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Download Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? (Environmental Alert Series) epub

by Sandra Postel

The overriding lesson from history is that most irrigation-based civilizations fail. As we enter the third millennium the question arises: Will ours be any different?

For 6,000 years, irrigation has ranked among the most powerful tools of human advancement. The story of settled agriculture, the growth of cities, and the rise of early empires is, to no small degree, a story of controlling water to make the land more prosperous and habitable. Pillar of Sand examines the history, challenges, and pitfalls of irrigated agriculture ― from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to twentieth-century India and the United States. By unmasking the risks faced by irrigation-based societies ― including water scarcity, soil salinization, and conflicts over rivers ― water specialist Sandra Postel connects the lessons of the past with the challenge of making irrigation thrive into the twenty-first century and beyond. Protecting rivers and vital ecosystems as the world aims to feed 8 billion people will require a doubling of water productivity ― getting twice as much benefit from each gallon removed from rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Pillar of Sand points the way toward managing the growing competition for scarce water. And it lays out a strategy for correcting a startling flaw of the modern irrigation age ― its failure to better the lives of the majority of the world's poorest farmers. Illustrations, maps
Download Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? (Environmental Alert Series) epub
ISBN: 0393319377
ISBN13: 978-0393319378
Category: Science
Subcategory: Agricultural Sciences
Author: Sandra Postel
Language: English
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 17, 1999)
Pages: 320 pages
ePUB size: 1466 kb
FB2 size: 1199 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 127
Other Formats: lrf mobi docx txt

Sandra Postel goes well beyond a simple answer to the question posed by her subtitle 'Can the Irrigation Miracle last?' This book is an important resource for anybody trying to understand why water scarcity is such a major and escalating problem at the dawn of this century. Rather than adding to the generalist debate of the economists on water as a commodity or the projection into future problems presented by policy analysts and environmentalists, Postel analyzes particular examples in the past to explain the present and to make recommendations for the future.
Postel opens by reviewing major early societies in history, from Mesopotamia to Babylon, Egypt to ancient China, showing how they developed into major civilizations and why they fell. Yes, fell. Almost all great irrigation-based civilizations (Egypt being a rare exception) collapsed as a result of reallocation and overuse of water resources resulting in salinization, silting, soil degradation, etc.
Have we learned any lessons form the past? Postel argues that it does not seem so. She gives a factual account of a wide range of irrigation systems of the modern era, comparing methodologies and results to those in the past. The development of huge irrigation areas in India (Punjab), China and the US have either already demonstrated a repeat of the old mistakes or will do so in the near future. The groundwater tables are overused without being replenished and aquifers are tapped that have little chance to recover even in the long term. She describes two kinds of water wars: farms versus cities and nature and irrigation versus water scarcity. Water is reallocated and shifted from one use to another, but in some way, we are all living downstream from somebody else. Robbing Peter to pay Paul has its limits: the earth's fresh water resources are finite.
Against the backdrop of increasing water scarcity around the globe, Postel sees as humanity's main challenge the growing of enough food for our future population in a sustainable manner. She describes the pitfalls and the short-term fixes that will result in even greater problems in the future. At the same time, given the substantial increase in crop yield thanks to irrigation, she is realistic in her assessment that agriculture will not be able to do without it. As a result, the objective will have to be to reduce the amount of water we use for agriculture while at the same time producing more crop per drop of water.
Postel has traveled the world to review water systems, big and small, wasteful and efficient. Water needs saving in all areas of use, industrial, private and in agriculture. As agriculture uses by far the most of the global water resources, savings here will have major impacts down the line. She demonstrates on the basis of examples and statistics what is possible and how irrigation in agriculture can become highly effective and water conserving and restraint. She touches on the need to develop 'water-thrifty' plants, but, unfortunately, does not examine the traditional African crop varieties that are known to be drought tolerant and pest resistant. Postel appears to underestimate the importance of crop biodiversity; focusing on 'major' crops like wheat, maize and rice. Traditional farming systems developed in the earth's drylands could teach modern agriculture some important lessons.
Her main conclusion is that water management systems, whether public or private are most successful when they involve the local users and are based on a fair sharing of water resources at the community levels. Water markets and water trading provide options for the future as long as there is a fair and equitable basis for water access and use.
'Pillar of Sand' is clearly presented and easy to read. It will remain an important book in the intensifying debates around water use and mis-use, the increasing tension around demands between agriculture and other uses, and the privatization of water resource systems and the right of human beings to have the essential water they need to live.
I'm an agronomist and I read this book here in Brazil.As an agronomist,even unemployed today, I must read, about my profession.

