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Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization

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“I read this wide-ranging and thoughtful book while sitting on the banks of the Ganges near Varanasi—it's a river already badly polluted, and now threatened by the melting of the loss of the glaciers at its source to global warming. Four hundred million people depend on it, and there's no backup plan. As Steven Solomon makes clear, the same is true the world over; this vol “I read this wide-ranging and thoughtful book while sitting on the banks of the Ganges near Varanasi—it's a river already badly polluted, and now threatened by the melting of the loss of the glaciers at its source to global warming. Four hundred million people depend on it, and there's no backup plan. As Steven Solomon makes clear, the same is true the world over; this volume will give you the background to understand the forces that will drive much of 21st century history.” —Bill McKibben In Water, esteemed journalist Steven Solomon describes a terrifying—and all too real—world in which access to fresh water has replaced oil as the primary cause of global conflicts that increasingly emanate from drought-ridden, overpopulated areas of the world. Meticulously researched and undeniably prescient, Water is a stunningly clear-eyed action statement on what Robert F Kennedy, Jr. calls “the biggest environmental and political challenge of our time.”


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“I read this wide-ranging and thoughtful book while sitting on the banks of the Ganges near Varanasi—it's a river already badly polluted, and now threatened by the melting of the loss of the glaciers at its source to global warming. Four hundred million people depend on it, and there's no backup plan. As Steven Solomon makes clear, the same is true the world over; this vol “I read this wide-ranging and thoughtful book while sitting on the banks of the Ganges near Varanasi—it's a river already badly polluted, and now threatened by the melting of the loss of the glaciers at its source to global warming. Four hundred million people depend on it, and there's no backup plan. As Steven Solomon makes clear, the same is true the world over; this volume will give you the background to understand the forces that will drive much of 21st century history.” —Bill McKibben In Water, esteemed journalist Steven Solomon describes a terrifying—and all too real—world in which access to fresh water has replaced oil as the primary cause of global conflicts that increasingly emanate from drought-ridden, overpopulated areas of the world. Meticulously researched and undeniably prescient, Water is a stunningly clear-eyed action statement on what Robert F Kennedy, Jr. calls “the biggest environmental and political challenge of our time.”

30 review for Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aloha

    Articles on water: The Geopolitics of Water in the Middle East: fantasies and realities Hydro-Peace in the Middle East: Why no Water Wars? A Case Study of the Jordan River Basin Water, war & peace in the Middle East Water Conflict in the Middle East Clear Gold Water and War in the Middle East: The Hydraulic Parameters of Conflict NASA: Alarming Water Loss in Middle East Qanats There's also a current analysis on water depletion in the Middle East due to global warming and in light of the NASA study: Groundw Articles on water: The Geopolitics of Water in the Middle East: fantasies and realities Hydro-Peace in the Middle East: Why no Water Wars? A Case Study of the Jordan River Basin Water, war & peace in the Middle East Water Conflict in the Middle East Clear Gold Water and War in the Middle East: The Hydraulic Parameters of Conflict NASA: Alarming Water Loss in Middle East Qanats There's also a current analysis on water depletion in the Middle East due to global warming and in light of the NASA study: Groundwater depletion in the Middle East from GRACE with implications for transboundary water management in the Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran region Joseph McElroy's articles on water: Water Work Wetland Reflections Water on Us

