The Book of Water - Blue Gold Rush
In hardly six years, water will have become a distant memory for over one billion people on this planet. There will be social and economic unrest and wars will be over Blue Gold.
I was visiting Cuba in 2015 with my wife Daniella Hunter, and whilst browsing in a second hand store found an old book chronicling Fidel Castro’s reported speeches. Castro was known for his rhetoric and he had his own television show every week for years when he would speak to his nation about everything from the effectiveness of a type of light bulbs to the need for everyone to be given a pressure cooker to make rice meals and eat better. In 2007 he once talked on the subject of water. The statement I read has been on my mind every day since.
Castro said ‘In hardly eighteen years, water will have become a distant memory for over one billion people on this planet. There will be social and economic unrest and wars will be over Blue Gold’.
The clock has ticked on twelve years, and today we are awakening to our ultimate crisis.
I have been spending the years since becoming aware of this statement traveling between two home offices beside two oceans, working with Daniella on bringing forward conscious innovation in packaged food snacks under our plant focused brand Real Coconut. Thousands of stores now carry our chips and tortillas with alternative grain free ingredients from coconuts, cassava and plantain across USA, Canada and the UK. Our commitment is for sustainable digestive health for each of us and our planet. We also look to empower the farmers and enhance the transactional value for these crops that do not require large quantities of irrigated water.
We live currently in the Mayan Yucatán in Tulum, a place where the Mayan civilization became so significant two thousand years ago because of their understanding of water, its nature and its flow, and where today the purest waters move in a labyrinth of underground caves and rivers. At the same time we live and work in Santa Monica on the fringe of a very dry California. In our restaurant spaces which practice a no plastic and recently no beef philosophy, we are having increasingly more conversations about the “how do we shift” rather than the “what” and the “why” of our problems which seem to be gaining universal consensus.
Nothing has occurred yet that is swaying me away from believing Castro to be entirely correct in his profound statement. However what I also believe is that this actually will be what brings all our economic and social architecture to its knees, and from this place a new ecosystem will be able to be ushered forth. The planet heals itself abundantly if we are vulnerable and respond as one to its cries.
Our belief is that clean water and also sustainable food production will bring us to a collective response so we have a hope of feeding 10 billion people that are projected to inhabit our planet in 2050. The UN Intergovernmental 2019 Bio-Diversity Report spells out four interconnected initiatives for us to action. We must work to reduce food waste; move to a plant focused diet, and away from beef consumption; return land rights ownership to the indigenous and not to foreign owners; and we must learn how to produce more economic currency and tonnage per hectare in Africa and other developing countries.
There is increasing pain and suffering to more and more people around the water, yet for the sake of humanity this unbearable suffering will bring us to an ultimate reason of unbearable compassion, care and long term change.
By 2024, because of the fundamental issues of water and food production, and by the time another USA presidential full term has been completed I believe the political and economic systems that we have been governed by for centuries will have been strained to their breaking point and will be collapsing.
In Tibet there winds a river through a gauge deeper than the Grand Canyon. Yarlung Tsangpo is known as “The Everest of all Rivers” and it’s probably the least explored river in the world with its headwaters at the foot of Mount Kailash, in the isolated regions of Western Tibet. Accumulating its massive volume, cascading from the snowy mass of the Himalayas, is nature’s age old method of sending water along a 3000 kilometer river, through the most dramatic canyon in the world, to ultimately supply the lowlands of the Ganges.
Generations after generations of villages and businesses every day have taken what they have needed from the river that brings them life. Children and their children have played on its banks throughout time, as sisters wash their clothes, and their families toil in their rice fields irrigated by the river. Food production for the table was never in doubt, and mothers never had to worry about the health of their laughing kids as they watched them dive under the shimmering waters. No one saw what was coming. No one.
Today the Ganges is losing its water. Environmental surveyors have been acutely worried for years. Since 1990 the Ganges has lost over 50% of its usual water volume during its summer months and as it is lost, what remains becomes more and more polluted. About 27% of the river’s water is attributable to supporting food production. The situation is becoming severe. Various reasons are given to the diminishing water levels. For decades as population swelled its been the sheer increased demand for the water that sustains more lives, and this pressure is too much. Today as India swells to over 1.37 billion population, climate crisis now factors in to the mounting issue and is compounding dangerously every season as the country struggles in its internal battle to maintain the balance between its own industrial needs and the sacred harmony that we revere across India.
However very soon a sudden massive hemorrhaging of water from the Ganges is going to become instantly unbearable for India, and its families. it is also to be unbearable for every person on this planet, Nothing done in the past will prepare us for what is to come. A house of cards systematically built is about to collapse and it will change everything we think we know. A perfect storm is rapidly converging on a number of fronts and is about to hit our world.
Engineers in China are now building what is be the world’s largest water tunnel at more than 1000 kilometers. The tunnel, when it opens, is to stretch from Tibet to the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang province, would surpass the current record holder: an eighty five mile tunnel that pipes water around New York City.
