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.
This sprawling text reconstructs the history of civilization in order to illuminate the importance of water in human development from the first civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and the Indus River Valley to the present. Solomon (The Confidence Game) advances a persuasive argument: the prosperity of nations and empires has depended on their access to water and their ability to harness water resources. The story he tells is familiar, but his emphasis on water is unique: he shows how the Nile's flood patterns determined political unity and dynastic collapses in Egypt. He suggests that the construction of China's Grand Canal made possible a sixth-century reunification that eluded the Roman Empire. Finally, he attributes America's rise to superpower status to such 20th-century water innovations as the Panama Canal and Hoover Dam. Solomon surveys the current state of the world's water resources by region, making a compelling case that the U.S. and other leading democracies have untapped strategic advantages that will only become more significant as water becomes scarcer. (Feb.)
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January 04, 2010
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