Water Wars

Water Wars: Science Fiction?

Water Wars – the phase itself suggests a blockbuster science fiction action film.  In fact, there actually is an Emmy award-winning, animated science fiction television series entitled, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, created by George Lucas and based on his wildly popular Star Wars films, that incorporates battle scenes taking place in the ocean waters on the imaginary Ocean Planet, Dac. Broadcast on the Cartoon Network and Disney XD, the series ran from Oct., 2008 – March, 2013.

 Water War Scene From Episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars


Water War Scene From Episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

However (and sadly), the growing number of references to the phrase, “Water Wars,” that have been cropping up in the print and broadcast media for years are not referring to science fiction battles taking place in water but to the very likely possibility of real wars being fought in the near future over water resources that are predicted to become increasingly scarce as populations grow and the planet warms.

Water Wars: The Real Ones

A simple search on Google using the phrase, Water Wars, brings up hundreds of references to predicted (and current) 21st Century conflicts over water, including in-depth articles, full-length books, graphic illustrations, documentary films and even lesson plans for teachers. Sources include national and international newspapers and on-line journals/blogs as well as broadcast media, including, among many others, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Scientific American, The Guardian, National Public Radio, National GeographicPrinceton University and Aljazeera.  An especially effective graphic interpretation of the concept posted on Al-Sharq al-Awsat is shown below.

 The Next Weapon


“The Next Weapon,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 2010

Although each of the print and broadcast references draws attention to different geo-political, economic or human aspects of the issues surrounding the predicted dearth of future water resources, William Finnegan, in his 2002 article in The New Yorker, entitled, Letter from Bolivia: Leasing the Rain summarizes the fundamental facts as follows:

The world is running out of fresh water. There’s water everywhere, of course, but less than three per cent of it is fresh, and most of that is locked up in polar ice caps and glaciers, unrecoverable for practical purposes. Lakes, rivers, marshes, aquifers, and atmospheric vapor make up less than one per cent of the earth’s total water, and people are already using more than half of the accessible runoff. Water demand, on the other hand, has been growing rapidly—it tripled worldwide between 1950 and 1990—and water use in many areas already exceeds nature’s ability to recharge supplies. By 2025, the demand for water around the world is expected to exceed supply by fifty-six per cent.

In response to the growing concern about future wars and potential terror threats over water, the U.S. intelligence agencies, at the request of the State Department, created a report in 2012, entitled, Global Water Security. Designed to determine how water problems (shortages, poor water quality and floods) will impact US national security over the next 30 years, the report states that “water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national interests… and as water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives will become more likely”

Water Wars: Our Call

I am calling attention to the threat of future Water Wars in The Wave blog, just as Elena and I are calling attention to all existing water issues through The Wave Project, so that we can encourage, in our small way, the development of partnerships among entities sharing water resources as well as technological, economic and political solutions to water problems rather than violent conflict.

And because it’s been on my mind for a while, I began a series of drawings entitled, “The Last Frontier,”which depict my ‘take’ on the topic of Water Wars. Shown below is the third of six drawings that I’ve completed to date.

"The Last Frontier, #3" Susan Hoffman Fishman, Mixed Media on Syn Skin, 2013

“The Final Frontier, #3″ © Susan Hoffman Fishman, Mixed Media on Syn Skin, 2013

 

A Global Ocean Tragedy

Marine Debris

In our very first blog post on February 11, 2013, I referred to the vast amounts of debris that has washed ashore off the coast of Alaska and been identified as remnants from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.  But marine debris is by no means confined to Alaska’s waterfront or the result of a single event.  All of the world’s oceans and coastlines are inundated with trash, much of which is discarded plastic sweeping into the habitats of millions of animals and dramatically impacting our natural environment.

 Debris Off the Coast of Alaska from the Japanese Tsunami, 2013


Debris Off the Coast of Alaska from the Japanese Tsunami, 2013

“Gyre: The Plastic Ocean”

In an effort to call attention to what they refer to as “a global ocean tragedy,” The Alaska Sea Life Center and the Anchorage Museum have partnered to develop an innovative exhibition entitled, “Gyre: The Plastic Ocean.”  Twenty one artists from around the world were invited to participate in an expedition that combined scientific exploration with the creation of art incorporating ocean trash that they collected along the coast of South Central Alaska during the voyage. The term, ‘gyre,’ in the exhibition’s title signifies the large, swirling vortexes within the oceans that propel and disperse the debris worldwide.

Here are some images from the Gyre sea voyage showing the massive clean-up effort and the beginnings of the works of art that resulted from it.

 Gyre Artist Developing a Composition of Trash


Gyre Artist Developing a Composition of Trash

 Image of the Variety of Plastic Trash Found on the Expedition


Image of the Variety of Plastic Trash Found on the Expedition

 Artists and scientists removing trash from the Alaskan shore


Artists and scientists removing trash from the Alaskan shore

 Trash Boat


Trash Boat

In an astounding video of the Gyre expedition, produced by National Geographic, one of the artists refers to the plastic trash as the “cultural archaeology of our time, haunting the natural world in a terrifying way.” She went on to say that “there’s never been a society that’s produced so much material culture but taken the least responsibility for it,” and that “the action of cleaning a beach changes you – puts you in a position of care,” rather than as a mere bystander to the problem.

I was very much inspired by the Gyre expedition and the artists who participated in it. The exhibition will run from Feb. 7 through Sept. 6 at the Anchorage Museum and then travel to other locations worldwide.