When this tunnel opens, the water will no longer flow to where nature took it - India - and instead will reroute it, through a tunnel that the engineers have designed to literarily shift on hinges, like the busses in your city. The Himalayas are prone to tremors and so the builders, as they bore through the mountains, have premeditated possible shifts in the massive tunnel complex. It can move on flexible hinges to counter the tremors.
The effect of this tunnel is to give China a vast area nearly the size of California for the purpose of growing food for themselves. What was arid throughout time is to become lush, to nurture the volume of food China needs to feed itself. The simultaneous effect is to throw India into famine with overwhelming danger for over 115 million people in the Ganges region.
The more than 400 billion tonnes of water, the Tibetan Plateau, releases each year. - almost enough to fill Lake Erie in the United States - also feeds the source of other major rivers, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong as well as the Ganges. All is to change.
Ever since the beginning of time when heavens and the earth were created, and mountains rose and glaciers were formed, water has flown in rarefied altitudes of these isolated regions of our planet. Yet now this Blue Gold is being mined, systematically from its abundant sources, as the rare commodity it is fast becoming, controlled by governments and a few businesses, grabbed and maneuvered to support their ultimate long term play - In the knowledge that during this generation everything will come down to water and food.
What’s also occurring in this generation is that the control of international water rights coincide with the opening of Free Trade by China, after 500 hundreds years, and dynasties combining powerful effort in keeping everything behind their Chinese walls. Yet as China opens up it’s global trade borders to every country, other globalization pioneering countries, the USA and UK, have been making movements to erect barriers for sake of nationalism.
I believe the evolving topic of how water, it’s availability and cost to the people of our world, is to determine how our globe is to behave. Today I see everything else as a distraction, however necessary in the moment, to bring forward the cause and effect of this realization. It’s a mighty struggle as the status quo is being kept and band aids on ever-gaping wounds are being applied to stop this crisis or that chaos from having unstable effect on you just for today. We can see that our politicians have never been less effective, yet we witness a coming together of age old divides of religion and color and creed. We see collective division and yet we see connectivity and community. We see consciousness and yet we see mass unconsciousness.
Regardless of all these confusing skirmishes the sheer velocity of our water issue increases. Like a house of cards being stacked to fall in an instance, all the dams are about to burst just as food production initiatives need to focus on creating sustainable solutions to feed 10 billion people by 2050 on this planet, and as climate crisis lessens the available water in our rivers, increasing the pressure on irrigation and clean water quality,
Five hundred years ago China’s emperor effectively did away with global trade when he chose to destroy the greatest fleet ever assembled as they sat in their docks. The Treasure Fleet had over 3500 ships with its leading vessels over four times longer than anything that the English or Spanish were building, crewed by over fifteen hundred. What ever China wanted to accomplish it could in international trade, globalization of its interests and in land conquest.
Under the command of Admiral Zheng He, the fleet would often sail over to East Africa. Sometimes over 300 ships would arrive at one time into foreign waters and instantly change the economy of that country it was visiting. To put this fleet size into context the USA navy has 490 ships today and during the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar the British had 27 ships and France and Spain combined with 33 ships.
But what ever Zheng He turned his attention to was also the reason for his undoing and the fleet being sunk at their moorings by the Emperor. The magnitude of influence and unrestricted resources of the business leaders from their trade transactions generated by the voyages, caused the Emperor and his Ming government to turn inward to protect themselves. A decision that put China walls up for literarily 500 years until recently. In 1400 Africa was close by for the taking by Zheng He and his fleets, but as China observed the rest of the world to experience the trigger to its growth, the Industrial Revolution, it remained isolated from further international trade... until now, and through their trade they have acquired the trump card, water.
Africa water rights have systematically been acquired by China in trade for hospitals and infrastructure investment, and it did not require a fleet or army to carry out this conquest.
The term “water rights” means the right to extract water from groundwater and other bodies of water. It grants access to desalination projects, water-purification and treatment technologies, irrigation and well-drilling technologies, water and sanitation services and utilities, water infrastructure maintenance and construction. Restrictive permit systems in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe have resulted in 100 million people being left with insufficient water already in Africa.
Water rights for large commercial operations in Africa are granted primarily by permit laws that were put in place by colonial rule. Small farmers have only customary water rights, which are agreements based on being passed down through families and generations rather than written law or contracts. Their operations are often too small to gain permits either because the government does not have the infrastructure to grant so many permits or farmers do not know to get them. Approximately half of sub-Saharan Africa governments utilize this system of customary rights for home use and limited farm irrigation.
Since the end of Apartheid in South Africa, water distribution remains inequitable despite legislative efforts which prioritize the allocation of water for socio-economic growth over commercial uses.
In Malawi four out of five people live in rural areas and are dependent upon rain for agriculture success. They are vulnerable because there are frequent droughts, variations in climate and natural disasters. Recent estimates suggest that foreign investment in Malawi’s land jumped by over 70% since 2009. In many countries land purchase means water grab.
Large-scale water users, with superior entitlements to access water for large-scale irrigation, mining, industry and hydropower generation, are better able to win disputes with the government. Internationally, water rights consolidated in the hands of a few is also a problem.
