Class Research Resources and Assignments

Week 8

Land Management and the Emerging Water Crisis
Week's Assigned Readings
Videos of Class Session |  Video of Discussion Session
Slides for Week 8 Lecture

Supplementary Materials on The Logic and Evolution of Petro-Intensive Agriculture

Supplementary Video Material

Prospectus Due in Course Dropbox by 7:30 PM - See Guidelines
and Titles of past papers | Sample EXAMPLE of a Prospectus with Annotated Bibliography
  "...urban civilizations have been prone to deal with water as if it represented a linear flow problem rather than a cyclical design challenge. The result of this tragically truncated vision and faulty aesthetic in urban culture has led us time and time again to engineer massive monuments to myopia. When future archaeologists look back upon the remains of our current civilization the public works constructions in major cities around the world will no doubt appear to them as sad and tragic reminders of engineering arrogance based on ecosystem ignorance. In city after city they will be able to see evidence that we became mired in our own muck while the well ran dry. From their vantage point they will be able to observe a fact that we daily choose to ignore: that in 21st century urban civilization we are fast heading for a world in which there is "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink." 
  T. C. Weiskel, "Designing Within the Possible: The Art and Theology of Engineering Sustainability" (1997). 

    Land use constitutes an important component of the hydrological cycle.  Land management practices profoundly influence the quality of both surface and ground water.  Since these two sources of water provide virtually all the water available for industrial use and human consumption, land management practices will largely determine the nature of both localized and regional water crises. What responsibilities does society have to manage "wetlands"?  or underground "aquifers"?  How can changes in land management practices effect current and future generations?

    It can be argued that whether the human prospect succeeds or fails will depend upon whether human societies can learn to come to terms with water.  Sustainable societies will be those that learn to operate sustainably within the hydrological cycle.  Those that cannot learn to cope within this cycle are doomed to collapse -- through the classic forms of civilizational decline -- famine, disease and warfare.  Consider the following excerpts from a talk given to "water design" experts at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

        What are the ethical principles stated and implied in the argument of the presentation?  What is the imbedded theory of community? theory of agency? theory of time?


Excerpt  from: "Designing Within the Possible: The Art and Theology of Engineering Sustainability,"  Lecture presented to the Cambridge Arts Council "Waterworks: A Symposium on Art and Water," The Sackler Art Museum, 5 April 1997.\

      "Discovering our place in the cosmic order has been a long struggle and a hard-won process. Not everyone has caught on yet. Nevertheless, as we become collectively more conscious of our surroundings on Earth we are slowly coming to realize that our life here has been possible only because this is a "Blue Planet" -- one on which the temperature range over most of its surface coincides with water in its liquid state. It is that liquid state of water which makes our life -- and all life -- possible, for it is only through a constant metabolic exchange of fluids with their environment that life forms can be nourished and sustained.

      "All human cultures have grasped this profound truth at some level, and this, perhaps, accounts for the pervasive sense of the sacred character of water. The properties of water are everywhere celebrated and extolled as attributes of the divine, and it is through the behavior of water that the divine is made manifest to humans. Long before the development of modern science peoples and cultures around the world could apprehend what we now comprehend -- all life depends on the seemingly endless cycling of water on our planet.

      The problem of sustainability is therefore one of learning how to manage the balanced exchange of fluids between complementary life-forms in the context of this larger hydrological cycle at work in the biogeochemical processes on earth."

Related Bibliographies:

