, biological filtration and purification.
Around the world, scientists are tasked with the management and monitoring of wetlands. While a conceptual understanding of the importance of wetlands are promoted in schools and other institutions, more empirical data on the functionality and quality of wetlands is necessary. The normalization of data collected in the field becomes increasingly of more importance for modeling climate change and for natural resource management plans on the landscape and local level.
In 2018, Ecobot, an environmental and tech startup company based in Asheville, North Carolina, was founded by Jeremy Schewe, an ecologist with sixteen years of regulatory natural resources management experience, and by Lee Lance, a software developer with sixteen years of software development experience. The goal of Ecobot is to streamline the level of effort required to collect data for US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) wetlands delineations, assessments, and monitoring. Simultaneously, Ecobot normalizes wetland data, while also partnering with Esri to provide georeferencing and mapping tools to simplify planning, permitting, and monitoring of projects related to wetlands and other Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
Ecobot is providing tools that allow scientists to be more efficient while helping to be a steward of the water of the world. Ecobot is part of the resiliency solution, both for the environment and for economics.