BOOKS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Row For Water: Why The Journey Of Katie Spotz Matters

It won't be the first time Julie Spotz has accepted an extreme challenge for the cause of drinkable water, a precious resource that's quickly running dry and when it is unsafe, it is the world's leading cause of disease. She swam the entire length of the Allegheny River, and tomorrow she leaves Ohio for Africa--where she will embark on a solo row across the Atlantic Ocean to South America.

Drinkable water is the hot topic of the moment, and Huffington Post blogger Steven Solomon has been on it. His book, "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization" will be in bookstores in January.

So that you know why Katie's cause is such a great one, here are excerpts from Solomon's two pieces:

What's More Important Than Oil?

That's the question I first asked myself which led me to write "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization" (Harper Collins January 2010). I had read Dan Yergin's wonderful history of oil, "The Prize", and began contemplating what other natural resource might be shaping our destiny as profoundly. The obvious answer arrived like a slap in the forehead, a Bill Clinton "It's the economy, stupid!" moment--WATER.

Water is visibly showing through as a root cause of nearly every headline issue transforming the world order and planetary environment: Freshwater scarcity is a key reason why 3.5 billion people are projected to live in countries that cannot feed themselves by 2025. Earth's freshwater ecosystems are critically depleted and being used unsustainably, reported the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, for today's 6.5 billion population much less for the 9 billion we'll be by 2050. Extreme droughts, floods, melting glaciers and other water cycle-related effects of global warming are why there'll likely be 150 million global climate refugees within a decade. Diplomats warn that 21st century conflicts will be fought over water as they were for oil in the 20th.

While many scholars highlighted the central importance of water in relation to their own main fields of study, no one had ever pulled it all together into a comprehensive narrative of water's role in world history. I thus set out to discover water's main history lessons, then apply them to help illuminate the stakes and challenges of our new era of scarcity. (Read the rest of the article.)

Obama, Palin, Copenhagen and the end of Drinkable Water

With America's national debate on global warming going bipolar between President Obama's grand entrance at Copenhagen and the surreality of Sarah from Alaska going rogue on world environmental science by championing the climate deniers, those committed to doing the planet's serious business should stay focused on one, often overlooked but trackable key factor of climate change--the pivotal role of water. It is through water that global warming destabilizes civilized societies. At Copenhagen last week, Bill McKibben of 350.org warned of a looming, water-related doomsday tipping point that could render future climate change efforts moot--if warming temperatures thaw the permanently frozen Arctic soils to release its methane greenhouse gasses.

Water's central role was colorfully highlighted in the run up to Copenhagen by cabinet members from the sea level Maldives islands and mountainous Nepal who separately held meetings underwater and at the base of Mount Everest's shrinking glaciers. They are desperate because they are on the front lines of the global warming battle. Along with the billions of other water-distressed people around the planet, climate change is exacerbating today's mounting crisis of freshwater scarcity by radically altering hydrologic patterns to produce overwhelming flooding, droughts, storms, rising coastal sea levels, as well as the unprecedented melting of Arctic icecaps and mountain glaciers visible in Sarah's own backyard. While the impacts are complex, they fall unevenly and are further dividing human society--with water rich regions generally getting wetter and arid ones drier.

With the growing scarcity of irreplaceable freshwater overtaking oil as a critical driver of world affairs, as narrated in my forthcoming "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization" (HarperCollins January 5, 2010), no climate change policy can succeed without parallel policies that help water-stressed partner societies endure the destabilizing shocks to their existing water supplies, and infrastructures. Climate change thus makes global citizens of us all. (Read the rest of the article.)