Timothy C. Weiskel
  1997  Ethical Issues and the Hydrological Cycle: Estuaries and In-Shore Waters, Class Bibliography Series, Vol. 1, No. 11. [Last updated: May 20, 1997]. 
Robert France and Timothy C. Weiskel
  1997  Water and Ecological Integrity: Some Basic Conceptual and Measurement Problems,Subject Bibliographies in Environmental Ethics, Vol. 1, No. 9. [Last updated: Nov. 21, 1997].
Timothy C. Weiskel 
  1997  Concepts of Symbiogenesis and the Emergence of Life-Forms on Land, . [Prepared for the opening session of the Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values (1997-1998), "Water -- Symbol and Substance of Life: Toward a New Environmental Ethic of Water"].  Occasional Bibliography Series, Vol. 1, No. 7. [Last updated: Oct. 22, 1997].
Timothy C. Weiskel 
  1997  Water in the Middle East and North Africa: The Political Economy and Ethics of Scarce Resource Use,  [For the, Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values (1997-98), "Water -- Symbol and Substance of Life"]. Occasional Bibliography Series, Vol. 1, No. 9. [Last updated: Oct. 30, 1997].
Stephan L. Chorover and Timothy C. Weiskel
  1997 Learning from Water: Some Educational Resources for Sustainability -- A Preliminary List, [For the, Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values (1997-1998), "Water -- Symbol and Substance of of Life"]. Occasional Bibliography Series, Vol. 1, No. 10. [Last updated: Dec. 15, 1997].

and article:

Timothy C. Weiskel
  1997 "Selling Pigeons in the Temple: The Danger of Market Metaphors in an Ecosystem" (1997).

See also: Water -- Symbol and Substance of Life - a list of sources on material and spiritual aspects of water in various cultures.

        In addition, you may wish to refer to a year-long series of presentations in the Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values during 1997-1998 devoted to the theme, Water -- Symbol and Substance of Life: Toward a New Environmental Ethic. Although problems of water ownership and provision were foreseen and widely discussed ten years ago, the problem has recently become more acute in America as well as elsewhere in the world. Consider the ethical dimensions of these cases:

The Connection
"Water Series #2: The Battle over Blue Gold," WBUR - The Connection, (27 August 2002).
and more recently the water problems in a city like Detroit have been seen as a racial justice and human rights issue:
Making Contact
"Water Rights: No Clear Solution," National Radio Project - Making Contact, (31 October 2007).

Supplementary Materials on Water Issues

    On a more current basis, consider the following news coverage about water issues.  What are the stated and implied environmental ethics represented in the different cases?

Some Background Global News:

World water crisis. BBC Report
The world's supply of fresh water is running out. Already one person in five has no access to safe drinking water.
Dawn of a thirsty century
Friday, 2 June, 2000, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
The amount of water in the world is limited. The human race, and the other species which share the planet, cannot expect an infinite supply. Water covers about two-thirds of the Earth's surface, admittedly. But most is too salty for use. Only 2.5% of the world's water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers.
Case Studies


NPR Series on Water:

Morning Edition
Monday, May 18, 1998
-- NPR's Anne Garrels begins a series of reports on the precarious balance between the supply and demand for fresh water around the world. With populations increasing and the amount of available water staying the same, scarcity is causing disputes, both within and between countries. At stake are the livelihoods of individuals and the economic and political stability of entire countries. (8:29)
Morning Edition
Tuesday, May 19, 1998
-- NPR's Anne Garrels reports on part two of a five-part series focusing on fresh water shortages. She reports from Yemen, where a population explosion and modern developments have greatly endangered the ground water supply. (8:08)
Morning Edition
Wednesday, May 20, 1998
-- NPR's Anne Garrels reports in part three of a five-part series on fresh water shortages. She reports on the intensifying dispute among countries bordering the Nile River over access to its resources. (8:45)
Morning Edition
Thursday, May 21, 1998
-- In part four of a week-long series on global water usage, Anne Garrels reports on a program in Pakistan to improve the sewage system. Sewers once were either non-existent, or plagued by governmental mismanagement. Now residents are building and maintaining their own inexpensive sewer systems. (8:23)
Real Audio   WATER USAGE V
Morning Edition
Friday, May 22, 1998
-- In the last of a five-part series on fresh water shortages, NPR's Anne Garrels reports from Uzbekistan, where one of the largest inland seas -- the Aral of Central Asia -- is suffering massive degradation. (8:32)

Water Issues in Agriculture:

All Things Considered

Monday, October 20, 1997

NPR's John Nielsen talks to Robert from the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay about a new plan to battle water pollution that arises from agricultural runoff. The federal government would create a buffer zone where all agriculture is prohibited. The zone would affect all the lakes, rivers, and streams that flow into the Bay -- an area that extends from central New York State to southern Virginia. Vice President Gore announced the plan at Maryland farm late this afternoon. (3:30)


