Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest Review: Water

Summary: Far more than oil, the control of water wealth throughout history has been pivotal to the rise and fall of great powers, the achievements of civilization, the transformations of society's vital habitats, and the quality of ordinary daily lives. In Water, Steven Solomon offers the first-ever narrative portrait of the power struggles, personalities, and breakthroughs that have shaped humanity from antiquity's earliest civilizations, the Roman Empire, medieval China, and Islam's golden age to Europe's rise, the steam-powered Industrial Revolution, and America's century. Today, freshwater scarcity is one of the twenty-first century's decisive, looming challenges and is driving the new political, economic, and environmental realities across the globe.

As modern society runs short of its most indispensable resource and the planet's renewable water ecosystems grow depleted, an explosive new fault line is dividing humanity into water Haves and Have-nots. Genocides, epidemic diseases, failed states, and civil warfare increasingly emanate from water-starved, overpopulated parts of Africa and Asia. Water famines threaten to ignite new wars in the bone-dry Middle East. Faltering clean water supplies menace the sustainable growth and ability of China and India to feed themselves. Water scarcity is inseparably interrelated to the global crises of energy, food, and climate change. For Western democracies, water represents no less than the new oil—demanding a major rethink of basic domestic and foreign policies—but also offering a momentous opportunity to relaunch wealth and global leadership through exploiting a comparative advantage in freshwater reserves. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Steven Solomon's Water is a groundbreaking account of man's most critical resource in shaping human destinies, from ancient times to our dawning age of water scarcity. -- Harper

Now WATER: THE EPIC STRUGGLE FOR WEALTH, POWER, AND CIVILIZATION by Steven Solomon is not a book that I normally pick up, but it is one that I thought Booking Pap Pap might enjoy. This book was huge and looked to me like a text book, but I'm sure it was chock full of important facts. While I think Booking Pap Pap struggled with the details at times, he did find some interesting pieces of information about water that he shared with me.

Here are his thoughts about WATER:

WATER by Steven Solomon tells of the pivotal role water played in the development of the many varied cultures throughout the history of the world. The first 75% of the book (350 pages) deals with the history of water. Solomon takes us through the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, the Greek and Roman Mediterranean world, medieval China, Islam’s golden age, Northern Europe and the Americas and shows the water challenges each had to overcome to advance civilization to its current state in the twenty-first century. The author goes into meticulous detail in describing the economic and political ramifications of water in each society but at the same time presents a fairly readable novel.

Solomon claims that water innovations were closely associated with many of the critical points of world history. For example the development of irrigation techniques provided the basis for modern civilization; sailing led to the development of the Mediterranean civilizations; canals extended international trade; the development of aqueducts provided water to sustain great cities; the invention of the waterwheel and steam engine led to the Industrial Revolution and the “sanitary revolution” which provided clean drinking water, led to large modern urban concentrations. In each case Solomon states that by solving a water obstacle, civilization was transformed into a society of greater economic power and political control.

The final 150 pages of this novel cover the scarcity of water in the twenty-first century and water’s interaction with food shortages, energy shortages and climate change in sustaining the planet’s environment. Solomon states that until now water innovations have fallen into four basic categories – domestic needs, economic production, power generation and transport or strategic advantage. He believes the twenty-first century requires a fifth category – how to innovate new organization and technical solutions to make available sufficient supplies of fresh water for man’s essential needs.

He asserts that we must use our water resources more efficiently and must reform our organizational approach to water scarcity. The author examines the diversity of water development in the twenty-first century world from the modern techniques in America to the ancient water methods still in use in parts of Africa.

The author believes that water, not oil, is the earth’s most valuable resource. Just as oil has influenced world economics and politics, we are warned that the current water crisis will result in diplomatic standoffs, new foreign alliances, water violence (even water wars), increasing food prices, famines and social unrest.

In WATER, Steven Solomon shows a good understanding of the issues of water and gives the reader a great historical review of the role of water in shaping the world. He offers a very bleak scenario for the current state of the world’s water supply. Whether water is as important as he makes it is up to the individual reader to discern.

If you are interested in the impact of water issues in the twenty-first century and how they came to be, then WATER is a book you should read.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy and to Booking Pap Pap for his guest review.


Sandy Nawrot said...

We thank Booking Pap Pap for reading this for us! It is one of those books that you are sure has great information, but would prefer to ingest it via osmosis (then wow people with your knowledge at a dinner party!). I never really thought about water being more powerful than oil, but it makes sense.

Beth F said...

Hummm -- sounds interesting to me. This is the type of book I tend not read straight through, but dip into (like the water pun?) here and there. I can't see that I can argue about water being more important than oil.

bermudaonion said...

Great review! I'm with Sandy - I'm not sure I could read this book, but would love to have some glean all the great facts for me.

Glad to see Booking Pap Pap on here - I've missed his reviews!

April said...

This sounds interesting. I'm not sure if it would be one for me, however I enjoyed hearing Booking Pap Pap's thoughts on it!

Alison said...

Sandy said it all. Thought provoking book and review. Thank you Booking Pap Pap!

Amy said...

I almost bought this the other day for the SJC,, but I was on BLOB. Thanks for the review!

Carrie said...

This one definitely sounds hefty - and interesting.

Interesting to read your review. THanks!

Hannah Stoneham said...

Thank you for sharing this review. It sounds fascinating although I too tend to read these kind of books in chucnks rather than right through. There are some similar works based around the role of oil which I have enjoyed dipping into. thanks, Hannah

stacybuckeye said...

It's true that there will be wars over water just like there are over oil. Thanks for reviewing this timely book. I;ll have to see if my library has it.