Huffington Post, January 7, 2011
Last week I examined how we might create Infinite Wealth for All, but left for this week the most vital element of life on earth, Water. It is the soul of the Earth, and it is black with the sins of humanity, on the verge of becoming Lucifer’s salve for Hell on Earth.
Water is — in its purified form — Heaven on Earth. The water cycle cannot be owned, but it can be destroyed. It is the ultimate manifestation of why we must, as a human species, achieve conscious evolution, integral consciousness, and an active appreciation for clarity (the truth), diversity (the sources of multiple forms of truth), and integrity (the enabler of inter-faith and multi-cultural wisdom and tolerance).
This review focuses on books about water suitable for drinking — less than 1% of the total water on the planet, most of which is oceans and a great deal of which is polluted.
Here are books on Water that I have reviewed, in descending order of their over-all value to understanding how the future of humanity is now and always will be defined in the physical world–and to an extent in the spiritual world–by humanity’s relationship with water. Below are mere snap-shots–click on the title of any book to read my longer review or pass through the Amazon page for the book where reviews by others can be perused.
SIX STARS AND BEYOND
Review: Water-The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
Published in 2000 this is THE original book and I have been disappointed to not see the author receive the recognition that others have gotten. This is the “deep” book, very few maps and photos, but if you want just one book that is all substance and a great deal of nuance without visuals, this is it. The book and the author impressed me deeply for their integration of scholarly homework and old-fashioned investigative and field journalism, walking the ground and gathering eye witness accounts.
The author provides a thoughtful and well-structured look at every corner of the world, with special emphasis on the Middle East, the Tigris-Euphrates System, the Nile, the Americas, and China; and at the main human factors destroying our global water system: pollution, dams (that silt up and prevent nutrients from going downstream or flooding from rejuvenating the lower lands), irrigation (leading to salination such that hundreds of thousands of acres are now infertile and being taken out of production), over-engineering, and excessive water mining from aquifers, which are in serious danger of drying up in key areas in the US as well as overseas within the next twenty years.
This is the single best book in terms of content, visuals, and price. The book consists of 35 two pages “stories” with text on the left and graphics on the right, and I think this is so very cool I list all 35 in my long review. Each story is followed by eye-glazing but essential tables of data on water.
The “model” that this book presents is precisely suited as a foundation for a digital World Brain and Global Game
The authors received the Right Livelihood Award, often called the Alternative Nobel (this is the one that does NOT recognize war criminals and cosmetic politicians) for this 2002 work. It is a definitive overview of both the degree to which corporations are being allowed to take over water (70%), and the excessive cost this imposes (bottled water, for example, 1,100 more costly than clean tap water).
Especially helpful to me was the emphasis on watersheds as being nested, i.e. no single watershed can be understood or “saved” in isolation from the related watersheds; on the failure of the experts and the failure of governments; and on the importance of indigenous knowledge long dismissed that is in fact ESSENTIAL to restoring the water cycle for all.
This book sets the standard for studying water in relation to unequal access, elite privilege, food scarcity, energy drain, privatization, lethal pollution, damage from dams, and water wars. A separate DVD is available, see Review (DVD): Blue Gold-World Water Wars.
This is a spectacular original and priceless contribution–do not be deterred by its appearance as a turgid text. It is the definitive post-mortem on failed government and failed corporate endeavors to understand and “control” water.
What DOES work in developing novel and effective as well as agile (i.e. flexible) approaches to water are hybrid coalitions firmly founded on information-sharing and evidence-based decision-making.
What DOES work are bottom-up collaborative mind-sets and cultures of sharing that in the aggregate form an agile and effective global regime that cannot, under any circumstances be “created” or “controlled” by any government, corporate, or international organizations.
FIVE STARS RIGHTEOUS SOLID STUFF
This is a foundation book with a very strong indigenous perspective. Right up front the author impresses me with her discussion of the paradigm war-a culture clash-between those who see water as sacred and its provision as a duty for the preservation of water, and those that view water as a commodity and its exploitation for profit as a fundamental corporate right.
Lessons include the reality that nondemocratic water control systems create a culture of insecurity; that centralized control of water destroys cultures and their contributions; that centralized control of water also erodes democracy. The author is incendiary in talking about “double fascism of globalization” and “corporate terrorism” but the facts back her up. One truth she brings out is that the computer industry is the greatest polluter of water among all corporate networks.
Her Principles of Water Democracy strike me as ethical, reasonable, and essential.
01 Water is nature’s gift
02 Water is essential to life.
03 Life is interconnected through water.
04 Water must be free for sustenance needs.
05 Water is limited and can be exhausted.
06 Water must be conserved.
07 Water is a commons.
08 No one holds a right to destroy.
09 Water cannot be substituted.
There are two bottom lines to this book:
1) Chlorine cannot kill all threats and causes its own damage. It specifically cannot kill cryptosporidium, which can quickly sicken tens of thousands and kill hundreds.
2) Your drinking water is not safe to drink, there are some things you can do, but on balance, the Nation needs a *major* campaign to salvage its entire drinking water and sewage treatment system.
