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Of dinosaur’s pee and wonders around us

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That is not just a plain glass of water, it could have been dinosaur's pee millennias ago! (21 Swan - Unsplash)

By: Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Nahrizul Adib Kadri

It rained again last night, and as the rain tapped gently on my bedroom window, I found myself lost in thought. It’s a simple occurrence, yet it sparked a profound realisation, almost an epiphany: the water we consume today has likely journeyed through millennia, transforming itself countless times along the way.

Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Nahrizul Adib Kadri

Consider this: the glass of water you drank this morning may have once been part of a dinosaur’s ecosystem, perhaps even passed through a prehistoric creature’s bladder. Yes, the water you drank might very well have been dinosaur’s pee (!).

Water, in its various forms, sustains life in ways we often take for granted. From nurturing the growth of plants to quenching the thirst of humans and animals, its importance cannot be overstated. Take, for instance, the majestic sequoia trees that stand tall in ancient forests. These giants owe their stature to the water that nourishes their roots, drawing sustenance from the earth and sky alike.

And water has been fundamental to the rise of ancient civilisations throughout history too. In ancient Mesopotamia, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were the lifeblood of thriving civilisations such as Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria. The fertile floodplains nourished crops and supported agricultural communities, laying the foundation for the world’s first known urban centres. The availability of water for irrigation enabled these societies to cultivate surplus food, leading to the development of trade, specialisation of labour, and the emergence of complex social structures.

Similarly, the Nile River was instrumental in the prosperity of ancient Egypt. The annual flooding of the Nile deposited nutrient-rich silt onto the riverbanks, creating fertile soil ideal for agriculture. Egyptians relied on the river not only for sustenance but also for transportation, trade, and religious significance.

In ancient China, the Yellow River (Huang He) and Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) played important roles in the development of early civilisations and dynasties. These rivers provided water for irrigation, facilitating rice cultivation and supporting dense populations. The abundance of water resources contributed to economic prosperity, technological advancements, and cultural exchange along the river valleys.

Moreover, waterways served as vital trade routes, connecting distant regions and fostering the exchange of goods, ideas, and cultural influences. Ancient civilisations built elaborate systems of canals, aqueducts, and reservoirs to manage water resources effectively, demonstrating their ingenuity and engineering prowess.

Thales, an ancient Greek philosopher, believed that water was the fundamental element of the universe, emphasizing its foundational role in existence. Heraclitus, another ancient Greek philosopher, famously stated, “No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” He posited the ever-changing nature of life and the world around us using a body of water to underscore its importance.

And let’s not forget about the story of the Great Flood, which appears in all known human belief systems. From the Bible to the Quran, to indigenous genesis stories of the Temuan people, the tale has captivated and inspired us for generations.

But the significance of water extends beyond mere survival and lifeblood of these ancient civilisations. For me, it also serves as a catalyst for wonder, inviting us to marvel at the interconnectedness of all things. Just as the rain that fell last night carries with it echoes of the (not quite hygienic) past, so too does every drop hold the potential for future transformation.

In our overly fast-paced world, it’s easy to overlook the marvels that surround us. Yet, in moments of quiet contemplation and reflection, we can find inspiration in the simplest of things. So, as you go about your day today, in conjunction with the World Water Day, I urge you to stay curious.

Go on, and wonder!

The author is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Engineering, and former Director of Corporate Communications Centre, Universiti Malaya. He may be reached at nahrizuladib@um.edu.my

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