Petition to UN Secretary-General to change the name of our planet from Earth to Peace

 

Humanity is now playing in the Major Leagues.

As I said in 2011, in 2016, and say again today in 2017, unless the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion protest, like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Dakota Access Pipeline protest is successful, there will be casualties, political casualties and eventually millions of human casualties. Casualties from run-away climate change, sea level rise and from conflict. Not to mention from from difficulties in feeding an ever increasing population.

Continued burning of fossil fuel, driven mainly by capitalist greed, will eventually pollute the atmosphere and the environment to the degree that is will no longer support life. What future are we leaving to our children and grandchildren and future generations? There are those scientists like James Lovelock who argues that it is too ‘little too late’. http://bit.ly/2irVnAY

Even if we did suspend the burning of petroleum and coal tomorrow our coastal cities and small island developing states would continue to experience sea level rise for hundreds of years. http://bit.ly/2irRxrC

We have had now had, besides the upcoming Trans Mountain pipeline expansion protest, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Dakota Access Pipeline protest, the election of president-elect Trump, OWS protests in 2011, protests in Brazil and Turkey, and like it or not social protests are here to stay. As Robbert Muggah said of Brazil’s Protests “There is little doubt that the protests have challenged the existing social order and alerted a new generation of youth to the unacceptability of the status quo”. This holds true globally. http://huff.to/2gTbl60

The political paradigm has changed. Politicians and governments and the corporate world are proving once again to be slow learners, they are resisting change rather than embracing it, and without listening to their people’s protests, they will be swept away by the winds of change.

Globally we are faced with climate change, the most serious peril that has faced humanity in its brief history. However, we are faced with more than climate change, there are the life threatening CO2 levels and looming sea level rise, resource shortages and an out of control population, as well as concerns for water and food security in the years to come.

As I say frequently “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

Humanity is today playing in the major leagues. We are in a sink or swim situation. If we can keep the planet habitable by mitigating and adapting to the changing climate, switching to alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, ocean thermal and nuclear, sequester CO2 and provide the population with adequate supplies of water and food and bring the population under control, humanity may survive . Survival means, amongst all the issues above, learning to navigate successfully through a new political morass.

Warfare and conflict will also need to become a thing of the past, as climate change and energy may well exacerbate conflict situations. With a 9.5 billion global population by 2050 ensuring that everyone has adequate food and water could be problematic.

There is however, no ‘Plan B’ if we fail to resolve all the problems facing us.

When playing in the major leagues, there is no time out, there is no one that is going to offer help, let alone rescue us. Look around, the neighbourhood is somewhat sparsely populated and there are no other worlds on which humanity can survive. Even if there were other habitable worlds nearby they would in all probability belong to someone else. Neo-colonialism on an intergalactic scale may well not end well for humans.

There are, in all likelihood, other intelligent races out there somewhere, however, in the major leagues one survives on ones own. As a young civilization it is up to us to solve all our problems, to make peace among ourselves, to bring the population under control, to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and resolve the inequality that is partially responsible for the protests that are occuring around the world.

We must solve our own problems. As a young race we are as children, and as such we may not be able to solve our own problems. But solve them we must. If we are able to solve the situation facing us and make it to adulthood, in the galactic meaning of the world, we may then be introduced to the neighbors. If we do not make it to adulthood we will be just another minor statistic, a failure, a insignificant footnote in the universal history book.

Humanity needs an initiative to train our young people to become Stewards of Nature and the Environment. I envision this being done by involving and employing indigenous peoples around the world to introduce our youth, at the appropriate age, to indigenous philosophy and cultural understanding of the environment and what nature provides for mankind through ecosystem services.

Let us therefore be aspirational and rename our planet, the home of the human race and many other species, as the planet PEACE

http://bit.ly/2kQtOBc

Hope, Dear, Debt and Paranoia – By Albert Bates

Hope, fear, debt and paranoia have been recurrent themes running through our past month as we traversed the northwest corner of the European continent through Iceland, Britain and Denmark.

