As a New Year Dawns, A Reflection on Water

Amethyst Brook flows through Amherst, Massachusetts, in the Connecticut River watershed. photo by Sandra Postel
Amethyst Brook flows through Amherst, Massachusetts, in the Connecticut River watershed. photo by Sandra Postel

Some months ago, I was asked to contribute to an anthology focused on a basic question about our planet’s future.

The question was this:  “Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

My charge was to respond with no more than 250 words; of course, I chose to write about water.

As 2014 begins, I thought I’d share these words.  They reflect, I hope, the profound shift in consciousness that is needed if we are to ensure that enough water is provided for all living things long into the future.

In a world divided by race, tribe, gender, religion and so much more, it is water that connects us all.

The molecules of H2O that comprise sixty percent of each of us have circulated across space and time throughout the ages.  They move through the air, the trees, the birds and bees, and through you and me – and may have quenched a dinosaur’s thirst so very long ago.

So, yes, there is hope.  It is that we will know the soft rain and flowing water as the undeserved but precious gifts of life that they are – gifts to be shared among all living things.  And that this knowing will unite us to humbly take our place in the planet’s great cycles with respect for all that is, has ever been, and will ever be.

If we let it, this knowing changes everything.

As I reach to buy a cotton shirt, I think of the plants and insects whose existence might have been sustained by the seven hundred gallons of water consumed to make the shirt, and I retract my arm, go home filled with gratitude, and enjoy the evening birdsong with new depths of pleasure.

— Sandra Postel, invited contribution to the Global Chorus, Rocky Mountain Books, expected release in Fall 2014.


Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project, Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and author of several books and numerous articles on global water issues.  She is co-creator of Change the Course, the national freshwater conservation and restoration campaign being piloted in the Colorado River Basin.

Sandra Postel directs the independent Global Water Policy Project and lectures, writes, and consults on international water issues. She is also Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and serves as lead water expert for the Society’s freshwater initiative. Sandra is the author of several acclaimed books, including the award-winning Last Oasis, the basis for a PBS documentary. Her essay “Troubled Waters” was selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing. Sandra is a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, and has been named one of the “Scientific American 50” for her contributions to water policy.

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