Friday, May 14, 2010

Water by Steven Solomon

The full title of this book is Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization. This is a great book for anyone concerned with our environment. We never seem to value water. We seem to feel it should be free. Unfortunately, humans place little value on what is free. To state that we abuse our water, fresh or otherwise, is to grossly underestimate the harm we are doing.

I do have on quibble with this book Solomon may understand water and our history with it, but he does not have the same understanding of history. For example, he states that the Islamic Middle East made math discoveries. However, the Islamic Middle East got their math from the Greeks, the Indians and even ancient Egypt. Our “Arabic” numerals came from India. Our Greek knowledge was preserved and transmitted to Europe by Christians in the Middle East. Europe did not recognize the Christians of the Middle East as Christians as they were not Catholic. However, this is way off topic.

Steven Solomon does make an interesting observation about sub-Saharan Africa. Although there was some impressive civilization there that developed around the Niger River, and the headwaters of the Senegal and Gambia Rivers, there just was not the development that occurred in Europe, Asia or the Americas. He talks about how these civilizations were isolated behind barriers of large deserts and the impenetrable ocean that limited their ability to engage with other societies. This could well explain the lack of development in Africa that occurs elsewhere.

One interesting thing he talks about is how the West is currently endowed with a water resource advantage. In most of the Western world, there is generally modest population pressure and a moist, temperate environment, making the West an overall water power. This did not help initiate civilization in our moist temperate areas, but it is now an advantage. As we, all know, civilization started in the relatively dry areas that were river valleys. These areas depended on irrigation systems and now seem to be all in trouble with having enough water.

Our civilization seems to have advanced so much over the last hundred years. So is it now surprising to find that electricity generation has not? I mean that we generate electricity using water in the same old ways. We create steam to move turbines to generate electricity or we use rushing water (i.e. dams or waterfalls) to turn turbines to generate electricity. I know we are trying to do this differently, that is use windmills (actually an old idea) or use the sun, but we have not made that much progress yet.

I knew about the huge water aquifer in the Midwest of the United States. I did not know that Saudi Arabia also has one that they are tapping. The one in Saudi Arabia is much further below the surface at ¼ mile deep. The one thing that is the same as in America, they are taking out far too much water for this to last long. Libya also has a big aquifer called Nubian Sandstone Aquifer. And guess what, Libya is intent on taking as much as they can from it and damn the future also.

Also, I knew about the destruction of the Aral Sea by the Russians. However, I had not heard of Lake Chad’s destruction. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This city is on a big lake, Lake Ontario, where we get all our drinking water. People always seem to feel that you can not destroy large bodies of water. The problem, of course, is that you can. All the people living a round this lake have acted in the last 30 years to clean up the lake as it got quite polluted. However, to this day, when there is a big storm in Toronto, we still put raw sewage into Lake Ontario. We have not separated our storm sewers from our other sewer system and a big storm will overload our plants that clean the water that is to be put back into the lake. We are no better than anyone else is.

Steven Solomon has his own web page at Waterblog. There is also a site talking about Steven Solomon devoted to the Global Water Crisis. There is an interesting review of this book at WaterWired. There is a book review at the Los Angeles Times.

He is a speaker on Carnegie Council’s website. See videos for Steven Solomon under Resources at Carnegie Council. The video on this site is about 1 hour long. However, it is not very interesting. Steven just reads from prepared notes. However, there are lots of great interviews on this site, so you might want to check it out even if you do not listen to Steven Solomon.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Solomon. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

This blog is meant for educational purposes only, and is not to provide investment advice. Before making any investment decision, you should always do your own research or consult an investment professional. See my website for stocks followed and investment notes. Follow me on twitter.

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