Thoughts on the Grand Canyon, on water torture…and blogging.

At the age of 68, after years of documentaries, postcards from friends, photos from friends, digital images from friends,I’m finally seeing the Grand Canyon,  firsthand.


So what am I thinking? I’m thinking that the Grand Canyon is a victim. The Grand Canyon is a victim of water torture.

Waterboarding? Dunking? Forget it. Forget Abu Ghraib. Forget the Spanish Inquisition.

Think more along the lines of Chinese water torture…that constant dripping water on the forehead which supposedly could drive a person crazy.

How many raindrops or snowflakes did it take to carve out the canyon? How does 6×1023 sound[1]?

Anyway, a BIG number.

It has to be. Think about a drop of water splashing on a rock. We all know what happens. The water is splayed out in every which direction. The rock is essentially unchanged.

But not quite. Do this a million times…the rock doesn’t flinch. But then lay down a million drops, not once or twice, but a billion times, and now maybe you’ve worn down off maybe 1/100,000th of an inch of rock. You’re almost there!

Just repeat that quadrillion drops another 600 million times, and now you’ve carved down a mile deep, through billions of years of uplift and Earth history, over miles and miles of real estate.

Of course, the Grand Canyon is beautiful. And Grand.

But what else am I thinking? That the Chinese water torture which carved the Grand Canyon shares much in common with the impact of a blog.

What! No, I’m not saying that I’d rather subject myself to water torture than write a blog…though sometimes I feel that way…and I’ll wager other bloggers do as well. What I’m saying is that reading the blog is more like water torture… Wait! Don’t be too quick to agree with that either! Don’t tell me that reading each post is pure torture!

Please hear me out.

Put up one post? Maybe not that much impact. The blogger and his/her individual views are like that water. They hit the seven billion people of the world, and that world’s views are essentially unchanged. Readers are essentially unfazed. But the nice feature of a blog? It provides endless opportunities to reinforce a set of ideas, to add new twists or even new dimensions to those ideas, to see how the ideas play out in different contexts, to get feedback…

So, for example, if someone happens to think that relating to the Earth as a resource, a victim, and a threat, everywhere, locally, and globally, over all time horizons is important, he or she can say so. If that same person happens to think time is of the essence, and we should all get behind emergent approaches already underway, such as policy formulation, leadership development, social networking, and adding to Earth observations and understanding, he or she can practice making that clear. And a small but growing number of readers can encourage or refine that process, and pay it forward.

Not just once, but over and over.

Plink! Another drop has fallen…

[1] For a calculation I took a streamflow for the Colorado of 20,000 cubic feet/second, times 2000 cubic inches in a foot times 30M seconds in a year times 20M years for the time the Colorado has been carving the channel since the channel was first defined, divided by 0.03 cubic inches for the volume of a very large drop. [I stand behind no part of any of these estimates! … but this gives you the idea.

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