Iceland is the country that told the world its bankers are not too big to jail and it will not be blackmailed by London, Bonn, or the European central banks. It is still taken to the woodshed regularly and reminded who is in charge. Icelanders are not free to leave their country or to take money with them if they are allowed to go.
Britain is Europe's bad boy, master of every latest Ponzi scheme and constantly one step ahead of collapse, eking astonishing profits as all about her topple and fall. Denmark is a dreamweaver, whose sheer powers of imagineering seem to emanate an aura that can warp reality. With nothing but fairy dust to back its notes and debts, it is poised to test the durability of its famed social capital when placed in the vice grip of open imigration. Like many former bastions of European liberalism, it has taken a hard swing to the right and is getting set for the clown show that follows.
The United States is far along down the circus trail, having starved its science, educational and social programs for decades while feeding its population a steady diet of numbing pharmaceuticals, mind-rotting television, high fructose corn syrup and GMOs, until they can be readily induced in their coma to vote against their own interests, over and over, producing a government of popular lunacy — clownocracy — a Mad Hatter's Tea Party overseen by Donald Trump, as Queen of Hearts; “a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion – a blind and aimless Fury” (description by Lewis Carroll).
Debt is a theft of the options of future generations. To escape debt and claw their way back from penury people will rape, plunder and pillage every last sacred resource, leaving not an inheritance but a ruin. Cascading debt may sweep much of civilization away, perhaps in Jubilee, but the damage will have been done to foundations — and be visited as ecosystem death. Every dollar that cannot possibly be repaid in sweat and hours becomes a drain on Earth's operating system. We grew giddy wealthy on our energy slaves. Don't look now, but they just left and winter is coming.
Obstruction is an occupational hazard we accept because we are in the business of bringing hope, otherwise labeled permaculture, or ecovillage, but we are frequently obstructed and overpowered by those other three elements — fear, debt and paranoia. From time to time we break through enough to peer over the horizon and see what might yet be.
Fear and paranoia are what drive the security state apparatus we encounter most closely and personally when we stand in long lines at airports and then let some gentleman we have only just met fondle our genitals. Of course, we could avoid having our genitals fondled if we would agree to placing ourselves in front of his death ray for a few milliseconds. We know that a few milliseconds won't kill us on the spot but its like buying a ticket in the cancer lottery, and we go through airports often so if we didn't do this fondling ritual we might soon have a shoebox full of such raffle tickets, and who knows? We might win.
Research suggests that anywhere from six to 100 U.S. airline passengers each year may be getting cancer from the machines. Still, any time you opt out, some brainwashed TSA officer will try to persuade you that scanners are “safe,” or equal to “less than three minutes of air travel,” glossing over the fact that even the lowest doses of ionizing radiation — the kind beamed directly at the body by the scanners and qualitatively not much different in the non-ionizing radiation of millimeter wave devices — will increase your lifetime risk of cancer and inherited damage to your offspring, increasing your and their susceptibility to hundreds of genetically related diseases and disabilities.
It is refreshing to go through airports in Europe and not have to go through these machines because they are banned in Europe and would have been banned in the United States had the scientific or medical community made the call. As it was, the call was made by apparatchiks who skipped the legally required public comment period before deploying the scanners, and bypassed the Food and Drug Administration by waving their Patriot Act, and then, in defending these cruel devices, relied on a small body of unpublished research to insist the machines were safe, ignoring contrary opinions from U.S. and European authorities that recommended precautions, especially for pregnant women. Rapiscan employed Chertoff Group, founded by Homeland Security Nomenklatura Michael Chertoff, to make sure the government worked for them. More

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto Fifty Years On

In the tragic situation which confronts humanity, we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction, and to discuss a resolution in the spirit of the appended draft.

Dr. Albert Einstein

We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between Communism and anti-Communism. Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can, to set aside such feelings and consider yourselves only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire. We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it. We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?

http://www.spokesmanbooks.com/Spokesman/PDF/85russein.pdf

 

 

 

The World’s Most Hostile International Water Basins

At the launch of A New Climate for Peace, a new report on climate-fragility risks produced for the G7 by a consortium of international partners including the Wilson Center, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Christian Holmes called water a common denominator for climate risk.

