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Op-Ed: Global water crisis — Dangerously undermining the future right now

Humans can’t live without water. They can’t live without food, either. — Fatalism is for fools.

A boy removing oil spilled on Itapuama beach, in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Pernambuco State, Brazil. After a two year investigation police have said a Greek-flagged ship was behind the mystery slick. — © AFP Ronny Hartmann
A boy removing oil spilled on Itapuama beach, in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Pernambuco State, Brazil. After a two year investigation police have said a Greek-flagged ship was behind the mystery slick. — © AFP Ronny Hartmann

Humans can’t live without water. They can’t live without food, either. Massive water shortages, mismanagement, antiquated food production, and long droughts are making a mess of the future and “growth” economics.

I’m not going to recite the obvious. If you want some grim reading, It’s called a “water crisis” for too many good reasons. If anything it’s a euphemistic understatement. Asia, India, the Mediterranean; and the Middle East are already experiencing atypical severe weather in the last two summers.

Polluted and contaminated water are suffocating rivers in India and China. Soil degradation is severely reducing crop yields. If there are 10 billion people on Earth by the end of this century, this world will be a very bleak place.

Adding to the misery is deforestation. Transpiration from plants supplies a lot of atmospheric water. The fewer the forests, the lower the contributions of water. Destroying forests also degrades the soil, which can break down very rapidly with fewer organic components.

The red water poses no danger to humans or the marine ecosystem, the beer company said
The leak filled a port area in the Japanese city of Nago: “The red water poses no danger to humans or the marine ecosystem,” the beer company said. – Image: © The 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters/AFP Handout

This also reduces available oxygen recycled by the forests. This “deficit” therefore reduces the amount of oxygen for formation of water molecules and things like breathing. In terms of land management, deforestation is about as dumb as possible.

Does anyone need a map of this? The symptoms of oxygen starvation are fatigue, breathlessness, irritability, and an inability to focus. Sound like a planet you know? Lack of water also debilitates metabolism.

So much for basic biology 101.

The hot weather also degrades atmospheric water and any water standing in the open evaporates quickly. Australian research discovered decades ago that evaporation can negatively impact reservoirs and thus available water supplies.

People cooled off in fountains in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, — © AFP

Groundwater is also at risk. Huge populations consume equally huge amounts of water. Big cities are the worst offenders.. Wells in Beijing have been drying out for generations.

Runoff of fertilizers like phosphorous additionally contaminates the water, causing algal blooms, some of which are extremely toxic. These problems have been allowed to literally fester in the environment for many years.

Climate change, whatever it does, won’t help. Depleted natural resources will have to cope with a completely different set of weather patterns, rainfall, and whatever the heat does to the soil.

Now, the economics for anyone who missed high school:

A road blocked by the uprooted trees after Cyclone Judy made landfall in Port Vila, Vanuatu earlier in March -- the Pacific nation is especially vulnerable to climate change
A road blocked by the uprooted trees after Cyclone Judy made landfall in Port Vila, Vanuatu earlier in March — the Pacific nation is especially vulnerable to climate change – Copyright AFP Oliver Contreras

A system which can barely manage 8 billion people won’t support 10 billion.

Without proper water management, societies can’t and won’t function.

Ridiculously wasteful methods of agriculture like irrigation are using up a lot of water, very inefficiently. This is Stone Age technology.

Many inhabitants of Khartoum are in desperate need of drinking water, with some reopening wells or using pots to draw water from the Nile river
Many inhabitants of Khartoum are in desperate need of drinking water, with some reopening wells or using pots to draw water from the Nile river – Copyright AFP –

Economic growth predicated on irresponsibly rising populations can’t work. It’s absurd. That growth theory is already stone cold dead.

Human fertility, particularly male fertility, is dropping incredibly fast, and perhaps just as well.  

There are no ideas circulating about how to deal with any of this. It just shows how little intellect or talent goes into economic planning.

Which leads me to two questions:

Why are people spending generations not doing their jobs in basic resource management?

Where are the adults?

Fatalism is for fools.

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Disclaimer
The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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