Sunday, March 2, 2014

The glass is not half empty

Marked by mass wastage and competing demands, water is presumed to be the precursor of a probable 'third world war'. Situations with respect to water sharing amidst several countries is perilously close to what Mark Twain had remarked, 'whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over'. It seems the universal fluid that will shape humanity's future is soaked on blood.

Not deterred by threatening climate clouds that may accelerate glacial melting and transform water flows in major river basins, Terje Tvedt portrays an optimistic picture on humanity's water future after traveling through some of the most amazing locations across five continents. With professional background in geography, history and political science, the author offers multiple perspectives for the reader to choose from. While Tvedt is forthright in saying that 'howsoever grandiose attempts to manage water may be, water does not allow itself to be completely controlled', he is equally candid in concluding that 'qualified technological optimism is the only optimism that endures'.

Placing his immensely readable narrative on water in three distinct sections, the author views the impact of 'water blindness' across countries; examines implications of 'water control' in contested river basins; and presents power of science and technology to usher in a bright 'water future'. Tvedt avoids taking an ideological position on whether the glass is half full or half empty, instead leaves it for the reader to make an objective assessment on the impending water crises. Howsoever the world might respond to the imminent crises, water fundamentally binds together the past and the future in expressing a deep continuity of our whole evolution as a species.

Despite the fact that Tvedt's original writing in Norwegian was published in 2007, the English translation by Richard Daly published in 2014 is refreshingly original. More than a travelogue it is an authoritative treatise on water that makes a compelling reading. It is one book that I intend keeping on my bedside; to use it as a ready reckoner on exotic places should an opportunity arise for this reviewer to undertake similar travels. If I am sounding envious of Terje Tvedt so be it. At least, I am learning about global responses to water issues in the process....Link

A Journey in the Future of Water
by Terje Tvedt
I.B.Tauris, UK
Extent: 262, Price: £14.99

An extended version of this review has also appeared on Anthem EnviroExperts Review, coordinated by Prof. Larry Susskind of MIT   

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