The water coming out of your tap is four billion years old and might have been slurped by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We will always have exactly as much water on Earth as we have ever had. Water cannot be destroyed, and it can always be made clean enough for drinking again. In fact, water can be made so clean that it actually becomes toxic. As Charles Fishman brings vibrantly to life in this delightful narrative excursion, water runs our world in a host of awe-inspiring ways, which is both the promise and the peril of our unexplored connections to it.
Taking listeners from the wet moons of Saturn to the water-obsessed hotels of Las Vegas, and from a rice farm in the Australian outback to a glimpse into giant vats of soup at Campbell's largest factory, he reveals that our relationship to water is conflicted and irrational, neglected and mismanaged. Whether we will face a water scarcity crisis has little to do with water and everything to do with how we think about water - how we use it, connect with it, and understand it.
Portraying and explaining both the dangers - in 2008, Atlanta came just 90 days from running completely out of drinking water - and the opportunities, such as advances in rainwater harvesting and businesses that are making huge breakthroughs in water productivity, The Big Thirst will forever change the way we think about water, our crucial relationship to it, and the creativity we can bring to ensuring we always have plenty of it.
©2011 Charles Fishman (P)2011 Tantor
"A timely warning about the dwindling global water supply." (Kirkus)
The Big Thirst is a well Written and interesting treatise on the world wide water situation. There are some minor flaws in the writing. The book could have been shorter. The author spends some time redundantly haranguing that Americans and developed nations waste a good deal of water and that we don't have coherent policies in place to deal with water shortages and droughts. Yes, I get it. That's why I purchased this audio-book. So there's little need to repetitively convince me. Otherwise and interesting book about an important issue, seldom discussed.
This book details many issues surrounded by water. Interesting and covers a variety of topics!
An excellent review of water utilization and of the problems that we all face as the need for water increases on the background of finite supply. Mr Fishman obviously knows the subject to great depth, but he's such a Green ideologue that he ignores inconvenient facts. For example, when detailing the efforts that IBM has made at its Vermont plant to use water more efficiently he lists the savings that their efforts have yielded - and they are substantial. He then quotes the IBM official in charge of the effort as saying; "We did 50 different things [to get these results]." Well. these 50 different things most have cost something, but Mr Fishman never mentions what this cost was. Thus, there's no way for the listener to know what IBM's net savings were or if there even was a net savings.
In his very good description of the bottled water craze that has seized the US he mentions how the market has worked to effect the unnecessary use of water but failed to work in the necessary sector of water use. Of course, most of our water is supplied by government or government regulated utilities where there is no opportunity for market forces to work. When he discusses GE's water programs his disdain is palpable even when he grants them success. He obviously is not a fan of capitalism.
Fishman discusses an issue of critical importance to the very survival of human life. After all, separating the sewerage from the drinking water has saved more lives then all the doctors who have ever lived or ever will live. He knows the subject and covers it in great detail. He writes very well. The narrator is very good and the listener will learn a lot about the subject. You just have to realize that Fishman is the victim of his own zeal and innate bias. If you put this into the equation you can get a lot from this book. He depiction of how recent is a reliable water supply to the developed world and how fragile its continuance is should serve as a valuable warning to our on-going complacence about the future of our water supply. Just ramp up your bias filter.
A fan of books on psychology, biosphere and business. Favourites: Vaclav Smil, Joshua Foer, Warren Buffett, David Christian, Guy Spier.
Disclaimer: I listened only the first 60 minutes of this book.This review concerns only this first hour.
The first 20 minutes of this audiobooks is multiple iterations of the following: "No one ever thinks about their water. It comes from the tab and people don't understand how their lives are completely dependent on it. Their bodies are made of it. And yet no one ever appreciates how precious it is."
This over-extended intro is not very useful.
After the first 20 minutes the author gives one useful concept: "The water you drink has been around for the past 4 billion years. It's the same water that dinosaurs drank."
But Mr. Fishman does not expand on this eternal cycle. How much evaporation happens in a year? How much mixing is there between different layers of the ocean? He does not tell.
Soon the author starts laying out an agenda about how people are overusing water. He tells two stories about water shortages: one in Barcelona and another in a small town in US. The stories are interesting. However they do not help the reader understand the global water cycle.
I quit the book after the first 60 minutes. I felt the author hadn't said anything informative about water. I wanted answers to questions like
- How much water do people use around the globe?
- What do people use most water for?
- How much water is used in different economic activities: households, agriculture, industry? Why? Which industry is the most water intensive?
- What is the minimum water amount a person needs in order to survive? Why does the body need water? Why do plants need water?
- How is water processed to make it suitable for human consumption? What are the impurities and which processes reduce which pathogens?
- Where do communities usually take their water: rivers, lakes, groundwater, seawater?
- How many places make drinking water from seawater? How? How much energy does it require?
- How much of the global water reservoir is in oceans, lakes, rivers, clouds, ice?
- How much energy is generated with hydropower? How much does it vary from year to year?
- Where is the shortage of water most acute? Why? What kind of population density would be sustainable at those areas?
This is not necessarily a bad read; he did give two highly interesting stories about towns under distress. Such stories are very interesting and entertaining. But they are misleading without the proper context in my opinion.
I got annoyed with the prose very early and it probably distorts my perception. More babble-tolerant readers will learn a lot more than I.
Good book, got me thinking about all of the current (and soon to come) issues with water supply. Ending is a disappointment. OK, we need to have a paradigm shift on the "costs" of water, need to charge for it such that it is not considered "free". Ya don't need to expound on that for an hour of book time especially when that point is made several times previously. I skipped the last hour, it got boring!
But overall highly recommended, the author makes some very good points and is well-written.
I will be visiting Las Vegas before it dries up.
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