From the creation of the planet to the present day, water has always been crucial to the existence of life. It is the foundation for scientific and technological advancements spanning from agriculture to space exploration, and it is deeply intertwined with our histories and cultures.
But now, according to alum Peter Gleick, PhD '86 Energy and Resources, the very achievements that propelled humanity forward threaten to send us into a new "dark age" marred by “unsustainable water use, ecological destruction, and global climate change.” This trajectory is detailed in Gleick's forthcoming book, Three Ages of Water: Prehistoric Past, Imperiled Present, and a Hope for the Future (PublicAffairs, June 2023), along with his vision of a sustainable future and a call to instead work toward a “new age of water for the benefit of everyone.”
The book chronicles the long and complex history of humanity's relationship with water, showing how rising human populations and growing pressure on natural resources have increased the risk of environmental collapse, driven massive economic inequality, and sown political conflict. But if we learn from the past, Gleick writes, we can create a positive future “with a balance between humans and nature, growing equality and social cohesion, and healthy, stable societies.”
— Mathew Burciaga