  2. 4 out of 5

    Artun Ereren

    Before I start my review I want readers to know that THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! Solomon's writing style is very much like that of a Historian specializing in Economics. Yes, the language and narrative can be dry but unfortunately we can't always write in a Malcolm Gladwell-esque fashion to make economics hip or cool. That being said, Solomon has created a masterpiece. An anthology of inter-connected epochs relating to mankind's relationship to water. Like many historical events, there are ext Before I start my review I want readers to know that THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! Solomon's writing style is very much like that of a Historian specializing in Economics. Yes, the language and narrative can be dry but unfortunately we can't always write in a Malcolm Gladwell-esque fashion to make economics hip or cool. That being said, Solomon has created a masterpiece. An anthology of inter-connected epochs relating to mankind's relationship to water. Like many historical events, there are external and internal factors that shape a moment in time. Solomon does an excellent job to include as much as he can in a comparatively small window of human history. As the other reviews have mentioned, perhaps Solomon should have included more on the technology involved, but that's not to say he completely omits any mention of technology from this book. To casual readers who are whole-heartedly interested in water as a topic: The best way for you to read this book is not from start to finish, but picking and choosing areas of the world or special topics that may suit your interests. I understand that this book may feel like a textbook but we should use it to our advantage and appreciate it for what it is!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Way too much information/too big of a scope/not enough detail. The parts about the Middle East or New York's 3rd Tunnel could have been their own books. And what's with the run-on sentences? I read it for a "technology and society" class for graduate-level engineers, which is infuriating. We're not laypeople, where's our book? What lies between this and the the Army Corps' papers on Ogee Spillway design? I wouldn't have finished it if it weren't assigned. Way too much information/too big of a scope/not enough detail. The parts about the Middle East or New York's 3rd Tunnel could have been their own books. And what's with the run-on sentences? I read it for a "technology and society" class for graduate-level engineers, which is infuriating. We're not laypeople, where's our book? What lies between this and the the Army Corps' papers on Ogee Spillway design? I wouldn't have finished it if it weren't assigned.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    There were some interesting parts to this book, but I thought the author was trying way too hard to join things that really have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I got a lot out of the parts where the author showed how civilizations have lived and died by their management of their water resources, but his trying to somehow marry this with naval warfare and the steam engine? Huh? He might as well have said "people have water in them, therefore everything people have done is really due to There were some interesting parts to this book, but I thought the author was trying way too hard to join things that really have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I got a lot out of the parts where the author showed how civilizations have lived and died by their management of their water resources, but his trying to somehow marry this with naval warfare and the steam engine? Huh? He might as well have said "people have water in them, therefore everything people have done is really due to water". Saying water travel, use of irrigation, and use of steam are all part of a coherent whole is too much of a stretch. I'm surprised he didn't try to bring the importance of eating soup into it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    "Water" really has three trains of thought: water for irrigation of crops, water for sanitation, and water for transportation/war. The three aren't necessarily that closely related, involving different questions of geography, engineering, cleanliness, etc. Trying to handle each separately would have resulted in a more streamlined and readable narrative, although who knows if I would have picked up "Irrigation" or "Plumbing." At any rate, after reading a few hundred pages on Ancient Egyptian agri "Water" really has three trains of thought: water for irrigation of crops, water for sanitation, and water for transportation/war. The three aren't necessarily that closely related, involving different questions of geography, engineering, cleanliness, etc. Trying to handle each separately would have resulted in a more streamlined and readable narrative, although who knows if I would have picked up "Irrigation" or "Plumbing." At any rate, after reading a few hundred pages on Ancient Egyptian agricultural practices or the canals of medieval China, I made it as far as the early modern era, but I was still less than halfway through and it was due at the library.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ward