All Things Considered

Wednesday, September 17, 1997

NPR's John Nielsen examines the factors that maybe involved in the fish kills reported along the Chesapeake Bay. In the past six weeks, three rivers have been closed to commercial fishing after the discovery of parasite-infested fish. Nutrients in the water appear to be encouraging the proliferation of the parasite -- nutrients that may come from agricultural runoff or other forms of water pollution. At the moment, investigators are focusing on manure flowing into the rivers from the scores of chicken farms along the Bay. But it's not clear that this is the cause of the infestation. (6:00)


Morning Edition

Thursday, May 07, 1998

-- In the final part of our series, NPR's John Nielsen reports that water pollution is to blame for most toxic algae blooms. Enviromentalists say tougher standards are needed to decrease polluted runoff from hog and poultry farms and other sources. Some experts warn that farmers may relocate rather than comply with the new rules. (8:21)

In Massachusetts their is a local"flavor" to water disputes, reflecting our history and our economically important crops.

Bog stirs environmental debate
Division in Falmouth on cranberry growers' spread of pesticides

By Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent,

"The Herring War" of 1806 came to a climactic, bloody end when protesters blasted a cannon full of dead fish onto Falmouth's town green.

At the time, Coonamessett River mill owners and fishermen had been locked in a contentious dispute over dams that prevented river herring from migrating upstream. But when the cannon backfired, tragically killing its pro-mill gunner, the combatants' anger eased and the war faded away.

Nearly 200 years later, the Coonamessett River's herring are once again at the center of heated debate in Falmouth. But this time, fishermen and environmentalists are pitted against one of Cape Cod's most treasured symbols: the cranberry bog.

The debate, in its simplest form, comes down to whether the town should continue to allow cranberries to be commercially grown and harvested in the middle of a public river, a process that periodically involves halting the river's natural flow.

The Pacific Northwest: Agriculture vs. Wildlife
Real Audio   Klamath River
Weekend Edition - Saturday
Saturday, June 16, 2001
Drought in the Klamath River Basin in Southern Oregon means farmers are losing all of their agricultural water to the sucker fish. Nancy Solomon (KLCC) reports.
Real Audio   Klamath Water
All Things Considered
Wednesday, July 25, 2001
NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports that some late rains have allowed authorities to release some irrigation water to farmers in Oregon's Klamath River Basin. Flows for irrigation had been stopped in order to protect endangered fish. (1:30)
Real Audio   Klamath Basin Protest
All Things Considered
Tuesday, August 21, 2001
NPR's Andy Bowers talks to Linda Wertheimer about today's protest in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Thousands of people gathered to protest how the government is managing a federal irrigation project. Water is scheduled to be shut off to local farmers on Thursday in order to allow enough water to sustain downstream fisheries. (4:00)
Real Audio Klamath Falls Protests
Morning Edition
Wednesday, August 22, 2001
NPR's Andy Bowers reports on the protests in Klamath Falls, Oregon, over federal restrictions on water to farmers. (4:14)

The Walkerton "Affair"
Inside Walkerton - CBC Report

"We have a terrible tragedy here."

        With those words, Ontario Premier Mike Harris waded into the Walkerton, Ontario water crisis on Friday, May 26, 2000. He addressed a crowd of reporters and residents in the normally quiet town in the heart of Ontario's rural heartland; a part of the province that normally gears up for a flood of funseekers at this time of year.

        Instead, Walkerton began the transition into the town "where those kids died from E. coli". It's not what anyone wanted, but it was the end result. Reporters from around North America descended on the area, trying to get to the bottom of what's being described as Canada's worst-ever outbreak of E. coli contamination. Seven people died from drinking contaminated water. Hundreds suffered from the symptoms of the disease, not knowing if they too would die.


