Unless you have spent the past summer under a rock on a remote island, you have probably heard about the severe droughts besetting Asia, Europe, and the United States. Rivers turning into mere trickles. Crops failing or delivering less than half of their usual yields. Power plants shutting down due to a lack of cooling or fuel. The less advertised side of the story is that we have mostly done this to ourselves.
Drought is a sure killer for civilizations. A few years, let alone decades of persistent drought, have forced many civilization to their knees. The Akkadian Empire. The Mayans. The Tang Dynasty… The lack of water have forced people in the past to leave their settlements or die in trying to make a living where crops grew no longer.
Our current version of agricultural civilization is no different in this regard either. We rely heavily on agriculture to grow food, which in turn relies heavily on predictable rainfall patterns and a nutrient rich soil to grow crops. The only reason there are this many of us on the planet at the moment is that we’ve managed to break — or at least weaken — this link between land food and water, and the bond between locations where food is grown and where it’s consumed. At least, for a while.
The magic ingredient — of course — was energy, and in our current civilization’s case this meant: fossil fuels. As I wrote many times, energy is the economy, but not only that: energy is agriculture. There is an intricate and inseparable connection between food, water and energy.
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