Water is the driving force of all nature… Leonardo da Vinci


The so called water crisis is a perfect example of how the modern eco wing nut can’t even get his own house in order. Half of the camp is declaring that the polar ice caps, glaciers and mountain tops will all melt and there will be ocean front property available in Denver. The other half is declaring that anyone left living to buy a lot there will be so dehydrated their name should probably be Pierre. The reality is that people like Fagan are correct in their criticism of our having chosen unsustainable – or at least unwise – sites for population centers, Whether it is building New Orleans at hurricane central or most of California where it is likely to fall into the Pacific one day these were ill advised risks that were taken before they were completely appreciated and that seem cost prohibitive to correct. Nature, and the free market, will likely correct them for us in due course. In the meantime your beverage of choice will continue to be available and you may read the book to see how supply problems were solved from the ancient world through the last century since Fagan is a better historian than fortune teller.

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Elixir : a history of water and humankind Brian Fagan New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2011 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxvii, 384 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [351]-369) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Elixir spans five millennia, from ancient Mesopotamia to the parched present of the Sun Belt. As Brian Fagan shows, every human society has been shaped by its relationship to our most essential resource. Fagan’s sweeping narrative moves across the world, from ancient Greece and Rome, whose mighty aqueducts still supply modern cities, to China, where emperors marshaled armies of laborers in a centuries-long struggle to tame powerful rivers. He sets out three ages of water: In the first age, lasting thousands of years, water was scarce or at best unpredictable – so precious that it became sacred in almost every culture.

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette

By the time of the Industrial Revolution, human ingenuity had made water flow even in the most arid landscapes. This was the second age: water was no longer a mystical force to be worshipped and husbanded, but a commodity to be exploited. The American desert glittered with swimming pools – with little regard for sustainability. Today, we are entering a third age of water: As the earth’s population approaches nine billion and ancient aquifers run dry, we will have to learn once again to show humility, even reverence, for this vital liquid. To solve the water crises of the future, we may need to adapt the water ethos of our ancestors.

Photograph shows a bird's-eye view of a large reservoir with mountains in the background and highway in the foreground, in Los Angeles, California.

Photograph shows a bird’s-eye view of a large reservoir with mountains in the background and highway in the foreground, in Los Angeles, California.

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