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Posts Tagged ‘water crisis’

Not a day goes by, without yet another report on the growing risks posed by the increasing scarcity of water. Today’s report is from the Pacific Institute: Water Scarcity & Climate Change: Growing Risks for Businesses & Investors and CERES.

Taking agriculture/food, the sector of interest to me, the applicable risks fall as follow:

Physical Risks Reputational Risks Regulatory Risks

water-risks_food-sector_ceres-study

Growers are going to need all the help they can get to adapt to more and more unpredictable water supply and weather patterns. Not one but a combination of strategies will be required to mitigate risk. Prediction models, risk management tools, sensing networks, smart irrigation scheduling systems, efficient water pricing and delivery, accurate water tracking, incentives for the installation of smart water management infrastructure,   all will have a part to play. And it will take the collaboration of federal, state, business, and private land owners to make it happen.

If you want to assess your company’s exposure to water risk, you can start here.

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I know, I know, the economy and partisan politics have taken over our conversations, leaving little room for anything else, let alone problems that are still removed from the reality of our lives. Huge global issues such as the water crisis. A chance business meeting with a friend, about to launch a new water efficiency venture, got me thinking about water. Just as with deforestation, and biodiversity loss, I am shocked by the magnitude of the problem, and the corresponding relative inaction to curb it.

The water crisis raises some critical questions about water economics, water ethics, water technology, water efficiency, water conservation, water waste, water inequities, water rights, water laws, water politics, water awareness . . . all of which need to be addressed at the various appropriate levels.

As with other global environmental issues, it is easy to feel lost as an individual citizen.  Yet, there is lots one can do to favorably impact the situation:

  • boycott bottled water
  • conserve water at home, and other places
  • blog about it, and also comment on other blogs
  • support watchdog organizations such as Food and Water Watch
  • support legislation to encourage water conservation and efficiency
  • share problem and possible solutions with friends

You may also want to go see “Flow”,  Irena Salina’s recently released documentary on water,

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Earlier this week, Erik Hershman, co-founder of Ushahidi, presented his project to our Stanford Peace 2.0 group.

Talk about exciting stuff! Ushahidi is a brilliant example of smart web and mobile technology put to the service of a very worthwhile social cause, in this case violence in Kenya. What enthralled me, was Erik’s announcement of the soon to be released, Ushahidi 2.0, ‘a free, open source version, rebuilt from the ground up that anyone will be able to use around the world’. Ushahidi just won the 2008 NetSquared Challenge

I can very well see having several Ushahidi sites, to cover various aspects of the climate  crisis, from food, to water, to natural disasters, to the witnessing of environmental deterioration. This way, citizens from all over the world can become live witnesses of the negative changes taking place in their environment, and get connected with the solutions to remedy these changes. 

Erik is also the guy behind Afrigadget, another project well worth checking out. 

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All the Earth Day circus put me in no mood to celebrate. Still, last night I attended an Earth Day event, sponsored by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), two organizations that I am very proud to support. Robert Redford was the main speaker. He was one of my idols, growing up, and I did not want to miss a chance to meet the man in person. Mr. Redford did not disappoint me. I came out of the evening with a renewed sense of commitment, and wishing that more people could have heard him live. Here is a video of a similar talk that he gave for the Apollo Project:

During his Earth Day speech, Robert Redford emphasized again the power of optimism, and of dwelling on opportunities and solutions. ‘America doesn’t do well with doom and gloom. Let’s get off how bad it is. Let’s get on with what can be done.‘ Robert Redford’s new push is on water and the need for quick solutions to the unfolding worldwide water shortage. For those of you also interested in water, click here.

Robert Redford is the perfect eco-hero, someone with the power to inspire through his example, and who has walked his talk for forty years. I can’t help but compare him with Al Gore. Although I am a big fan of Al, my response to his discourse is very different. Al Gore appeals to my intellect. Robert Redford grabs my heart and inspires my whole being to go further and to act.

The power of example.

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Coming from JWT, my old place of work, the Ten Trends for 2008 Report has declared, ‘Blue Is the New Green‘ as one of the most significant trends for 2008:

From the 1980s onward, green has symbolized the embrace of jungles and wetlands and owls and dolphins as well as people. But even green has started to feel too limited. It’s now a subset of blue, which is coming to denote the much larger emerging new spirit of good-citizen ethics.

Environmentally, blue (denoting water) is becoming as big an issue as green (forests). The era of apparently limitless clean water supplies is ending. All over the world groundwater aquifers are getting depleted or becoming salinated. Rivers are facing overexploitation, pollution and silting. Oil spills, floating garbage, industrial pollution and algae blooms are impacting seas everywhere.

A recent report from the International Water Management Institute says that if today’s food production and environmental trends continue, water crises are likely to crop up in many parts of the world. Craig Donohue, chief executive of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, predicts that water could become a commodity on futures exchanges in much the same way as carbon emissions are traded today.

As it stands, hundreds of millions in the developing world have no clean water. Soon millions more in the developed world won’t be able to take clean water for granted either. Water management and conservation will rise up the agendas of governments and corporations around the world.

Water just might become the next oil. Yet there’s one key difference between the two precious commodities: While there are some alternatives to oil, there’s no alternative to water.

Beyond the water crisis, “blue” is becoming more prevalent in our consciousness. Take nature documentaries, the consumer agenda-setters of environmentalism. One of the first notable natural history series of the 21st century was The Blue Planet, produced by the BBC in conjunction with the Discovery Channel. It explored the oceans, which cover two-thirds of the planet, and put the notion of “environment” into a broad context for viewers. It played to audiences that were becoming increasingly familiar with satellite images of weather systems sweeping in from the blue of the seas.

Then in August 2005, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the United States got more people thinking about the environment on a big scale. Politicians and programmers started taking a serious interest in far-off glaciers and ice sheets, and the media was filled with images of blue-white ice framed by clear blue skies and icy blue sea.

Climate change has quickly become the driver of environmentalism 2.0, and consumers all over the world understand that climate is all about the seas and the sky—both blue. Environmentalism 2.0 is already a much bigger political and consumer issue than the 1.0 version, which was largely about issues such as deforestation, the ozone layer, pollution and biodiversity. And in some ways it is more immediate: While many people have never seen a rainforest, water is everywhere and conservation is more immediately actionable.

Almost unconsciously it seems, organizations and tastemakers have been tuning in to the shift from green to blue. Mercedes-Benz has patented its latest emissions-reducing technology for diesel as “Bluetec“. In the U.K., environmental specialists are favoring blue graphics and terminology, such as Level Blue Limited, a sustainability and environmental management services provider. In France, the “Pavillon Bleu” (blue flag) is awarded to towns and pleasure ports that meet all-around environmental standards, and the Blue Plan is a French-based project working toward a sustainable future for the Mediterranean.

Somehow, “blue” terminology and graphics suggest environmental responsibility in a more contemporary and credible way than “green.” It’s as if “green” became too strongly associated with “tree huggers” and the “beards and sandals” ethos of earlier environmentalism and with brands going through the motions of environmentalism (greenwashing). Now corporations embracing environmentalism can adopt “blue” without looking as though they’re jumping on the green bandwagon.

I agree with the report. Our blue planet is ill with a high fever, and there is more to saving it than plain old environmentalism. It is going to take a worldwide movement involving the whole citizenry to heal it. The good news is, all over we can see signs of citizens rising and starting to take action. Blue citizens – I just made up that word – from all walks of life. Lee Prescott at Wal-Mart, Al Gore, the Episcopal Church, eco-geeks all over the Internet, as in Do the Green Thing, U.S. Mayors, . . . All standing up for the planet, and the human race.

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