05 December 2011

The Water Question

So we're sitting around at the breakfast table the other day, eating our oatmeal, and reading various pieces of the New York Times, as we do. I was reading the business section, because my husband had glommed onto the front section, and the girl child was knee deep in the insidious advertising supplements, blow-ins, collateral, what have you, which are particularly voluminous this time of year what with Christmas around the corner. Anyway, there was a front page article headlined "Hot on Trail of 'Just Right' Far-Off Planet", about the search for planets of other stars which may be in "the sweet spot known as the habitable zone...fit to be inhabited by the biochemical likes of us". My husband starting reading aloud from the sidebar infographic, which talked about the specifics of our Earth and Sun, and the expected shift in the Sun's habitable zone:

The girl vectored upstairs to get dressed; we stayed behind nursing our cups of coffee and reading some more bits of the paper, as we do.

About 15 minutes later, she came back downstairs, and paused in the doorway of the dining room looking stricken. I assumed that the cats had destroyed something special (as opposed to their ordinary mischief), or pooped somewhere untoward; it was that sort of look. What's wrong, honey? She dissolved into sobbing wailing hysterics: I'm worried about the planet and all the water going away.

While I thought she'd been totally absorbed in $900 television sets and iPod karaoke machines and Barbie dollhouses, she'd been hearing Daddy talking about the Earth's water boiling away several billion years from now.

We calmed her down, explained that several billion years was Several Billion Years and not, like, tomorrow.

In school, they've been studying water and the water cycle - it's part of why last month's field trip was to the local water treatment plant. And what she's learned is that the water cycle is endlessly recurring: Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Accumulation, Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Accumulation, repeat. For her to hear that the Earth's water might boil away was not only horrible news, but a questioning of the supreme authority of her teacher.

I hope her teacher wasn't too taken aback when she was ambushed at this morning's Morning Meeting. This weekend, I learned that the we aren't going to be able to live on Earth in several billion years. At least she asked for a copy of the article to bring to school today.

But I tell you, an eight year old having an existential crisis at 8 in the morning is not a pretty sight.


Liz Miller said...

Amen to that.

Stimey said...

Dude, totally. I'm still mad at Alex for telling the kids that eventually the sun will explode. That was a big problem for them.

Heide Estes said...

Zeke recently got a little worried about the sun exploding too. He got over it.

alejna said...

Oh, poor girl. But I loved that she was listening and absorbing.

Jody said...

We have had this discussion MANY times. TOO many times. I can barely wrap my mind around billions of years (or maybe 500,000 years -- I've heard competing estimates); the kids' ability to comprehend that people have maybe been around, in some form, for about 1.5 million years, and only in recognizable human settlements for a tiny fraction of that? And then project outward so they can appreciate that we do not need to worry about this? Yeah, they don't have that capacity.


Seriously, I'm giving thanks that we didn't see that article. This sort of stuff gives my kids the willies.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

At least she didn't go to school and talk about something she saw on Maury Povich!