Posted by: indiesfaves | February 24, 2011

The State of Water

We are facing fresh drinking water scarcity worldwide due to population and climate change; this condition will worsen unless we are able to change our cultural lifestyles and make responsible intelligent choices and to continue to act on them for the rest of our lives. We have disrupted the hydrological system upon which we are dependent for life by the use of fossil fuels and in particular coal-burning.

99 percent of the world’s agricultural irrigation comes from the rivers, ground water flows, lakes and aquifers. Less than ½ of 1% of comes from desalination. During the last century a vast infrastructure was built to harness the power of water in hydro-electricity through dam building, to facilitate transportation along the rivers and dispose of wastes. The large economic and environmental cost has shown policy makers to be shortsighted, as it has allowed us to operate in a business-as-usual frameworks unaware of wet years and dry years, where we remained disconnected from making appropriate decisions about how to live a restorative lifestyle and failed to take into account new findings regarding our change in climate and stepping up as individuals and communities to the challenge. [i]

We now have prospects for rebuilding the commonwealth while restoring nature, in our case, our commons, water and air. By doing this we have an opportunity to contribute to our social stability, to achieve our full potential, while meeting our basic needs and those of our family. Our grassroots communities have traditionally recognized the true value of our government’s first responsibility is to the security of its people. Climate change is a security issue, since it strikes at foundations of economic stability, safety and healthy living conditions equally for all affected whatever class, race, gender, or age. We have benefited as Americans from our ingenuity and technology as we have misused it and through our everyday human activities that has caused this challenge before us. We are all responsible for each other, ourselves and the security of our nation and as we are the contributors of 25% of the total carbon emissions with only 1/5 of the world’s population; together we have a global responsibility for global security of the commons through accountable, conscientious and sensible living.[ii] There is a way to change our lifestyle through innovative structures which will require a collective examination of our first steps toward acknowledging the challenge before us. We need to be inclusive of all of the global community in coming to an encompassing mobilization and alternative solutions. This is our moment to make the first behavioral changes within our local communities, to promote state, and then national and international solutions. If you would look to Pennsylvania you would see a populist charge that is starting to happen nationwide and where whole communities are reclaiming their democratic values to self-governance by rewriting the city and county charters governing corporations in part to protect the Rights of Nature, to prohibit denigrating corporate projects that cause harm to water, the earth and the people who are impacted by them i.e. water mining, mining to hog farming activity.

Our security is based on our citizenry, our wisdom to acknowledge when the skills that  people have relied for decades no longer provides them the security that they once did and when the concentration of great wealth is most likely to come at the expense of the working and poor people; it is up to the people of America, our great local communities across this nation to consider a new social change that addresses the needs of local economics that is tied to green technology jobs and to environmental safety, while ensuring the rights of nature thus allowing others around the Earth to adopt and transform their energy use.

We know we have a moral responsibility to future generations as a community and as a nation. We also understand that we have to repair our democracy and government so we can meet the challenges and solutions for the economic progression and transitions needed. Accountability and shifting to the Green Tech economic needs will solve our crisis and begin community cooperation; like local projects in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction, renewable energy, and in energy and water efficiency and reduction.

A New Green Deal would include a polluter pay initiative by taxing carbon emissions and with transparency of systemic social and economic processes there are definite goals that would be met and relatively soon.  In addition, there are different scenarios that need to work in combination to achieve significant GHG mitigation. We need to educate for “intelligent environmental action” and the ability to process information and formulate action strategies in order to restore the hydrological system.[iii]

The Pacific Institute’s Peter H. Gleick et al., the scientific community, has identified roughly 1,000 peer-reviewed papers regarding climate change and the numbers are growing as fast as the climate appears to be changing.  There is evidence from climate models that serious change to our water systems effected by climate change has imbalanced, misplaced and disappearing water as a result of excessive carbon emissions and caused diminished water resources. How we solve our problems associated with climate change will depend on our ability to restore water systems and work together, cooperate and change our consumptive use.

Climate Change Effects on the Hydrological Cycle

The tornado that passed over the Arriba Bajada a year or so ago it was in the same storm system that blew away Greenburg, Kansas, which decimated an entire town.  There have been many people displaced; injured or killed which is a relentless onslaught that is on going for this region of the country.   Tornado Alley and the river valleys of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers will most likely see more environmental migrants reminiscent of the Dust Bowl, from flooding due to extreme weather events. The migrants of Katrina that gave this generation our first look at what the economic collapse of infrastructure and government looks like when it is left unfunded and what human suffering looked like first hand of whom were Americans.[iv]

Figure 4 Our traditional analysis using only meteorological station data is a line plot of global annual-mean surface air temperature change derived from the meteorological station network [This is an update of Figure 6(b) in Hansen et al. (2001).] Uncertainty bars (95% confidence limits) are shown for both the annual and five-year means, account only for incomplete spatial sampling of data.

Figure 5Credit: School of Environmental Studies, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK(United Nations Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal and http://www.climateark.org

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expects increase in average temperatures by 2.5-10.4 degrees Fahrenheit that will be more frequent and more severe.  Climate shifts are expected to be disruptive, abrupt and dramatic having ecological and economic impacts. [v]

Climate Change: A Result of Human Activity

Most people just want to know what to do about climate change. A symptom called, “green fatigue” mainly appears in people who do not know what to do about the problem and throw their hands up in the air. First, it is important to understand what is happening to the water cycle and what is causing it, which means once you understand why things or happening you are responsible to do something about it.  It took us the entire industrial revolution to cause climate change and specifically the last 50 years and the technological revolution to figure out what is going on. However, we knew there was something happening in 1973 during the first oil embargo and gasoline shortage.  We now need to use the forgotten skill of foresight to rectify our misuse of the nature. Albert Schweitzer said, “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall, he will end by destroying the Earth.” As sublime, as she appears, Nature is the force that we have not yet learned to live with and as climate changes the extreme conditions for human beings and our bio-diverse environments are most likely going to be impacted severely as accelleration happens.


[i] Peter Gleick USGS and Pacific Institute: “Water: The Consequences of Climate Variability and Change for the Water Resources of the United States.” September, 2000; Report of the Water Sector Assessment Team of the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change; Pacific Institute and the US Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey.

[ii] Gleick et al. “The World’s Water 2006-2007 the Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources,” chap 4 Scarcity Island Press Ibid

[iii] Tina Grotzer and Rebecca Lincoln , Harvard University which is part of the work of Understanding of Consequence Project.

[iv] Pender, Kathleen, SF Chronicle ‘the True Cost of Katrina’.  September 27, 2005

[v] Peter H. Gleick et al U.S. Global Change Research Program, “Water: the Potential Consequence of Climate Variability and Change of the Water Resources of the United States,” that was supported by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S Geological Survey. “Key messages for water managers, planners and interested members of the public.”

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