    In a word, dry. It is nonetheless informative and to an extent compelling. Much like other books of this nature, Water provides a researched discussion of a present and forever problem, having access to potable water. This is an issue the existence of which virtually every thinking being intuitively knows. I recall as a boy in the 50's standing at the window of our farmhouse and listening to my grandmother state very affirmatively that someday we are going to run out of water. Unfortunately, give In a word, dry. It is nonetheless informative and to an extent compelling. Much like other books of this nature, Water provides a researched discussion of a present and forever problem, having access to potable water. This is an issue the existence of which virtually every thinking being intuitively knows. I recall as a boy in the 50's standing at the window of our farmhouse and listening to my grandmother state very affirmatively that someday we are going to run out of water. Unfortunately, given the magnitude of the issue, it is one only to be recognized rather than addressed. So, this book goes to the shelf.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Steven Soloman provides some great background about water and its role in civilization. The book follows some general themes. I chose to comment on the two themes I found most compelling. The Emergence of Civilization “All of human society today shares an irrigation legacy with the cradle civilizations of antiquity” (Solomon 2010, 23). Solomon states that momentous turning points in civilization were made possible because of major changes in how humans used water. “The Industrial Revolution was Steven Soloman provides some great background about water and its role in civilization. The book follows some general themes. I chose to comment on the two themes I found most compelling. The Emergence of Civilization “All of human society today shares an irrigation legacy with the cradle civilizations of antiquity” (Solomon 2010, 23). Solomon states that momentous turning points in civilization were made possible because of major changes in how humans used water. “The Industrial Revolution was akin to the Agricultural Revolution of about 5,000 years ago, when societies in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and northern China separately began mastering the hydraulic arts of controlling water from large rivers for mass-scale irrigation, and in so doing unlocked the economic and political means for advanced civilization to begin” (Solomon 2010, 2). He cites to British historian Arnold Toynbee's work, A Study of History. Toynbee put forth the idea that the history of civilization was a result of mankind's response to environmental changes (Solomon 2010, 15). Power Derived from the Control of Water “Whatever the era, preeminent societies have invariably exploited their water resources in ways that were more productive, and unleashed larger supplies, than slower-adapting ones” (Solomon 2010, 3). No historical account of power, be it political, military and even financial would be complete without a mention of ancient Rome. Ancient records do not detail any exact figures on just how much water was delivered to the people of Rome but historians believe that it would be somewhat comparable to the major cities of modern times (Solomon 2010, 2). Ancient Rome gained dominance over the entire Mediterranean Sea, sometimes referred to as a Roman lake. Evidence of the Roman’s control over water can be seen even to this day in the ruined remnants of the many aqueducts that dot the landscape. Those civilizations that managed to gain and maintain control of the worlds sea-lanes "commanded the gateways of imperial power” (Solomon 2010, 16).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Les

    Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization is certainly an ambitious work. Solomon traces water's crucial role throughout world history and argues that those societies that can overcome limitations on water's multiple uses are often at the forefront of material advancement. This is a very widerangeing work and seemed to stretch at times to argue that water was the underlying factor in every historical development. It is several books in one and at times seemed repetitive, but t Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization is certainly an ambitious work. Solomon traces water's crucial role throughout world history and argues that those societies that can overcome limitations on water's multiple uses are often at the forefront of material advancement. This is a very widerangeing work and seemed to stretch at times to argue that water was the underlying factor in every historical development. It is several books in one and at times seemed repetitive, but the last half on water as a driving factor from the Industrial Revolution to our modern era of climate change and water shortages would have made a great standalone work. Solomon does highlight efforts to conserve water in many developed western economies and contrasts that with the superprojects pursued by countries such as India or China. I did not leave this work in a hopeful frame of mind -- the need to overcome entrenched forces, particularly in agriculture, are daunting and there is no one technical panacea in sight that would "solve" the problem. A comprehensive approach would require many stakeholders around the world to work together -- cooperation that seems in short supply right now.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Devon Elcik

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. While this book took me two years to complete, it was very interesting at points. My father gave this book to me Christmas 2017... I would pick this book up every so often from 2018 until now, every time saying "I WILL FINALLY FINISH THIS BOOK!". Well, it wasn't until this month that I finally managed to do it! The issue was that the first half of this book I found rather (extremely) boring. I am not really interested in really old history. It was not until the Sanitary Revolution and the modern While this book took me two years to complete, it was very interesting at points. My father gave this book to me Christmas 2017... I would pick this book up every so often from 2018 until now, every time saying "I WILL FINALLY FINISH THIS BOOK!". Well, it wasn't until this month that I finally managed to do it! The issue was that the first half of this book I found rather (extremely) boring. I am not really interested in really old history. It was not until the Sanitary Revolution and the modern water engineering/technology chapters that I really got interested in this book. I found the chapters on sanitation, urban water provision, dams, and canals very fascinating. I was able to finish the second half of the book in a month, whereas the first half took me over a year to push through it. Plus, I had to finish this book this month so that I could use it for the "Nonfiction" square in my Bookish Bingo board, haha!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam W.

