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Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization Paperback – January 18, 2011
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“A tour de force. . . . Thoughtful. . . . Well-written. . . . Solomon shows that when the incentives are right—where governments and markets are allowed to focus on the real costs of and opportunities for using water resources--much better management of water systems follows.” (The National Interest)
“A fascinating and provocative work of history that shines new light on what is probably the biggest environmental and political challenge of our time. Steven Solomon’s brilliant book reveals how today’s planetary crisis of freshwater scarcity is recasting the world order and the societies in which we live.” (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.)
“A sweeping history. . . . Solomon identifies plenty of obstacles to an equitable future, both institutional and geophysical, but remains optimistic that science-born solutions are in the offing. . . . A useful piece for readers interested in natural resources and the geopolitics attendant to them.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Steven Solomon has written a riveting historical manifesto on behalf of Water Power. His sweeping narrative, covering centuries, is awe-inspiring. I learned a tremendous amount of usable knowledge from this fine work.” (Douglas Brinkley)
“Solomon’s soaring account of our attempt to manage earth’s total environment over millennia never neglects the individuals, inventions, and initiatives pivotal to that effort. Water is the most alarming and compelling call to action I’ve read since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.” (Linda Lear, author of Rachel Carson)
“Persuasive. . . . Unique. . . . 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.” (Publishers Weekly)
“This volume will give you the background to understand the forces that will drive much of 21st century history.” (Bill McKibben)
“ Steve Solomon also defines the critical challenges of water – and the need for new thinking – for nations and peoples around the world, both for today and in the future.” —Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power (Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power)
“Steven Solomon has written a riveting historical manifesto on behalf of Water Power. His sweeping narrative, covering centuries, is awe-inspiring. I learned a tremendous amount of usable knowledge from this fine work.” (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior)
“Seeking to inspire us to place a higher value on water and establish wiser approaches to its use, Solomon has created a brilliantly discursive and compelling epic of humankind’s most vital resource.” (Booklist (starred review))
From the Back Cover
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. Today, freshwater scarcity is one of the twenty-first century's decisive, looming challenges, driving new political, economic, and environmental realities across the globe.
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 through the steam-powered Industrial Revolution and America's century. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, 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.
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I would like to stress to all parents and teachers of eighth or ninth grade students to have the students read this book for a very clear primer about world history. If this book cannot be part of a school class then it should be encouraged to be read during the summer break and a report made on it at the beginning of the ninth grade.
Learning about the value of water is important but what this book explains in terms of historical relevance from 3,000 BCE to today will make future history and social study classes much easier to learn. The student will learn why societies built up near rivers and lakes, why ocean located cities grew and expanded over inland or land locked societies. How managing water impacted technical advances in a society over another.
The holidays are near get Water as a present for that 13 or 14 year child, grandchild, or young person you want to mentor.
I don't know the author and am not his agent. But I have simple advice for you.
Buy this book. Read this book. And give thanks that such a stunning book was published.
This was an excellent and entertainingly-written book about an increasingly crucial subject. As the author points out, water is heavy, difficult to purify and transport, and yet amazingly crucial to the everyday activities of everyone everywhere. Therefore a society's sophistication in dealing with water is indeed a fair measure of its overall capabilities and priorities. While in my opinion the author stretches this point a little here and there, it's for the most part a valid one. In my own case, I found the sections on the politics of water most fascinating and informative of all.
The extent to which the ancients engineered water supplies and depended on these efforts was new to me, as I would expect it to be to the vast majority of readers. It is surprising to see how far back in history human manipulation of rivers and wetlands reaches, as well as the scale of some of these projects. It is also surprising to see how far back in history environmental damage, and economic repercussions, can be documented from some of these projects.
The book follows history to the present day, covering modern dam-building, water for power generation, and even efforts to restore the drained wetlands of the Florida Everglades.
Negatives: There are a few passages in Chapter 3 where the timelines confused me and I needed to resort to the Internet for clarification. There are several chapters on control of ocean shipping lanes which seem more about transportation and military history, somewhat tangential to the primary focus of the book.
Overall, the book is clearly written, informative, and comprehensive. I enjoyed reading it and learned a great deal. I'd recommend the book for anyone interested in history, particularly economic or environmental history, no technical background required. The book would provide a good historical context for an introductory course on environmental policy. Another reviewer has recommended the book for high school students, and I concur. I could see the relevant chapters from this book supporting high school or undergraduate courses on ancient history, the industrial revolution, and other periods, as well as giving some historical context to an earth science course.