I really, really, like this book. The author is gifted at presenting important information in an easy to understand and almost poetic manner. He really puts life into history, and urgency into current concerns. I have a note: 5 stars. Truly EXCITING, gripping at every point. My full review itemizes 18 eye-opening facts, each one a strong ring of the alarm bell.
This is the sequel, as of 2007, to Blue Gold above. Two points in this book hit me hard:
1) We have to deal with sewage first, globally, deeply, and reliably BEFORE we can address the clean fresh water challenge.
2) Desalination produces a poisonous by-product of concentrated brine mixed with the chemicals and heavy metals used in the production of fresh water, creating 20 billion liters of WASTE worldwide every DAY.
My full review itemizes a number of facts, this is an essential foundation book for understanding both the threats and the possibilities in water conservation, water justice, and water democracy.
Over-all this is a very intelligent book, and unlike most of the other books that focus on the water cycle and its problems, this book focuses on water in relation to the larger civilization. It does not, however, do what books like 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which is to catalog indigenous knowledge about water management that is starkly relevant today.
The strategic points the author emphasizes are:
01 Water innovation now leads to environmental problems later. No one has ever thought through the overall context of water use in relation to everything from poverty and disease to family and society.
02 Water, not oil, is the bell ringer on the 21st Century demand that humanity finally recognize its limits and its responsibilities, and get serious about holistic behavior.
03 New forms of governance, not just new technologies, will be critical innovation factors. I like this but neither Water Footprint nor True Cost nor Environmental Economics are in the index and I do not see any analytic model within this book-see the Strategic Analytic Model and especially the Holistic Analysis-Water Central Graphic at Phi Beta Iota (active links in my review there).
Alone, five giant global food and beverage corporations-Nestle, Danone, Unilever, Anheuser-Busch, and Coca Cola-consume enough water to meet the daily domestic needs of every person on the planet. (pg. 469)
With extreme water scarcity showing through as a root cause of many of the world’s famines, genocides, diseases, and failing states, I am inclined to believe that if there can be a meaningful human right to any material thing, surely it starts with access to minimum clean freshwater. At the end of the day, how each member of the world community ultimately act in response to the global freshmater crisis is not just a matter of economic and political history, but a judgment on our own humanity-and the ultimate fate of human civilization. (pg. 495)
The book sets out to address (in a general but most informed way) the areas of water ownership, water scarcity, water conflict, and water prospects. In my full review I identify the author of the individual section, and then highlights that I retained from that section–of all my reviews, because of the diversity of contributing authors to this book, I believe this one offers the greatest diversity of perspectives and a commensurate plethora of links to other books.
A tiny handful of core points–read the full review:
+ More and more people, less and less water
+ “Fossil Water” has been consumed the way fossil oil has been consumed
+ Attitudes and laws are the barriers to reform, not Earth or technology
Robert Glennon: “To prevent the tragedy of the commons, we must break the cycle of unrestricted access to the common-pool resource (groundwater).”
+ Water scarcity and water pollution connect directly with poverty and disease
+ Political borders hamper responsible water management. See Review:The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State.
My concluding thought: among all the books I have read and reviewed on water, this is the one in which the lack of inter-disciplinary analytics is most visibly felt (by me, anyway). Corruption-lack of integrity-is the common challenge.
This is a good book if you like first-person accounts with no notes that fail to mention other stellar works.
The author’s most exciting idea, absolutely worthy of global implementation, is to call for the marking of all products with their “water content.” He is stunningly education, truly original within my reading as reviewed at Amazon when he itemizes the amount of water needed to create a pound of rice or any of a number of other products.
The author notes that the US is exporting ONE THIRD of its water in the form of products that consumed that amount of water. Kashmir is about Pakistan’s Achilles heel, water. India is on a path to destruction.
Notes that stayed with me:
+ Las Vegas is the icon of irresponsible behavior and ran out of water in 2001
+ Hoover Dam made Las Vegas possible, built by the Mob after gambling legalized for the dam workers
+ Today Las Vegas spends $1 million per hotel room in total construction and service costs to create
+ $2 billion pipeline is planned from the Mississippi, this is an example of money over thinking
+ Hotels use only 3% of the Las Vegas water-this was an eye opener for me. The hotels and casinos have been totally responsible, have understood the crisis, thrown money at it, and represent state of the art water recycling and gray water utilization as well as water conservation.
Observation: If Las Vegas truly runs out of water one day and the USG Government chooses to bail it out at our expense, it will be ten to a hundred times more costly than the Wall Street bailout. It’s time we reestablished public control over the public purse.
THREE OTHER BOOKS I SUMMARIZE
WATER is central to life on Earth, and CORRUPTION appears to be central to the Industrial Era manner in which We the People have allowed ourselves to be governed. We are, at this time, experiencing what I wrote about in the chapter, Paradigms of Failure, in my 2008 wire bound book (free online), ELECTION 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (EIN, 2008).
The next time someone claims to be worthy of your vote, ask them what they know about water and how they plan to address this fundamental issue. There isn’t a single politician now serving, including the President, the Vice President, every member of the Cabinet, and every Member of Congress, that has a clue on this topic–their district in a microcosm not withstanding… and that, I fear, is the final nail in our Industrial Era government’s coffin. What we have been doing is NOT WORKING. It’s time we tried something new, like evidence-based holistic policy-making in the context of a balanced budget…