    That was the most I've ever seen the word "precocious" used in a book. A sweeping catalog of water development and management through history. Though I think his central premise that water management has been one of the driving forces of history is stretched a bit at times, there is no doubt it plays a serious role in human society's development and future. It also takes a critical look at looming water management challenges around the world. Overall, a very interesting and informative read. That was the most I've ever seen the word "precocious" used in a book. A sweeping catalog of water development and management through history. Though I think his central premise that water management has been one of the driving forces of history is stretched a bit at times, there is no doubt it plays a serious role in human society's development and future. It also takes a critical look at looming water management challenges around the world. Overall, a very interesting and informative read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Radicle5

    I have found that books that trace a thread of history through time are often more enlightening than those that focus on a specific period of time. This is one of those books. The author traces water through history and shows how civilizations grew because of key advances in water technology and engineering such as irrigation, canals, water power, dams and clean water. This was an excellent read and I would highly recommend it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael A. Simmons, Sr.

    Water, the essential substance! A lengthy but highly readable history of mans exploitation of his water resources. We who have a clean, cold drink at the twist of a tap have no concept of how two-thirds of the world's population who are water poor survive with a meager ration of water. Water, the essential substance! A lengthy but highly readable history of mans exploitation of his water resources. We who have a clean, cold drink at the twist of a tap have no concept of how two-thirds of the world's population who are water poor survive with a meager ration of water.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim Wells

    Much more than I expected. Very interesting book. If your interested in water and the global environment, this is a must read. Ancient history as well as recent.

  14. 5 out of 5

    jack crane

    Excellent Recommend for anyone .interested in the real world problem. Very well written and edited. Should be read by dogooders and elite alike.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anni

    "The true paradox of water is that despite its scarcity, it nearly everywhere remains the most short-sightedly and poorly governed critical resource." "The true paradox of water is that despite its scarcity, it nearly everywhere remains the most short-sightedly and poorly governed critical resource."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I debated between buying this book and another at Barnes and Noble, and I'm glad I bought the other one. While this book had a lot of highly interesting information to impart, definitely one I was able to borrow from the library and give back with no regrets. I'll give the kind of summary I wish I had had when I started the book...I would probably have skimmed parts. The book is divided up into four sections: Ancient History, Ascendency of Europe (very water rich), the Industrial Revolution, and I debated between buying this book and another at Barnes and Noble, and I'm glad I bought the other one. While this book had a lot of highly interesting information to impart, definitely one I was able to borrow from the library and give back with no regrets. I'll give the kind of summary I wish I had had when I started the book...I would probably have skimmed parts. The book is divided up into four sections: Ancient History, Ascendency of Europe (very water rich), the Industrial Revolution, and finally current/future struggles. The first section was really about the the basis for current water policies, uses, and has a lot of parallels to current problems. Rulers were only powerful if the Nile floods came regularly (religious belief in the Pharaoh), and if the scare water resources in the cradles of modern civilization could be adequately protected. Typically this was a struggle between the more fertile river basins and the headwaters containing areas. Much of the Biblical and western thought on water originates from this area, so it was interesting to read about it. The Islamic water rules that govern much of the Middle Eastern water policy are also discussed. The good intentions of helping to survive in the desert translated better when populations in the region were lower. The second section focused mainly on Europe and their rise to power. The continent is blessed with many navigable rivers, even precipitation year-round, and the topography to harness all this. These blessings allowed the Europeans to develop industry, sea prowess (which the ancients also had, Europeans were slow on the uptake), and Empire building. Standard European history, but focused on the canal building, water wheels, and shipping industry. The section also talks about the Industrial Revolution. Steam power began to be harnessed, and more efficient engines were developed. This allowed otherwise resource poor nations to begin to harness more power (England basically only had coal at this point, big perk). The third section basically discusses the rise of the American West (for a great book about this, check out Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water), the rise of toilets, and large scale dam/continental re-plumbing projects. Sanitation is a great thing, keeps many people alive and healthy, but it tends to be very water intensive. Definitely a way we can improve efficiency without lowering our standard of living. The large public dams of the 20th century are impressive, but probably not the best use of the resources. They're probably also an endangered species. The government is no longer able to command that kind of project scale, and the major rivers of the American west have all been dammed anyway. The author discusses the pros and cons of the large systems like that, and the impacts it has had on global water patterns, etc. The fourth section of the book discusses present and future water problems. It mainly focuses on the Middle East and India/China, but it also talks about water use in the west and what can be done to improve efficiency. In my mind he was a little biased towards the west, there are huge improvements we can make, and a little harsh on developing nations, but it's a global problem. Everyone could be doing a better job managing water than they already are, it's just a matter of a frame shift in thinking (which is notoriously difficult), cooperation, efficiency, and innovation all combined to solve arguably the largest problem facing humanity. Overall an interesting read, just presented rather dryly (probably like this review). The maps and pictures he included are interesting and helpful, and I think the subject matter is good, just ambitious. Definitely not light reading by any means. I would recommend this book to all my history and water geeks of the world. If you are interested but not one of those people, I recommend you get someone else to read and summarize for you.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Doug J.

