Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011 - (Page 6)
in my own words
Water, Water, not quite Everywhere
PETER H. GLEICK, PhD
Co-founder and President The Paciﬁc Institute
As an internationally recognized water expert, Dr. Peter Gleick has made it his mission to make our planet healthier and our communities more sustainable. He is a MacArthur Fellow and an Academician of the International Water Academy in Oslo, Norway. In his latest book, Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, he challenges us to reconsider a seemingly ubiquitous resource.
A Meandering Path
i’ve always loved the outdoors. i grew up in new York City, but even in this big urban area i was able to find bits and pieces of natural beauty. i learned to watch birds in Central Park with my father; i explored beaches and forests during the summer. Later, i discovered the wonders of this nation’s national parks, forests, and preserves. as i got older, i kept finding myself drawn to issues around freshwater. i studied engineering at Yale and hydroclimatology at the University of California at Berkeley, but i knew that the work i really wanted to do went beyond building dams and wastewater treatment plants. engineering taught me how to satisfy the needs of a hundred thousand people by pouring concrete; i was never taught to think about the ecological, social, or political consequences of that path. then, a grant i received after graduate school gave me the opportunity to study global conflict, climate change, and natural resources, and that confirmed my conviction that water would be our most significant long-term concern. i could already see that our infrastructure-heavy 20th-century water solutions were not the answer to the looming water crisis. nothing short of a new age for water use was needed, and i wanted to work on that.
plenty of different kinds of water problems in the world today. But my biggest concern is the failure to provide safe drinking water and sanitation to everyone on the planet. of all our water problems, this one is the most inexcusable because the technology exists to provide safe water and the cost is not excessive. despite the remarkable technical and social revolutions of recent decades, 900 million people lack safe drinking water; 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation. millions die from preventable water-related diseases—perhaps as many as 2 million children a year. Water-related conflicts are on the rise. and new threats such as climate change are altering the global water cycle. an adequate supply of safe, clean water is closely connected to every vital resource issue of our time: human and ecosystem health, escape from poverty, resolution of conflict, sustainable energy, adequate food, and strong communities. World health organization statistics show that there are 4 billion cases of diarrhea and millions of other cases of illness caused each year by unsafe water— water that isn’t clean enough for safe drinking. every year 2.2 million people die from diarrhea and most of them are children under five. the places most in need of improved water and sanitation are in sub-saharan africa, and also in Western asia and eurasia. and overall, rural areas have further to go than urban areas. even here in america, the groundwater wells of some rural communities are contaminated by industrial or agricultural waste. if there is any country that should be able to meet basic needs for safe water and sanitation for 100 percent of its population, it is the United states.
CARL GANTER, CIRCLE OF BLUE
no Peace in the Valley
We have a wonderful water system in the U.s., with great tap water delivered to many of our homes seven days a week, 24 hours a day. so it’s hard to believe that there are still communities in this country with unsafe water. in the san Joaquin Valley in central California, there are communities whose drinking water is contaminated by nitrates, which have seeped into the water from manure from farm animals, fertilizer for agriculture, and leaking septic systems. these rural areas
from rapid climate changes to water contamination to political conflict over shared water resources, there are
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/february 2011
In My Own Words
Becoming Environmentally Eloquent
Bacteria vs. Polystyrene: Getting the Toxins Out
Feat of Clay
What Lies Beneath
Clean & Green?
Selected Opportunities & Resources
Making the Most of Public School
One Step Ahead
Exploring Career Options
Off the Shelf
Planning Ahead for College
Creative Minds Imagine
Mark Your Calendar
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011