Monday, March 10, 2008

Climate Change, Global Warming, and Mary Rosenblum's Water Rites

Less than 3% of the world’s water is potable, and a large percentage of that is in the polar ice caps and glaciers that are melting into the oceans to become unusable salt water. Desalination plants have proven to be inadequate and costly, so maintaining the fresh water we have is increasingly important.

In the past few years, it has become clear that water is the “new oil” in terms of ownership, availability, price, and a reason for war. In Darfur,the war there is a geo-political disaster that is being fought for water, oil, tribal dominance and religion. In Darfur, drilling a well is a political act than can get you murdered. Other parts of the world, such as China, India, most of Northern Africa, and a few areas of the US, do not have enough fresh, potable water to meet the needs of every person who lives there.

In her novel, Water Rites, Mary Rosenblum explores what a world dominated by water shortages will be like in the Pacific Northwest. We just added Water Rites to our Bookshelf because it brings home the problems of global warming in an excellent novel. You can buy it there from Powell’s Books.

This is a book that you can and should read with your family, including children. Water Rites should be on every reading group’s booklist.

I’ve know Mary Rosenblum for about 20 years. Her knowledge of life and our world is wide and deep. Whenever we get together, she educates me in the most delight conversations on global warming, sustainable farming, child rearing, and sheep herding. She understands in the way that only a person with ties to family, the land, and the Earth can that global climate change is accelerating. Mary started thinking and writing about global warming in 1992. In Water Rites, Mary explores what life will like when too little fresh water is the norm.

In 1994, Mary published her first novel, The Drylands, and received the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. That book is again available with three short stories set in the same world and sharing some the same characters as Water Rites.

Mary set her stories south of Portland, Oregon, near the area where she lives and farms, and about 200 miles south of our farm. Her characters are men and women like us, who are caught in a global disaster, enduring the hardships while helping other people to survive, too.

The first three stories, Water Bringer, Celilo, and The Bee Man, depict the lives of people living on the land that is dying from the drought. These people, seen as hicks by the ignorant, are shaped in amazing ways by their circumstances. I really cannot say much more, because the unfolding of these stories is so moving that I do not want to harm them with spoilers.

The fourth story is the award winning novel, The Drylands. We follow Major Carter Voltaire, of the US Army Corp of Engineers, trying to allocate water and build a pipeline to drought stricken agricultural areas. The story is vivid and the characters richly drawn. The characters we meet in the first three stories inhabit Voltaire’s world. It is his responsibility to get fresh water to the drought-stricken farm lands, while Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and other coastal cities drown in sea water.

In the foreword, Mary writes that in 1994 the scary global warming predictions were forty years out, but now, fourteen years later, they are becoming a fact of our lives. As Mary concludes in her foreword, “Think of that next time you vote, or purchase a car. Pay Attention, okay? It won’t be a nice world to live in.” (Water Rites, p. 11)

You can visit Mary’s website at There you will find a list of her other novels and short stories. There is also a picture of Mary with the wonderful dogs that she breeds and trains.

1 comment:

Jim Van Pelt said...

Thanks for the review. I'm looking forward to reading Mary's book.