    Great book! I take exception with the author on two counts. Firstly, he swallows hook line and sinker, the premise of Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring'. Yes, the book is credited with starting the environmental/green movement, and the author seemingly did no research to learn that much of Ms. Carson's book has been debunked and her mush of the research was faulty. Second disagreement is the author's contention that FDR's New Deal saved America from collapse; it didn't. Much new research points Great book! I take exception with the author on two counts. Firstly, he swallows hook line and sinker, the premise of Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring'. Yes, the book is credited with starting the environmental/green movement, and the author seemingly did no research to learn that much of Ms. Carson's book has been debunked and her mush of the research was faulty. Second disagreement is the author's contention that FDR's New Deal saved America from collapse; it didn't. Much new research points to fact that his policies extended the economic trauma caused by the 1929 stock market collapse. Still a great book on water history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    P D

    Any book that takes a mere thirty pages to mention Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ probably has a strong economic angle. I wasn’t surprised to see that Solomon writes for economy/business publications: this book is very centered around economic gain and exploitation. It’s not an unexpected view, but if you were looking for something entirely around the use of water in an engineering, ecological, social, or other scientific context this isn’t the book for you. It’s hard to argue with the central the Any book that takes a mere thirty pages to mention Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ probably has a strong economic angle. I wasn’t surprised to see that Solomon writes for economy/business publications: this book is very centered around economic gain and exploitation. It’s not an unexpected view, but if you were looking for something entirely around the use of water in an engineering, ecological, social, or other scientific context this isn’t the book for you. It’s hard to argue with the central thesis that water is essential to the expansion of civilization. I completely agree there: transportation, irrigation, disease, protection—all important things that contributed to population growth. Less moderate people will be less sanguine about his final argument, but more on that later. Overall, I think the entire section on the ancients should have been condensed to scattered paragraphs offering perspective in the later chapters about their modern counterpart states. While the long view is nice to have, the historiography there is lacking (and it stands out more because I read Al-Khalili right before this). There are a bunch of statements that have been either debunked within the past 15+ years (or where the literature has always maintained one tradition and the archeology contradicts it; I have no idea how you find these things out, I learned them in class) or that aren’t precisely conveyed. Past the ancient section, the historiography does seem to get better. I’m not as well informed on English history so I could be missing inaccuracies, but the second he gets to the Industrial Revolution, Solomon comes to life. Even the sections on the rise of mercantilism and the Age of Navigation aren’t as lively on this part; it’s clear what Solomon is interested in, and I would rather have a shorter (and, yes, easier) read than have those sections holding the narrative back. The interesting thing about Solmon’s perspective in describing each era is that he sticks to the view the people of those time held. When he got into the building of Boulder (later Hoover) dam and the dams across California, I was like ‘where is the environmental impact?!’ It’s later, in the bit when people realized that was a major issue. So you get the chance to be excited about technology the way contemporaries of these projects were, although of course I wasn’t because I knew what was ahead anyway. His final perspective on solving water problems is, not astonishingly, based around using the free market (economic incentives to save). He’s not convinced capitalism alone will fix everything, but he’s also not in favor of total governmental control. I liked the middle of the road approach he takes, although I’ve seen plenty of arguments against either side of it and it does need fine-tuning. As a whole, this book is a good read on key movements in the use of water, again with a very economic focus. Don’t consider the opening representative of the work as a whole.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fred Dameron

