Thursday, October 08, 2015

Return of the water wars revisited: an opinionated book review

Colorado speculative fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi’s new book, The Water Knife (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, $25.95), has caught on...I’m a trained historian and journalist. We assemble facts and try to make sense of them. Fiction writers do what we cannot: let us inside the thoughts and hearts of those we write about. Fiction writers are not bound to the provable; they can use informed imagination to show us what if….and that’s what Bacigalupi does. The novel is set in a near-future Las Vegas and Phoenix, with the Southwest overheated and dry due to climate change. Mexico is now run on the state level by drug cartels, and California remains the promised land. States have legislated sovereignty and use the National Guard to patrol their borders to keep migrants — mostly from drought-destroyed Texas — out. Water is the most precious resource, and the wealthy have water-rich “arcologies” with waterfalls and ponds using recycled wastewater. The poor scramble for Chinese yuan to buy drinking water daily. Legal battles combine with helicopter raids, blowing up dams and cutting Arizona’s CAP canal line. The rich cluster in Las Vegas while squatters occupy what’s left of Phoenix. “The CAP is Arizona’s IV drip,” a character says. Colorado, Utah and Wyoming threaten to hold back the shrinking supply of Colorado River water, as they are, in fact, trying to do. Aquifers have been pumped nearly dry and dust storms are so common people routinely wear dust masks from REI. Urine is recycled into drinking water. Swimming pools are dry and collect dead bodies. Farmers disappear overnight when they won’t sell their water rights...more

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