Groundwater Pollution: The Case of MTBE
All Things Considered
Wednesday, November 25, 1998
What began as a program to fight air pollution has now necessitated dozens of costly studies and created a public health concern. The gas additive MTBE helps to lower tail-pipe emissions-- but it also contaminates ground-water. As the state of California looks for ways to cleanup its water supplies, the governor of Maine is also asking the EPA to let his state get out of the reformulated gas program that mandates the use of gas oxygenates like MTBE. Some activists say it's possible to meet clean air standards without using MTBE or any other oxygen additive... and they have gas suppliers ready to deliver the new product. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports.(5:30)

Morning Edition
Friday, January 02, 1998
-- Mary Losure of Minnesota Public Radio reports that scientists have linked the frequency of deformed frogs to contaminated well and ground water. Health experts are now investigating whether those same contaminants pose a risk to humans. (7:19)

Water and the Market: Should water be "priced"?
        A heated international debate is emerging about how the human community might best come to value the water upon which it so dearly depends.  In market integrated societies many argue that the only way to value water is to give it a "price."   Costly goods are valued, it is argued, therefore if you want people to value something you must give it a price and preferably a high price.
        Others argue that any "price" cannot ever capture "value."  Further, they argue that every known pricing mechanism merely works to strengthen those already strong in the market place, victimizing those with little purchasing power.  In short, they argue that pricing water will victimize the very poor even more than they are currently exploited.

        Consider the following stories. Then develop an assessment and an opinion on whether or how water should be priced.  What ethical implications are imbedded in your thinking?

Real Audio   WATER - Price of Water is highest for the poor
Weekend Edition - Saturday

Saturday, May 09, 1998

NPR''s Anne Garrels reports from Karachi, Pakistan, on the too high price of water, especially for the poor. (5:30)


All Things Considered

Tuesday, April 07, 1998

NPR's Mary Kay Magistad visits the Huai (HWIGH) River basin in eastern China, where the government has ordered the cleanup of some of the country's worst water pollution. Small factories and businesses have dumped so many pollutants into the river that residents say even pigs sometimes won't drink the water. People living downstream have had to depend on trucks to bring them water each day because their own water supply is unusable. One problem with the cleanup is enforcing the edicts of the central government, but area residents are starting to report violations; they know what it's like to live with contaminated water. (7:00)

CBC's - The Future of Canada's Water
    Canada lucked out in the global water sweeps. We are near the top of water-rich nations, trailing only Brazil, Russia and China.

    Thanks to the replenishing cycle of rain and evaporation, the amount of water on Earth has remained the same over the past four billion years. Only in this generation has there been concern that we may be ruining our water supply. Of all the water on our planet, 97.5 per cent is sea water and three-quarters of the remaining 2.5 per cent is locked in polar ice caps. The tiny bit left over is drinkable.

Gerry White is an entrepreneur who wants to sell Canada's water to the world and sees no reason why he should be prevented from doing so.
    Specifically, he wants to sell water from Gisborne Lake in Newfoundland. The lake is 16 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide, near the south coast of Newfoundland. White flew over Lake Gisborne one summer day in 1996 and nearly didn't notice it because the water is so clear.

Maude Barlow is chair of the Council of Canadians, a citizens’ group with 100,000 members. She is the Joan of Arc of those opposed to the sale of Canadian water.
    "There is a common assumption that the world's water supply is huge and infinite," Barlow has said. "This assumption is false. At some time in the near future, water bankruptcy will result."

    She cites a United Nations study that says by the year 2025 – less than 25 years – two-thirds of the world will be "water-poor."

    "The wars of the future are going to be fought over water," Barlow has declared.

The Blue Planet Project - Council of Canadians
       Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water By Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke
"Blue Gold : World Water Wars," YouTube, (26 January 2008).
"Maude Barlow on the Global Water Crisis, KPFA Events," YouTube - KPFAradio, (29 February 2008).
Blue Covenant: Maude Barlow on the Global Movement for Water Justice," Democracy Now, (27 February 2008)
For the Love of Water (FLOW - the Film).

This story originally aired on NOW with Bill Moyers on July 5, 2002.
A co-production of NOW with Bill Moyers and FRONTLINE/World.


         Public Services International: Water in Public Hands
            fact sheets on corporate corruption and water privatization


    Council of Canadians

Sources for Global Water Assessments:
The World Water Forum

        The 2nd World Water Forum - 17-22 March 2000, the Hague, Netherlands

The World's Water - WorldWater.Org - Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute
             Water data from: The World's Water

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