Daniella and I have witnessed this as we go about the work of our companies. Belize south of Mexico has been pressured to sell its precious aquifers, gathering places for Mayan communities, as jets arrive into Belize City with delegations from the Middle East and China. We have worked extensively in Kenya and Liberia supporting water collection, the mending of water pumps and now as we seek to empower plant multi-cropping. Its clear too the pressure that impoverished African governments are under is immense and the offer for roads and hospitals can not be ignored.
So now these new “water barons”, our international banks and billionaire investors, in the midst of a “Blue Gold Rush,” are buying up the world’s water quickly. They are able to own hundreds of thousand of acres holding extensive rights, whilst local farmers have questionable rights, and the already limited water systems will be further stretched. Exclusive reliance on national permit systems has, at least on paper, “criminalized” up to 100 million people lacking water permits in African countries
As you read this you may think you are ok and really there is enough water. The world is two thirds water and it also rains and floods all the time now! You are in the United States or live on an island like Great Britain or even Australia and you are surrounded by water.
It’s clear that we have the technologies and ideas that can transform the way we manage wastewater. We are able to desalinate salt water at the fraction of the cost than we could ten years ago. It is clear that we can collect water rather than deflect it straight into our oceans. We all have an umbrella and all it takes is for us to turn it upside down, we get wet but the water is collected! Every shopping mall can be engineered with a water collection system under the parking lot! We also have the technology for turning dirty water into clean water, or grabbing water from the sea in small desalination hubs powered by solar, as the non profit Give Power is demonstrating in Kenya, Haiti and North Dakota.
Yet the issue is not is there enough water, it is in the control of the clean water, globally and nationally, and ultimately the cost we are forced to pay for what is becoming Blue Gold.
Think again if you believe you are safe. England is set to run out of water in 25 years due to population growth, poor water management, and climate change, the country's environment body said. An average person in England uses 140 liters of water a day and usage is expected to rise, with the population set to hit 75 million in 2050 up from 67 million today. Some of Britain's rivers will halve in volume by 2050, causing water deficits in many parts of the country, particularly the heavily-populated southeast.
In 2019 the Murray-Darling basin 10% of Australian water rights are owned by foreign investment. China, India and South Korea all have a long term water grab strategy and the USA also recognize its commodity need and value. Australia and New Zealand are still ultimately able to control their destiny as they manage their water ownership, but many other countries in the world are not.
In the USA seven States are in the process of running out of water. Apart from California which is well chronicled, struggles mount in Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Kansas.
Around the world cities are facing critical times ahead. Cape Town, South Africa; Mexico City, Mexico; Cairo, Egypt; Tokyo, Japan; Jakarta, Indonesia; São Paulo, Brazil; Beijing, China; Bangalore, India; Melbourne, Australia and London, United Kingdom.
These lists are to grow over the coming few years and you may think you can ignore this as you leave it to our youth to correct things as they find ways to change our world by 2050. However I would ask you to project yourself only to 2025 and your own response to what happens if you can not turn on your own kitchen or bathroom tap today. What would your response be if your livelihood was threatened?
Compounding factors make the first sentence of this article accurate, however stark and undesirable to comprehend. Based on the systems we live within not changing immediately no dam will hold back what is to come. There is to be social and economic unrest and this can easily swell like a tide to numbers way over 1 billion people and it can easily engulf you.
There is nothing more expensive than ignorance and we are fortunate in many ways that this generation is being released from the judgments that separated our forefathers. This is the time when we the people of this planet give increasing credence and care for equality of color, creed and gender and when we reawaken to us all being connected and in unity despite our physical geography.
This generation is now gathering. Huge crowds are rallying behind the Climate banner. Our youth are striking from schools on Fridays behind resonating voices of activists, like Greta Thunberg. Their collective voice is to be increasingly heard.
My grave concern is that those that govern our world currently are to remain caught up in their own increasing mortal struggle to keep their love of power in place, to satisfy and increase multiple earning prices in stock market valuations for their business, and to keep the current political systems intact. It’s all they have known within the constraints of their lives. To me Trump or no trump and Brexit or no brexit are not our greatest issues. On the contrary they actually can serve to continue to open us up to what is to come into the space that both their clarity and chaos leave behind.
Although much of history has really been written by winners and by men through the cause and effect of time. what is believed to have caused the demise of the Mayan civilization was ta combination of he Spanish destroying all the aqueducts and then also possibly an elongated dry climate period that destroyed their crops. Abundant clean water was taken away from them and the effect was that they disappeared.
Is this to occur again to us?
Our ultimate “Lord of The Rings” battle for the safety of humanity, when increasing numbers gather despite of our lingering differences to face a World War Zero in support of this precious earth, is to hinge on the freedom of water and its own nurturing support of plant food production. This is soon.
In The Beginning
In the beginning God created heavens and earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
On the second day God said “let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water”. So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky”.
And God said “Let the water under the sky be gathered in one place and let dry ground appear”. And it was so. God called the dry ground “land” and the gathered waters he called “seas” and God saw that it was good..