With an estimated half of China’s economy based in water-scarce regions, it’s not surprising that China is buying up water-rich woodland in Japan that sells for 60 cents a square meter—including the groundwater. Japanese leaders should read Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization by Steven Solomon.
Japan is one of the most water-rich countries in the world. “America and other leading industrial democracies have not yet fully awakened to the era’s defining water challenge—or to their own strategic advantages in a world order being recast by water scarcity and ecosystem depletion,” writes Solomon.
The book is a riveting and ultimately hopeful historical account of how “every era has been shaped by its response to the great water challenge of its time…. “Looking back over time brings into relief the close association between breakthrough water innovations and many of the turning points of world history.”
The book’s historical perspective sheds light on the way forward. “Momentous innovations in water history only become clear in hindsight, after they have meandered and permeated through society’s many layers, catalyzing chain reactions in technologies, organizations, and spirit that sometimes combine in new alignments to foment changes transformational enough to alter the trajectory and destinies of societies and civilizations….”
The best solution to the water crisis, Solomon states, is “a pricing mechanism for valuing water that reflects both the full cost of sustaining ecosystems through externally imposed environmental standards and a social fairness guarantee for everyone to receive at affordable cost the minimum amounts necessary for their basic needs.” Accomplishing that would be an unprecedented achievement.