An impassioned yet clearheaded look at how we are squandering our most precious natural resource.
As much as this is an exploration of resource recklessness, it is also a thoughtful examination of how Kalahari Bushmen contend with water scarcity. Water consultant Workman’s guide to the ways of the Bushmen is the elder woman Qoroxloo, a storehouse of received wisdom from her ancestors who actively challenges the government of Botswana, which is trying to drive the Bushmen from their territory for reasons of greed and self-entitled superiority. Though Workman refrains from painting Qoroxloo in an overly romantic light, readers will find it difficult not to admire her elemental decency and respectfulness. As such, it seems natural that, when in doubt about water use, many ask, “What would Bushmen do?” Workman delineates Qoroxloo’s hunting-and-gathering lifestyle, cooling strategies, pharmacopoeia, modes of sanitation and lessons about breaking up into smaller groups and thinning out. The author also highlights her courageous battle with a thuggish government while living precariously during drought time. From Qoroxloo’s lessons, Workman draws insights into productivity, crop diversification and adaptation to rainfall, the geography of production and consumption and global water politics. So what would the Bushmen do in the United States? “Based on my reading of the evidence,” writes Workman, “they’d organize around the measurable contours of the hydrological unit where we live: water known to exist within an aquifer or river basin. Then, within that unit, their code would secure the fundamental and minimal amount of freshwater required to keep each human healthy and alive.” Individual responsibility toward water is critical, Workman says, and it’s important to remember that “[w]e don’t govern water. Water governs us.”
A persuasive appeal for hydrosustainability and hydrodemocracy.