Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Back to the Future

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An ancient recipe:

Collect/Recycle/Use frugally. Apply to cities and rural areas.

These simple guidelines could resolve a lot of water issues in developed and developing countries where water is still an abundant resource.

Regions with water scarcity have for years had their own fine-tuned procedures for water management, but it seems that in today’s world fine-tuning is an almost abandoned attitude.

The general question is really this: when will we change our habits of inefficient water management and water usage to accomplish maximum usage with minimum waste? Two showers per day is one too many.

Without the proper harnessing of this valuable commodity we will continue to be a world in water crisis. One in eight of the world’s population doesn’t have access to safe water.

Urban centers could better utilize (ancient) green technology to achieve fine-tuning of their water consumption, following the guidelines of permaculture and sustainable urban development. One can get a good overview from Biotope-City.

By distributing water management responsibilities to smaller units (like groups of houses, or single office buildings or factories), cities all over the world could reduce water consumption and reduce drastically the amount of water being brought in from outside sources. Rural areas could go back to diversified, organic usage of the land and re-introduce simple yet proven ancient techniques of irrigation and filtration to achieve a high level of resourcefulness and productivity.

The fact that traditional (= low tech) methods can be very effective is demonstrated by a local community in Sri Lanka where they plant trees around wells. The roots of the trees purify the toxic ground water. A very simple method of providing clean drinking water.

On the other hand, in Kenya the Maasai are working with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to use innovative nuclear and isotopic techniques along with drip irrigation to carefully manage the use of water in crop irrigation so there will be less pressure on the water supply, and therefore more available for regular everyday human usage for sanitation, cooking and washing. Here a video that further explains what “nuclear and isotopic techniques” are, and here fact sheets for even more details. “Nuclear and isotopic techniques” sounds for the layman somewhat suspicious, but it basically means methods to evaluate the water’s quality and content as well as soil moisture.

As shown in the few examples here, no solution fits all: a careful evaluation of the local situation, harnessing traditional knowledge and building relationships with grass root organizations is often the most effective way to help. Alas it needs fine-tuning.

Links utilized in this article are primarily from United Nations sources.

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Egon Zippel Twitter: ezinnycEgon

1960 Born in Timisoara, Rumania 1964 Family moved to Germany 1981 – 83, 1986 - 88 University of Mannheim, Germany, communication design and advertising, diploma. 1984 – 85 Fulbright scholarship, Georgetown University, Washington D.C. and University of Texas, Austin. 1985 Traveling scholarship to Mexico from the Institute of International Education. 1985 – 86 New York, New York Institute of Technology, computer graphics 1986 – 91 Moves back to Germany, starts to work and show as conceptual artist. 1991 – 93 Moves to Milan, Italy. 1993 – 94 Postgraduate studies at Staedel Frankfurt Art Academy / Institute for New Media with Peter Weibel. 1996 – present Lives and works in New York.