    We start with a review of the worlds use of water. How those places that were water rich developed more democratic and market driven systems for water use and supply. Those places where water required government intervention to build canals, dams, sluices, and provide irrigation have turned more totalitarian. How some combined states, China, used the central government to supply water from where it was to where it is needed. These states and there use of water have led to our current water issue We start with a review of the worlds use of water. How those places that were water rich developed more democratic and market driven systems for water use and supply. Those places where water required government intervention to build canals, dams, sluices, and provide irrigation have turned more totalitarian. How some combined states, China, used the central government to supply water from where it was to where it is needed. These states and there use of water have led to our current water issue. Mainly, we are running out of water. That each region of the planet will need to come up with it's own way to cushion the shock of lack of water. That it will take governments to do the infrastructure changes/repairs that the new water reality will require. But the only way for these repairs and or changes to the way we use water is to think of it as a commodity. It is here that I disagree. Water is a right that Government needs to control so that ALL people have equal access to water at a reasonable price. Even if this mean we have to have a higher tax rate to pay for water infrastructure. I don't believe in man kind using water in a benevolent manner to help his fellow man. Not with out a Government forcing his hand. Flint MI right now comes to mind. And Flint will be ALL of us in 10 to 15 years if we don't demand that our Government invest in water infrastructure, cleaning, punishment of those who abuse it, and fair distribution of the final clean product.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gerald Kinro

    Solomon summarizes a history of civilization to show the importance of water. In summary, water has been vital for drinking and food preparation, agriculture, sanitation, power and cooling, navigation and commerce, and protection. This is a very good review of world history, not something new to one’s knowledge base. I found it informative, and, for the most part, very interesting, especially when the author speaks of the increasing scarcity and water becoming the “new oil”. Unfortunately, I wan Solomon summarizes a history of civilization to show the importance of water. In summary, water has been vital for drinking and food preparation, agriculture, sanitation, power and cooling, navigation and commerce, and protection. This is a very good review of world history, not something new to one’s knowledge base. I found it informative, and, for the most part, very interesting, especially when the author speaks of the increasing scarcity and water becoming the “new oil”. Unfortunately, I wanted more. I struggled with it at times.rewarded. I felt there were problems with its structure. While both deal with the importance of water, ocean navigation and water for irrigation, seemed very awkward to be paired with each other. Perhaps ocean navigation should have been eliminated or the work rearranged to make it smoother. Second, it was wordy with too many cases of redundancy. I would have liked to see more discussion on groundwater since, at least in the United States, it is the largest source of drinking water. Third, since technology was introduced into the discussion, I would have liked to see more on emerging technology that remediates polluted water and desalinizes ocean water, especially if scarcity worsens and these purification technologies become necessary.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jock Mcclees

