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Interviewees: Marc Forster, Director of ‘Quantum of Solace’
Bond vs the Water Crisis
In the latest James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," 007faces a villain who takes control of a country’s "most precious resource": fresh water. Why H2O? The film’s director, Marc Forster, believes the world is in for a serious water crisis.
"Water will be, really, the next huge problem I think humanity is going to face," says Forster, adding, "It was very important for me, as we were discussing the theme of the movie, we all wanted to do it about natural resources. And in a sense, focus more about water … that oil is the issue of the past."
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The World Health Organization says more than a billion people worldwide are without access to safe drinking water and more is polluted each day. Peter Gleick, water resources expert and founder/director of the Pacific Institute, an environment and society research center, says Forster was right to focus on water rater than oil.
"There’s a growing debate about the importance of oil to our national security, and I think that without a doubt, oil is critical to our national security," says Gleick. "But ironically, I would argue that water is even more important to our national security. There are substitutes for oil; there are no substitutes for water."
He says the film’s plot, with its villains trying to control over water supplies, is in fact a reality today. He thinks the situation is getting worse and says conflicts over water resources are escalating.
"We’re already seeing an increase in violence over water, and I’m afraid that in the next few decades, if we’re not much more serious about solving some of the water problems we have, that we’re going to see those episodes of violence get worse and worse," says Gleick.
But could the situation get so bad that a Bond-esque villain could hijack a nation’s water supply?
"We already see efforts to control the water resources of regions, or countries, for political purposes. Ironically, I think this art imitating life in many ways," says Gleick. "The truth is there are problems everywhere around the world in growing severity, associated with our failure to manage water in a sustainable way."
And a case of art pointing out a social need. Director Marc Forster experienced the water crisis first hand while on location in the Chilean desert. In some places, he saw that fresh drinking water had to be brought in by truck, just to meet the basic needs of the people living there.
“There’s a shortage everywhere you go. And it’s just sort of a reality that they are dealing with that I think that we here in the West are not accustomed to,” says Forster.
Gleick believes that the water crisis isn’t a problem for the future, but a dire situation that must be addressed right now at the national, community, and individual level. Most importantly, Gleick believes we must reassess the way we view our freshwater resources.
“We just have to manage water in a much more sustainable way. We’ve not thought about water as a long-term resource, as a vulnerable resource. And yet, increasingly it is,” says Gleick.
"We want to rethink water supply," he adds. "In the old days, we used to think: build another dam, tap another water aquifer, build another aqueduct to move water from farther and farther away, that was the solution to all of our problems. But that’s no longer enough. We’ve tapped all the water aquifers we can tap."
He says the solution will need to be a mix of change in behavior, change in policy, and technology advances that help manage water better.
"We have to rethink what we mean by supply, we have to think about reusing waste water, we have to think about rain water harvesting, maybe even desalination of the ocean’s seawater," he says. "But we also have to rethink demand. We can reuse water much more efficiently, we can reduce the amount of water required to do the things we want to do. We can grow more food with less water, we can make semi-conductors and the goods and services that we want, with less water. We can basically be much more efficient, and reduce our water resources."
And Forster thinks that this is an issue that far too many people are still unaware of or simply unwilling to deal with.
"It’s just an enormous problem, and people still, I think, are a little bit in denial about it," says Forster.
Hopefully this holiday season, Bond film fans can take a hint and decipher this not-so-secret message from the world’s favorite secret agent.
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