“How you manage your water programs…has a huge amount to do with how you mitigate the prospect for increased fragility,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the obvious that’s so easy to miss, and I think that the obvious on water as it relates to economic development is, essentially, the question of sustainable water supply.”

One of the most striking infographics from A New Climate for Peace touches on that question of supply. Using data from Oregon State University’s Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database and adapted from a graphic that originally appeared in Popular Sciencelast year, the map shows the world’s most active – and tension-filled – international water basins.

Water is a common denominator for climate risk

The Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database measures not only the frequency of hostile events in a basin, but cooperative ones as well, each on a sliding scale. Hostile events range from declarations of war (zero recorded from 1990 to 2008, the period of time encompassed by the graphic) to leaders using “language of discord.” Cooperative events range from “mild verbal support” to “voluntary unification into a single country.”

The total number of events is indicated by shades of blue – the darker the blue, the more transboundary events, both positive and negative. This is essentially the “hot list” of international water basins – which regions have the most official and unofficial chatter over water.

Circles superimposed on the basins represent the total number of hostile events. As the description text points out, however, “circle size does not automatically translate into conflict danger.” In some places, transboundary institutions and diplomatic frameworks allow different actors to work through their differences. Cooperative hostility, if you will. In the Danube River Basin, for example, the high number of “hostile” events is mitigated by strong cooperative incentives associated with European integration. Likewise in North America, where Canada, the United States, and Mexico share several basins with a high number of hostile events, there is little chance of violent conflict.

Water basins in South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa are major hotspots with a high number of hostile events and weaker institutional frameworks to mitigate them. The Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Salween, Tigris-Euphrates, and Jordan basins witness a very high number of interactions, suggesting at least that continued dialogue could be a way forward to mitigate the risk of violent conflict or fragility. The Nile Basin has less activity reflecting the stalled negotiations between the basin’s 10 member states to replace colonial-era water agreements. The Mekong Basin, where the largest member, China, does not participate as a full member of the Mekong River Commission, shows less activity as well.

The map does a great job illustrating why it can be difficult to answer the question, where is the highest risk of water-related violence? Tensions between states and other freshwater basin actors isn’t necessarily a sign of impending violence if there’s a framework to resolve them. Likewise, lack of communication over a major natural resource can be a bad sign for cooperation when the resource in question is the Nile. More

More infographics from ‘A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks’ are available on NewClimateforPeace.org.

 

Building Climate Resilience in Conflict-Affected States: A Neglected Agenda

Climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts face many obstacles in fragile and conflict-affected societies. Instead of writing off these situations, however, International Alert’s Janani Vivekananda, Janpeter Schilling, and Dan Smith suggest approaching aid and development differently to proactively build resilience and simultaneously advance climate, development, and peacebuilding goals.

The interlinked challenges of climate change, poverty, and conflict legacies are recognized by academic and practitioner communities. But too often the focus has been limited to unpacking causal connections between climate change and the outbreak of violent conflict. While this emphasis garners significant attention (and much academic infighting), it largely fails to engage on the practical questions of how to respond effectively to climate change and poverty in conflict-affected states.

The concept of resilience, Vivekananda et al. write, is critically important in this context, as it connects disparate government and development efforts in service of society as a whole. Understanding the “intermediate” factors that already make a society vulnerable to conflict – poor governance, geopolitics, poverty, inequality – is vital to creating positive development, adaptation, and peacebuilding policies.

Context Is Everything

Understanding the local variation of societies, the “contextual complexities,” should be the first step for any resilience-building operation, the authors write. Local and national-level dynamics need to be considered in tandem to understand how changes in one place might affect elsewhere.

Experience in Nepal provides useful lessons. Nepal is one of the most vulnerable states to climate change and environmental risks in the world. An International Alert case study explores how aid designed to combat food insecurity there ended up undermining adaptive capacity. Rice paddies were created in communities that previously relied on other forms of agriculture, consequently creating a dependency and expectation for more due to the positive social implications that come with having rice in the diet. The shift to rice farming also increased the demand for water.

The study highlights how this change combined with climate-induced changes to rainfall has resulted in water shortages. The reduction of a specific resource in a setting already undergoing environmental change affected community resilience in a negative way. Greater contextual awareness of the implications of such a fundamental change to agriculture might have enabled the government and local communities to avoid such a “backdraft” effect.