    The book covers a lot of territory but is very interesting. It starts with the earliest civilizations and how the use of water for agriculture was instrumental in the development and growth of those civilizations. It moves forward in time to the Roman Empire and along the way starts also including how transportation by water impacted the various civilizations and their interactions. Then to Europe and the Renaissance and how rainfall patterns and water availability led to growth, along with inno The book covers a lot of territory but is very interesting. It starts with the earliest civilizations and how the use of water for agriculture was instrumental in the development and growth of those civilizations. It moves forward in time to the Roman Empire and along the way starts also including how transportation by water impacted the various civilizations and their interactions. Then to Europe and the Renaissance and how rainfall patterns and water availability led to growth, along with innovations in sailing that gave them advantages. Then on to the Industrial Revolution and water use in the form of steam power. This seemed a bit of a stretch tying it into water and the rest of the book, but was interesting. Finally on the the US and water projects in the West and then into current problems with water availability and pollution. Water has been more important than oil through most of history and you could argue that it still is. Various sections could easily be expanded into books with more detail. However, I liked seeing the view over civilized history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Miles

    I read this book and thought it was an interesting theory on world history. It's sort of a Jared Diamond-type analysis of how a certain geographic characteristic had important implications on the course of history. "Water" focuses on different regions throughout different phases in history from ancient times to the present. I did not find the earlier chapters as interesting as the later chapters in which some of the puzzling economics of world water distribution are discussed. The book finishes w I read this book and thought it was an interesting theory on world history. It's sort of a Jared Diamond-type analysis of how a certain geographic characteristic had important implications on the course of history. "Water" focuses on different regions throughout different phases in history from ancient times to the present. I did not find the earlier chapters as interesting as the later chapters in which some of the puzzling economics of world water distribution are discussed. The book finishes with a somewhat dire picture of what's in the near future if current water policy remains unchanged. Solomon's thesis is compelling, but the justification ranges from obvious to the dubious. In some places there's a chicken-or-egg dilemma; did a culture succeed because water resources were available, or did they succeed because they were clever enough to figure out innovative ways to master it? This is not fully explained to my satisfaction in places.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Loren

    Very well written, comprehensive book covering the role of water and hydrological developments in human history. Text covers the role of irrigation and maritime commerce on early civilizations, as well as how the abundance or scarcity of water affected the development of different cultures, and finally, the role of steam power, dams, and water transfer between different hydrological regions. The author strives to maintain an air of objectivity - unlike some texts on the subject, the book does no Very well written, comprehensive book covering the role of water and hydrological developments in human history. Text covers the role of irrigation and maritime commerce on early civilizations, as well as how the abundance or scarcity of water affected the development of different cultures, and finally, the role of steam power, dams, and water transfer between different hydrological regions. The author strives to maintain an air of objectivity - unlike some texts on the subject, the book does not reflexively promote or demonize free market or state sponsored solutions to water policy. Rather, problems and benefits associated with these systems are both presented, with the author noting that a one size fits all solution does not exist. A bit long in places, but overall, a good and thought-provoking read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Khalid

    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. 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, the Roman Empire, medieval China, and Islam’s golden age to Europ 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. 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, the Roman Empire, medieval China, and Islam’s golden age to Europe’s rise, the steam-powered Industrial Revolution, and America’s century. Today, freshwater scarcity is one of the twenty-first century’s decisive, looming challenges and is driving the new political, economic, and environmental realities across the globe.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brinley

    This takes an interesting approach to reading into current water politics by re-visiting prominent ancient civilizations throughout world history, and explaining how their water environment led to certain policies, innovations, and wars. While the breadth of each topic/country could be its own tome, I felt like this was coherent enough to gain some really interesting insights and connections that lead into the present. The only thing lacking were insights into the future, but that might've been This takes an interesting approach to reading into current water politics by re-visiting prominent ancient civilizations throughout world history, and explaining how their water environment led to certain policies, innovations, and wars. While the breadth of each topic/country could be its own tome, I felt like this was coherent enough to gain some really interesting insights and connections that lead into the present. The only thing lacking were insights into the future, but that might've been intentionally left out to leave the focus on how we arrived in our current state of serious water deprivation, making it clear that each water problem must be solved on a local watershed level, rather than trying to make sweeping generalizations to apply to every environment.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brian Roberts