If you aren't an expert, this book will be an excelent choice.Irrigation is a very important subject.About 40% of world's food comes from irrigated crops.Even so, only about 15-17% of agriculture in the world is under irrigation.In Brazil, as in USA just about 4% of agriculture, uses irrigation.

This book is concise and very usefull.

I must tell you that this isn't a book for farmers or agronomists.It's for general public reading.

The problem is if you are an expert, about this subject.As an agronomist, I found some minor problems in this book.At first, the author, Ms. Sandral Porcel, even showing irrigations problems in places such as old and new Iraq, communist China, modern Egipt and former Aral sea (now just an useless desert); she doesn't shows how bad government by strong men leaves irrigation, to a terrible result.

Old and new Iraq were ever misfortuned.There was a nature's problem among climate and soil in Iraq.Even so, in any time, terrible government, was the Iraq's rule.Luckly, there's many oil in Iraq, but when this oil will be over, the iraqis will be by far more misfortuned than today.

Communist China was misfortuned by his mad tirant, Mao Tse-Tung.In just 30 years of mad govern, Mao sent to death about 70,000,000 chineses.And irrigation in China, was misfortuned by this mad communist.Today China is by far, at least ten times more rich, but even so, China has no freedom.In fact, China never had any freedom in his thousands years very old history.

Modern Egipt inherited an Allah's gift:Nile and his silt.Every year, Nile rive had a flood.Every year, this flood gave fertilizers and made desalinization.All at no cost, in money or man's labor.In 1960 decade then living Egipt's dictator Gamal A. Nasser, with the USSR's money, support and material made the Assuam dam.Even producing electricity at very low price and puting the anual Nile's flood into history, this dam also finished with profitable fishing in many parts of Egipt.Even bigger problems, that came with this dam are salinization and many deseases.

Former Aral Sea in former USSR was, a terrible chapter in Soviet's ecocide.At least so terrible as Tchernobyl's nuclear nightmare.In 1917, the Aral sea was full of life.Even in 1950 there was a very great and profitable fishing at that sea.With Moscow's orders, almost all water who went to Aral sea was put to be used for irrigation.At terrible eficience's rates of water, the Aral sea began to be over.In 1980 decade, Aral sea was nothing more than a part of history.Hundreds of species of fishs and marine life, all particular, in the World were extincted forever.And the cotton irrigation was producing salted lands, without no profits at all.

Irrigation itself wan't the problem, in any of these cases.The real problem was dictatorship, the lack of freddom.If Egipt is misfortuned by overpopulation or salinization, this come with Islam and his strong man.Islam isn't just a religion.Islam is also a totalitarism.

If you give freedom and education to women, they had less than three children, in average.In Kenia, to example, every adult woman had in average, six children, in 1975.Today they have only about two and Kenia's population is falling.

Egipt under Islam's yoke can't do nothing, except wait the cataclysm, who will come in this Century.Having no education and under Islam and sexual mutilation, women in Egipt are doomed to overpopulate a desert without no future, except poverty, famine and religious fanaticism.

The Egipt's overpopulation and salinization, both came from his religion, not from irrigation itself.The real opposition, in Egipt is linked to VII Century's believes, not to any real possibility of Egipt's betterment.

Irrigation can be a miracle or a cataclysm.All is linked to religion, nature and government.Lack of freedom is the biggest cataclysm's friend.
Great book, highly recommended