“We are reversing the water cycle that has flowed in one direction since the beginning of Earth.”

The upshot is that in the twenty-first century, our species will be subjected to global water torture: alternately raising unaffordable dikes to hold it back, then desperately trying to coax it from any possible source. But like topsoil, there is no practical way to create more fresh water. Removing salt from seawater – the result of millions of years of rain and runoff dissolving rocks en route to the sea—is undercut by the cost of the energy required, and defeated by the distance that separates most arable land from the oceans. Desalination may be the most literal example of how the technological species that we’ve become stands in defiance of nature: As University of California–Santa Cruz Director of Integrated Water Research Brent Haddad told the Santa Cruz Sentinel after a seven-year study of the economic and ecological effects of desalination, “We are reversing the water cycle that has flowed in one direction since the beginning of Earth.”

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? [Amazon]

June 30, 2014
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