The Elixir of Life

October 25, 2017

 

I've just poured a glass of water. That's not particularly unique in the country where I live, but I've actually just poured it into a glass that's normally reserved for things, shall I say, a bit more bubbly?

 

 It's a funny drink, champagne. I've never really quite got it. I mean, how did it become the preferred drink of toasts, for instance? Everything from weddings, to baptisms, ship christenings, to fashion galas, and of course, nothing says, "Happy new year," like a pop of the cork at the stroke of midnight.

 

Beyond celebration, though, it's come to also symbolize luxury and wealth, considered a drink of choice by nobility across the globe. While champagne might be the water of the rich, drinking water for many on the planet is as precious as Dom Perignon.

 

Water, especially fresh water, is pretty remarkable, not just for what it can do but for how little of it there actually is. While our oceans take up over 70% of our Earth's surface, less than 1% of the Earth's water is fresh, which, when you think about it, is pretty mind blowing.

 

 The average American uses something like 575 litres of water a day compared to almost a billion people in the developing world who, on average, if they're lucky, use about 19 litres a day. Water's used for everything. Let's think about that. Growing our food, building our homes, making our clothes. A kilo of cotton can use anywhere from between 10 to 22,000 litres of water. A kilo of beef, 16,000. That cup of tea I'm holding? It needs 35 litres.

 

 I don't need to tell you, but with over seven billion people on the planet and growing, water is getting even more precious by the minute. While we all certainly need to remain ever conscious of our ecological footprint, this podcast is about taking a little break from all the doom-and-gloom statistics. The good news is that we don't need nearly as much water as all those bottled water companies keep telling us.

 

 I tend to worry that I don't drink enough water. I think we've all seen those blogs or articles about how we need to drink at least eight glasses a day or some number like that. Honestly, I just find it really hard to remember to drink that much during a day, but as the author of The Water Book: The Extraordinary Story of Our Most Ordinary Substance, Guardian science writer, Alok Jha says, "Unless you have health problems that mean you get dehydrated, or you're an athlete halfway through a marathon, you don't really need to think about water, at least not for your health."

 

Our bodies are so remarkable as to fine-tune our hydration. If you drink too much, your kidneys will just flush it out. If you don't have enough, you just won't pee as often, and your body will let you know it needs some by making you thirsty. Which brings me back to drinking water out of a champagne glass. For someone like me, this can be a little bit tricky.

 

Over the years, I've developed a bit of a reputation. I'm one of the clumsiest people alive when it comes to drinking glasses. I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say that when I go to friends' houses for dinner, they tend to hide the glassware and offer me up either a plastic cup or some kind of heavy IKEA vase, anything that's weighed down so that there's no chance that my animated arms can be used as weapons of mass destruction, usually involving red wine and white carpets or someone's cream coloured sweater.

 

Let's face it, champagne flutes don't lend themselves to easy drinking, either. I mean, I don't have a super-ample nose, but somehow it always seems to get in the way when I'm required to sip on the bubbly, as it were. By the way, the jury's still out on the best glass to drink champagne from. Flute glass advocates argue that it gives more of said nose tingle due to the high levels of carbon dioxide at the top of the glass, but there are other shapes, we know.

 

Although Marie Antoinette's left breast was rumoured to be the inspiration for the champagne coupe ... that's really not true, by the way.  The more open shape of a wine glass is often used to sip champagne in Italy, the idea being that since champagne is really a wine, the wider glass enhances the amplitude of the wine.

 

 For me, it really doesn't matter. I'm neither a champagne aficionado, nor am I the best person to have around Baccarat. The reason why I'm drinking out of my $1.99 flute glass is twofold. One, because my body's telling me I'm thirsty, and two, because my antidote to solastalgia is to propose a toast at the same time. As this week's Ant to Sol, I'm asking you to join me as I propose that toast to the most extraordinary of liquids which, just like magic, can also turn into a solid or a gas.

 

 I raise my glass to your body, if I could be so bold, for knowing what it needs. I also hope that you'll help me toast our beautiful planet for providing us with this elixir of life, and to you as well for taking a moment to drink it all in. Cheers.

 

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