Too Important to Fight Over

Potomac RiverToday is World Water Day, and I must confess: water is my favorite. It’s life, it’s connection, it’s interdependence, it’s sacred.

And while I am certainly no water expert, I am definitely a water nerd. In honor of this day that is filled with so much daunting news about the global water crisis and its relationship to basically every justice, economic, and resource topic that matters, I thought it would be a good time to share a more encouraging outlook on the state of the world’s water.

Dr. Aaron Wolf is a water scholar and international water conflict mediator based at Oregon State University. His work (and generous willingness to mentor me in the last year) has made a big impact on my water outlook. What fascinates me most about Aaron’s research is his willingness to cross disciplinary lines. He’s a trained scientist who’s interested in how water unites people across cultural, religious, and national differences. For example—in your religious tradition, is water holy?

For the vast majority of people on this planet, the answer is yes. That’s a mighty powerful fact. Aaron’s research has explored what that fact can mean for resolving water conflicts around the globe. Even—especially—in some of the most conflicted regions of the planet.

Here’s an excerpt from an article about Aaron’s work in the Utne Reader. At a time when so much news about water is discouraging, I hope in his ideas you’ll discover a reason or two to see the glass half-full, as I have:

“Aaron has shifted the way the whole world thinks about water,” says Anthony Turton, a political scientist and expert on transboundary water resources management. Wolf, a professor at OSU’s department of geosciences, founded and directs a postgraduate program in which economists, engineers, and ecologists add water-conflict resolution to their skill sets. He developed and coordinates the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database, a compilation of more than 400 water-related treaties accompanied by maps, negotiating notes, background materials, and related news stories.

The database demonstrates that while violent conflicts over water are rare, peaceful interactions abound. “We are finding that water, rather than being the driver of conflict, is the one resource that unites people. It is simply too important to fight over,” Turton says.

You can read the whole article about Aaron’s work here: http://www.utne.com/Politics/Water-War-Peace-Conflict-Negotiations-Hope.aspx#ixzz2OJ7F4Gqt

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