Cross-Discipline Analysis

Climate change brings with it a new degree of uncertainty and unpredictability. Informal or formal institutions that embrace the complexities and flux will help societies do the same.

To adjust, Vivekananda and colleagues suggest better collaboration to break down existing institutional barriers and stovepipes between institutions. Multidisciplinary and integrated development efforts increase the likelihood of coherent climate and conflict-sensitive approaches to development, peacebuilding, and humanitarian actions. In turn, collaborative efforts are more likely to build long-term resilience, as communities rarely face a single risk in isolation, as highlighted in the Nepal case.

Academic fields, they suggest, should work towards common risk analyses. This integration entails the identification of possible negative outcomes, such as conflict; the determination of origins of said negative outcomes, such as political instability or environmental change; and shared evaluation amongst disciplines about how to fix the problem.

Vivekananda et al. work through the negative cycle that can emerge when climate change leads to conflict. Existing fragility can increase vulnerability and human insecurity, potentially leading to conflict. Identifying what makes a society fragile in the first place will provide more transparency regarding what will improve resilience.

For example, they cite a report produced by the humanitarian NGO Mercy Corps on conflict and severe drought in Ethiopia. Southern Ethiopia is home to some of the most vulnerable people to climate change: pastoralists. The report found that access to resources was one of these groups’ fundamental challenges. “Improving social cohesion and local institutions for conflict mitigation enhances access to natural resources,” they wrote, and “pastoralist groups with greater access recover more quickly from drought.”

The importance of integrated responses was also highlighted in A New Climate for Peace, a new report produced on behalf of the G7 by adelphi, the European Union Institute for Security Studies, International Alert, and the Wilson Center. The report says that by integrating efforts to address climate change, the international community will be better equipped to mitigate its interconnected risks while realizing important co-benefits. Recommendations include making climate change a foreign policy priority for all G7 members and using their clout to create a global resilience agenda.

Redundancy and Lack of Action

The literature on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience frequently places great importance on the need to bridge the gap between academic disciplines and research communities, but relatively little action has been taken. Vivekananda et al. suggest this shortcoming could be because of the heavy focus on quantitative literature in examining the implications of climate change for conflict. Calling for more collaboration and increased multidisciplinary research is easier than doing it in practice with sufficient funds and willing partners.

So how do we incentivize more cross-sectoral work? Finding answers should be a priority. As more at-risk countries consider resilience programs, the potential for negative unintended consequences increases. Ambiguity surrounding important factors such as incentives can discourage local communities and governments from even attempting multisectoral approaches.

Vivekananda et al. suggest that incentives could be derived from better resourcing, political support, and increased transparency and clarity around what the concept of resilience building actually means. The G7 report and 2014 5th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change largely agree. The IPCC’s Working Group II dedicates an entire section to “trade-offs, synergies, and integration” in its assessment. And the G7 report says integration may become more enticing as different parties realize the benefits that it can bring.

These discussions about climate change in fragile and conflict-affected areas are important resources for policymakers. Government, the academy, and non-government organizations should act in earnest on their main message: dissolve ambiguity around key concepts, integrate responses, and build up the capacity of fragile states to make simultaneous progress on climate change, development, and peacebuilding goals. More

Climate change key in Syrian conflict – and it will trigger more war in future

Climate change was a key driver of the Syrian uprising, according to research which warns that global warming is likely to unleash more wars in the coming decades, with Eastern Mediterranean countries such as Jordan and Lebanon particularly at risk.

Experts have long predicted that climate change will be a major source of conflict as drought and rising temperatures hurt agriculture, putting a further strain on resources in already unstable regimes.

But the Syria conflict is the first war that scientists have explicitly linked to climate change. Researchers say that global warming intensified the region’s worst-ever drought, pushing the country into civil war by destroying agriculture and forcing an exodus to cities already straining from poverty, an influx of refugees from war-torn Iraq next door and poor government, the report finds.

“Added to all the other stressors, climate change helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict,” said report co-author Richard Seager, of Columbia University in New York.

