Brilliant–Puts Water in Context of War, Peace, and Life,
October 2, 2000
Marq De Villiers
I rank this book as being among the top ten I have read in the decade, for the combined reason that its topic concerns our survival, and its author has done a superior job of integrating both scholarly research (with full credit to those upon whose work he builds) and what must be a unique background of actually having traveled to the specific desolate areas that comprise the heart of this book-from the Aral Sea (“the exposed seabed, now over 28,000 square kilometers, became a stew of salt, pesticide residues, and toxic chemicals; the strong winds in the region pick up more than 40 million tons of these poisonous sediments each year, and the contaminated dust storms that follow have caused the incidence of respiratory illnesses and cancers to explode.”) to the heart of China (“According to China’s own figures, between 1983 and 1990 the number of cities short of water tripled to three hundred, almost half the cities in the country; those who problem was described as ‘serious’ rose from forty to one hundred.” 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. The author provides a balanced and well-documented view overall. His final chapter on solutions explores conservation, technical, and political options. Two statements leapt off the page: first, that it is the average person, unaware of the fragility of our water system, that is doing the most damage, not the corporations or mega-farms; and second, that for the price of one military ship or equipped unit ($100 million), one can desalinate 100 million cubic meters of water. The bottom line is clear: we are close to a tipping point toward catastrophe but solution are still within our grasp, and they require, not world government, but a virtual world system that permits the integrated management of all aspects of water demand as well supply. This book should be required reading for every college student and every executive and every government employee at local, state, and federal levels; and every citizen.