Cycling, science diplomacy, and the fresh water crisis

April 12, 2013

Shared Borders Shared Waters: Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin Water Challenges by Sharon B. Megdal, Robert G. Varady, and Susanna Eden (CRC Press, 2013)

Shared BordersOf course, I gave my permission when Susanna Eden, PhD, asked if she could use my photo of the San Pedro River as cover art on a new book entitled Shared Borders Shared Waters. I had taken the picture from the bridge on Arizona Highway 82 near Tombstone, while bicycling through the region on PAC Tour’s desert camp. Later, I had used it on blogs about roads and rivers in Southern Arizona.

Eden and two colleagues at the University of Arizona were editing a forthcoming book on Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin Water Challenges. My photo would be paired with one of the Jordan River. My photo, by the way, is the one on the lower right corner of the book.

Since I have always thought of myself as a writer rather than a photographer, I was surprised by the request and therefore all the readier to give my consent.

Furthermore, the topic of their book interests me greatly. While living in Arizona for several post-retirement years, and as I continue cycling there during the winters, I have become increasingly aware of the history of crises because of water in the arid Southwest. My one tour of Israel and Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) alerted me to the impending ecological, political, and human crisis that is forming in that region because of the limited supply of fresh water.

Eden and her colleagues show the similarity of the Arizona-Mexico and Israel-Palestine ecosystems and the resultant issues over fresh water. Cycling through places like Arizona and West Texas, where the pressures are mounting quickly gives me a heightened awareness of the challenges facing human society everywhere. In a land with little precipitation, limited aquifers, and rapidly growing population, something has to give.

The book is based on the Arizona, Israeli, and Palestinian Water Management and Policy Workshop that too place at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 2009. Sponsors included UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme and three centers at the University: the Water Resources Research Center, the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Financial support came from several sources.

Since my copy of Shared Borders Shared Waters has just arrived, I have had time to read only a few pages. Clearly, it is a substantial book, with chapters by thirty contributors from around the world. At some point in the future, I will write more about the ideas, issues, and conclusions in the book.

It is a substantial volume, replete with charts, graphs, and photos, many in color. The “normal price” is $99.95, but if you order it before May 15, 2013, you can buy it for $79.00, with free shipping. Ordering information appears on the advertising card below.

One aspect of the book, which the editors call “science diplomacy,” is especially interesting to me. Here’ how they describe it:

“Across the world, the history of contentious water issues confirms that the resolution of such issues can engender collaboration rather than divisiveness. Experience has shown that researchers who are sensitive to sociopolitical conditions often can help avoid or resolve conflict by serving as neutral experts, offering assistance through reasoned, independent analysis” (p. xii).

This kind of science we need. And more diplomacy like this, too!

Shared Borders