Is Water The New Oil? "Water Matters" Explains the Crisis and Solutions
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Editor's Note: Here's a review of AlterNet's newest book, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource.
Water. It's one of the most essential elements of life on Earth. Yet nearly 1 billion people don't have access to safe drinking water. Our fresh water supplies are badly polluted and over-allocated. And the waste that occurs from the agricultural industry to manufacturing sectors is practically criminal. As supplies disappear and populations soar, will our future wars be fought over this precious resource? Will governments and corporations continue to seek ownership of and limit access to what has been declared a basic human right? How can we celebrate water, appreciate it, and ensure both humans and ecosystems alike have enough of it? In a series of essays by some of the world's top writers, experts and activists, Water Matters attempts to answer these questions and shed light on the alarming situation at hand.
With essays from Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, Maude Barlow, Elizabeth Royte, and many others, as well as compelling images from some of the world's top photographers, Water Matters is a delicious mix of tutorial on the status of water, a literary exploration, and photographic journey. And it starts with the basic notion that "Water Is Life."
Author Barbara Kingsolver writes in her essay, "Water is the visible face of climate and therefore, climate change. Shifting rain patterns flood some regions and dry up others as nature demonstrates a grave physics lesson: Hot air holds more water molecules than cold."
It's true that we're seeing water represent massive shifts in the planet's systems. In recent years we've watches crops and livestock waste away during long-lasting droughts, while in other areas unusually powerful storms create catastrophic floods. Water has always ruled human life, but our familiarity with its methods is changing.
We have worked hard to master nature -- water specifically. We've bent rivers and even reversed their flow; we've drilled into the deepest aquifers and are still busy emptying them despite the poisons they hold; and we've created technology to even conjure it up from thin air. Yet despite this willful attempt at mastering water, we're finding that it is slipping right through our fingers.
Even in the US, where we've grown accustomed to the abundance of water, we're finding out that we happened to settle during an unusually wet time in the continent's history, as Christina Roessler writes in her essay "Is Conservation Enough." The Southwest is drying up, and it's because we keep sticking more straws into an already overburdened Colorado River, a river that historically has not run as high as we thought it did.
Yet those living in the West and Southwest who are used to water conservation can teach us a great deal about living with less, or rather, living with what we need rather than living wastefully. Can the rest of the nation catch on fast enough, before aquifers and reservoirs dry up? It's not just a fear-mongering question, but one we have to honestly ask ourselves, and fast.
Water Matters explores this question and so much more. The book includes essays on topics as diverse as the ways human spiritualities and religions have evolved around water to the problems of privatization of water, from the damage dams have caused for ecosystems and communities to the problem of bottled water -- not just the issues with plastics but the draining of local water supplies by companies like Coca Cola, Nestle, and Pepsi.
The issues with water are vast, but it is simply because water is a necessity of life. Yet, most of us know so little about it. Brock Dolman contributes an essay in the book called "Watershed Literacy" -- do you know where you water comes from? And no, not just which water utility company, or even which aquifer or dam, but which mountain range's snowpack, which river, which delta? Do you really, honestly know the source of the water you drink? Odds are, it will take a little research for you to know how you got the water that came out of your tap.