“I think this is scary and it’s only just beginning. It’s going to continue through the current century as part of the general drying of the Eastern Mediterranean – I don’t see how things are going to survive there,” Professor Seager added.

Turkey, Lebananon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Afghanistan are among those most at risk from drought because of the intensity of the drying and the history of conflict in the region, he says. Israel is much better equipped to withstand climate change than its neighbours because it is wealthy, politically stable and imports much of its food. Drought-ravaged East African countries such as Somalia and Sudan are also vulnerable along with parts of Central America – especially Mexico, which is afflicted by crime, is politically unstable, short of water and reliant on agriculture, Prof Seager said.

The conflict in Syria began in spring 2011 and has evolved into a complex multinational war that has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced millions more, according to the Columbia study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was preceded by a record drought that ravaged Syria between 2006 and 2010.The paper says the timing is unlikely to be a coincidence, citing a recent interview with a 38-year old farmer in Mohasen, an agricultural village in the north east of Syria.

Asked if the conflict was about the drought, Faten – a female farmer who did not want to give her last name – said: “Of course. The drought and unemployment were important in pushing people towards revolution. When the drought happened, we could handle it for two years, and then we said, ‘It’s enough’,” the report said.

The study combined climate, social and economic data relating to the so-called Fertile Crescent, spanning parts of Turkey and much of Syria and Iraq, where agriculture and herding are thought to have started 12,000 years ago and continue to be crucial.

The region has warmed by between 1 and 1.2C since 1900, reducing rainfall in the wet season by an average of 10 per cent. In addition to the warming – which has found to be caused by human greenhouse gas emissions – Syria has had to contend with rapid population growth, from 4 million in the 1950s to 22 million now.

The ruling al-Assad family encouraged water-intensive export crops such as cotton, while illegal drilling of irrigation wells dramatically depleted groundwater that might have provided valuable reserves, the report said. The drought’s effects were immediate. Agriculture production, which typically makes up a quarter of Syria’s economy, plummeted by a third.

In the hard-hit northeast, livestock herds were practically obliterated, cereal prices doubled and nutrition-related diseases among children increased dramatically. As many as 1.5m people fled from the country to the city.

“Whether it was a primary or substantial factor is impossible to know, but drought can lead to devastating consequences when coupled with pre-existing acute vulnerability,” said lead author Colin Kelley, who did the work at Columbia but is now the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The pressure exerted by climate change is even more dangerous because it comes against a backdrop of rising populations and growing scarcity of resources, experts say.

With demand for basic commodities such as wheat and copper set to soar over the next two decades, relatively small shocks to supply risk causing sudden price rises and triggering “overreactions or even militarised responses”, the Chatham House think-tank has warned.

Furthermore, while the effects of rising population and global warming may be felt hardest among the poorer countries most affected by climate change, the impact will be felt worldwide.

Global trade is so interconnected that no importer of resources is insulated from the problems of key exporters – a fact of concern to the UK, which imports 40 per cent of its food and a high proportion of fossil fuels and metals, the think-tank warns. More

 

A Thirsty, Violent World

They say you learn something new everyday. For me, this day qualifies. Michael Specter writes at the New Yorker on the increasingly dire prospects for water — of the clean, unpolluted kind — for a clamoring humankind and of the water wars that are surely on the horizon.

And he has this, on the origins of the word “rivals”: “After all, the word 'rivals' has its roots in battles over water—coming from the Latin, rivalis, for 'one taking from the same stream as another.'” Who knew? Not me. Specter's prognostication on our looming water disasters is a grim but important read and not just for Pakistanis or Nigerians, but for us in a country in which California is parched for water in a prolonged drought and researchers are predicting humongous droughts coming later in the century for our breadbasket, the Midwest! TomDispatch



A Thirsty, Violent World

Angry protesters filled the streets of Karachi last week, clogging traffic lanes and public squares until police and paratroopers were forced to intervene. That’s not rare in Pakistan, which is often a site of political and religious violence.

