Stephen Hawking is no dummy. That much has been established.
Yet in 2006, when the acclaimed scientist told an audience of mostly university students and professors in China that he was "very worried about global warming" and that Earth "might end up like Venus, at 250 degrees centigrade and raining sulfuric acid,'' the dystopian prediction nevertheless dropped off the cultural radar after a few short weeks. Which, of course, is a sad commentary on the state of our minds, distracted as they are by horserace punditry possessed with the 2008 election, athletes on HGH, or the latest meltdown of pop tarts like Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse. After all, some might argue, the thought of our verdant Earth metamorphosing into the environmental nightmare that is Venus, whose oceans evaporated millions of years ago, is beyond sci-fi, a transformation so stunning and apocalyptic that it cannot be comprehended, much less be true.
But Hawking is not alone, especially among activists and scientists who have been keeping a sharp eye on our planet's precarious water situation. And that includes Maude Barlow, author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water as well as the founder of the Blue Planet Project and the national chairperson of the advocacy group Council of Canadians.
"I fear that the global water crisis will destroy all life on earth if we do not deal with it soon," she confessed.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of D.C.-based nongovernmental organization and consumer group Food and Water Watch, took pains to moderate Hawking's more dramatic statement but nevertheless agreed. "We are facing a time of great water scarcity and unpredictable climate change," she added. "It's time for us to take action to protect our planet."
But who are we protecting the planet from, when it comes to water scarcity? The answer, as always, is ourselves. But how to do that is the subject of great debate and controversy, especially as permanent droughts take hold in Australia, America and beyond, causing shortages, famines, social unrest and more. With declining rainfall and snowpack because of global warming, many countries have turned to desalination of the oceans for their water supplies. The process seems simple enough: Over 70 percent of the planet is covered in oceans, so take the salt out of the water and watch the tanks fill up. [for the rest click on the heading]