    A very interesting book. Part world history as relating to water use; part description of the current state of water usage in the world; and part prediction of the growing conflicts revolving around water rights. The majority of the book considers water a food-growing resource, with some irrigation canals serving a secondary purpose of transportation link. I felt the sections about water as a military obstacle (George Washington crossed the Delaware!) and world commerce path (boats sail over the A very interesting book. Part world history as relating to water use; part description of the current state of water usage in the world; and part prediction of the growing conflicts revolving around water rights. The majority of the book considers water a food-growing resource, with some irrigation canals serving a secondary purpose of transportation link. I felt the sections about water as a military obstacle (George Washington crossed the Delaware!) and world commerce path (boats sail over the ocean!) stretched the main point of the book. Overall, a satisfying read with an amazing amount of detail of water and its impact.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Tas

    A strong history lesson in humanity's use of water to propel civilizations. Does an excellent job of laying out groundwork for how different civilizations with different social and governmental structures controlled and used water for their purposes. Each sections works well, with some focusing on technology, and other focusing on society. Never really feels like in coalesces into a whole, and while it doesn't quite downplay the scarcity problems we will soon face, doesn't really dive hard into A strong history lesson in humanity's use of water to propel civilizations. Does an excellent job of laying out groundwork for how different civilizations with different social and governmental structures controlled and used water for their purposes. Each sections works well, with some focusing on technology, and other focusing on society. Never really feels like in coalesces into a whole, and while it doesn't quite downplay the scarcity problems we will soon face, doesn't really dive hard into the urgency of the issues. However, this is definitely an important read for those hoping to understand or get a better understanding of how we are heading towards the coming crisis.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A really fascinating survey of water use throughout history -- and how civilization is closely tied to the ability to manage water resources. A good two-thirds of this book is devoted to really old history -- lots about the Egyptians, Babylonians, ancient Chinese, for example -- but it makes a fairly powerful case that civilizations that can provide adequate, non-polluted (or non-salinized, in the case of earlier civilizations) to their people flourish and those that neglect to do so break down. A really fascinating survey of water use throughout history -- and how civilization is closely tied to the ability to manage water resources. A good two-thirds of this book is devoted to really old history -- lots about the Egyptians, Babylonians, ancient Chinese, for example -- but it makes a fairly powerful case that civilizations that can provide adequate, non-polluted (or non-salinized, in the case of earlier civilizations) to their people flourish and those that neglect to do so break down. all of which makes the final chapters about an emerging water crisis more ominous.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Diane C.

    Interesting how looking at history from a certain and different perspective can bring it alive in a way you've not experienced it before. This book did that for me. Of course we know civilizations tended to spring up by lakes, rivers and oceans, but this book brings everything together, starting with ancient history right up to 20th century, in a fresh and brilliant way. If you are concerned about the water shortage on its way, or love reading history made accessible and enjoyable, read this book Interesting how looking at history from a certain and different perspective can bring it alive in a way you've not experienced it before. This book did that for me. Of course we know civilizations tended to spring up by lakes, rivers and oceans, but this book brings everything together, starting with ancient history right up to 20th century, in a fresh and brilliant way. If you are concerned about the water shortage on its way, or love reading history made accessible and enjoyable, read this book! It's not a scary book about how we're going to die from lack of water.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nyna

    What an excellent book. The first half of the book covers the major advances in civilization that were the result of new uses of water, starting in the Fertile Valley. It covers travel, agriculture, drinking and sanitation and their effects on population growth and power. The second half of the book covers the problems with current practices, the future of water shortages and the possible paths to solutions, their effects, the possible challenges to those solutions, the possible results of a lac What an excellent book. The first half of the book covers the major advances in civilization that were the result of new uses of water, starting in the Fertile Valley. It covers travel, agriculture, drinking and sanitation and their effects on population growth and power. The second half of the book covers the problems with current practices, the future of water shortages and the possible paths to solutions, their effects, the possible challenges to those solutions, the possible results of a lack of solutions. Well thought out and informative book. I highly recommend it.

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