But last week’s protests had nothing to do with freedom of expression, drone wars, or Americans. They were about access to water. When Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Minister of Defense, Power, and Water (yes, that is one ministry), warned that the country’s chronic water shortages could soon become uncontrollable, he was looking on the bright side. The meagre allotment of water available to each Pakistani is a third of what it was in 1950. As the country’s population rises, that amount is falling fast.

Dozens of other countries face similar situations—not someday, or soon, but now. Rapid climate change, population growth, and a growing demand for meat (and, thus, for the water required to grow feed for livestock) have propelled them into a state of emergency. Millions of words have been written, and scores of urgent meetings have been held, since I last wrote about this issue for the magazine, nearly a decade ago; in that time, things have only grown worse.

The various physical calamities that confront the world are hard to separate, but growing hunger and the struggle to find clean water for billions of people are clearly connected. Each problem fuels others, particularly in the developing world—where the harshest impact of natural catastrophes has always been felt. Yet the water crisis challenges even the richest among us.

California is now in its fourth year of drought, staggering through its worst dry spell in twelve hundred years; farmers have sold their herds, and some have abandoned crops. Cities have begun rationing water. According to the London-based organization Wateraid, water shortages are responsible for more deaths in Nigeria than Boko Haram; there are places in India where hospitals have trouble finding the water required to sterilize surgical tools.

Nowhere, however, is the situation more acute than in Brazil, particularly for the twenty million residents of São Paulo. “You have all the elements for a perfect storm, except that we don’t have water,” a former environmental minister told Lizzie O’Leary, in a recent interview for the syndicated radio show “Marketplace.” The country is bracing for riots. “There is a real risk of social convulsion,” José Galizia Tundisi, a hydrologist with the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, warned in a press conference last week. He said that officials have failed to act with appropriate urgency. “Authorities need to act immediately to avoid the worst.” But people rarely act until the crisis is directly affecting them, and at that point it will be too late.

It is not that we are actually running out of water, because water never technically disappears. When it leaves one place, it goes somewhere else, and the amount of freshwater on earth has not changed significantly for millions of years. But the number of people on the planet has grown exponentially; in just the past century, the population has tripled, and water use has grown sixfold. More than that, we have polluted much of what remains readily available—and climate change has made it significantly more difficult to plan for floods and droughts.

Success is part of the problem, just as it is with the pollution caused by our industrial growth. The standard of living has improved for hundreds of millions of people, and the pace of improvement will quicken. As populations grow more prosperous, vegetarian life styles often yield to a Western diet, with all the disasters that implies. The new middle classes, particularly in India and China, eat more protein than they once did, and that, again, requires more water use. (On average, hundreds of gallons of water are required to produce a single hamburger.)

Feeding a planet with nine billion residents will require at least fifty per cent more water in 2050 than we use today. It is hard to see where that water will come from. Half of the planet already lives in urban areas, and that number will increase along with the pressure to supply clean water.

“Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face, in terms of the crises, as far as water is concerned,” Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change, said at a conference on water security earlier this month. “If you look at agricultural products, if you look at animal protein, the demand for which is growing—that’s highly water intensive. At the same time, on the supply side, there are going to be several constraints. Firstly because there are going to be profound changes in the water cycle due to climate change.”

Floods will become more common, and so will droughts, according to most assessments of the warming earth. “The twenty-first-century projections make the [previous] mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the garden of Eden,” Jason Smerdon, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said recently. At the same time, demands for economic growth in India and other developing nations will necessarily increase pollution of rivers and lakes. That will force people to dig deeper than ever before into the earth for water.

There are ways to replace oil, gas, and coal, though we won’t do that unless economic necessity demands it. But there isn’t a tidy and synthetic invention to replace water. Conservation would help immensely, as would a more rational use of agricultural land—irrigation today consumes seventy per cent of all freshwater.

The result of continued inaction is clear. Development experts, who rarely agree on much, all agree that water wars are on the horizon. That would be nothing new for humanity. After all, the word “rivals” has its roots in battles over water—coming from the Latin, rivalis, for “one taking from the same stream as another.” It would be nice to think that, with our complete knowledge of the physical world, we have moved beyond the limitations our ancestors faced two thousand years ago. But the truth is otherwise; rivals we remain, and the evidence suggests that, until we start dying of thirst, we will stay that way. More