22 March 2010

Stewart L. Udall, fmr. AZ Congressman and Secretary of the Interior, requiescat

A son of the American west and the father of what I would call the third American conservation movement, former Arizona Congressman and Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall passed away at his home in New Mexico this weekend at the age of 90. A formal obituary for Mr. Udall was published today in the New York Times. One of the '''oodles of Udalls' in politics,'' Mr. Udall is survived by six children, eight grandchildren and numerous family relations, including two standing Senators: son Tom Udall of New Mexico, and nephew Mark Udall of Colorado. As President Obama related in a statement on Saturday evening, Mr. Udall ''inspired countless Americans who will continue his fight for clean air, clean water and to maintain our many natural treasures.''

An Arizona native, Mr. Udall attended the University of Arizona (UA) before serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, after which he returned to the UA to complete an advanced degree in law in 1948. After local activity in public service to education in the Tucson area, Mr. Udall was elected to three successive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives over 1955 - 1961. His time as a Congressman, in which seat he was succeeded by his brother Morris K. Udall (also a UA alum, d. 1998), was followed immediately by his nomination to the post of Secretary of the Interior by President Kennedy, in whose presidential campaign he also served, in January 1961. He served in that post until the end of President Johnson's administration in January 1969.

During his eight-year tenure in the Department of the Interior, Mr. Udall saw to the conservation and designation of nearly four million acres of lands throughout the U.S. including four new national parks, six national monuments, nine national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, and 50 national wildlife refuges. Mr. Udall also led new efforts at the DOI to preserve national seashores, of which he designated eight during his time as Secretary. A later director of the National Park Service, Mr. Roger Kennedy, once noted that Secretary Udall ''escaped the notion that all public land was essentially a cropping opportunity, the idea that if you cannot raise timber on it or take a deer off it, it wasn’t valuable.'' Conservation for the sake of preservation fought the perceived national attitude toward ecology that he once characterized as a ''myth of superabundance.'' During Secretary Udall's watch and in concert with President Johnson's progressive ''Great Society'' agenda, numerous laws for the preservation of environmental quality were enacted: the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965, and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Many of these efforts ultimately led to the introduction and passage of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Mr. Udall was a friend of naturalist and poet Robert Frost, whom he invited to speak at the inauguration of President Kennedy. He was a patron of historian, environmentalist and author Wallace Stegner, whom he invited to join the DOI as writer-in-residence; it might be said that Stegner's friendship with Secretary Udall and his service in the 1960's on the board of directors of the Sierra Club provided significant influence while writing Angle of Repose, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972. He was an ardent supporter of Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring focused public attention on the environment and ushered in America's ''Green Revolution'' over the next decade. Mr. Udall published his own treatise on the imminent peril to America's natural resources in his 1964 book The Quiet Crisis.

Following his time as Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Udall continued to practice law and to write on issues at the intersection of society, the environment, and natural resource conservation. He espoused the cause of workers and citizens exposed to uranium, radiation and other products of Cold War nuclear arms manufacturing and testing procedures in the western U.S. He argued on their behalf in Federal District Court and, eventually, worked again with his contemporaries in Congress to pass the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990. Remaining true to Mr. Udall's legacy as Secretary of the Interior, the academic Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy was founded in 1987 at the University of Arizona to address (1) environmental policy, primarily in the southwestern U.S. and in the border region with Mexico, (2) the immigration policies of the U.S., and (3) Native Nations policies in the U.S. The work of the Udall Center is supported in part by the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, an executive agency of the U.S. government with a Board of Trustees appointed by the President. The Foundation also supports the UA-affiliated Native Nations Institute and the independent U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.

Mr. Udall leaves behind his dedication and commitment to ecological preservation and environmental stewardship, which seems at an ebb tide (relatively speaking) as we approach the 40th commemoration of Earth Day. Another contemporary of Mr. Udall, the eminent historian Dr. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., published in 1968 a short book of extraordinary insight titled The Cycles of American History in which he deconstructed the chronicles of our young country to demonstrate that national politics and related economic and foreign policies seem to run in cycles of 70 years or so in duration. I see similar characteristics in the American approach to our environment, though we seem to be on a slight upward spiral rather than in a flat cycle per se. The 1760-1780 period saw the rapid westward expansion in territory of the American colonies, primarily into the wilderness and Native regions of the Ohio River basin including the Tennessee River valley. This was, however, not so much a conservation movement as a strategy to stabilize and facilitate the expansion of the nascent republic. The 1830's brought Emerson's Nature and Thoreau's Walden, and through the 1840's Americans developed government agencies and functions in science and conservation that were eventually consolidated in the Department of the Interior, formally established in 1849. This would comprise the first American conservation movement, in my opinion. The period 1900-1920 saw the rise of John Muir's wilderness philosophy, Gifford Pinchot's conservation ethic, and their direct influence on President Theodore Roosevelt in the establishment of the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, an obvious second American conservation movement in the cycle. The third conservation movement, which I recognize alongside the culmination of America's ''Green Revolution'' in agriculture, was presaged by Aldo Leopold's ecological and land ethic and covered the 1960's and 1970's with its peak demonstrated by the first Earth Day celebration on 22 April 1970. One might say that Rachel Carson and Stewart L. Udall brought this third movement to birth in our history, solidifying its cyclical hold on the nation and moving us forward in recognition of our environment as our partner, not our property.

We sit now in the ebb of this revolutionary cycle, as Mr. Udall recognized from apparent and widespread shifts in political motivation well before his passing. However, we can always hold on to Mr. Udall's philosophies and hope for the next round, a true ''Blue Revolution'' in the roles of science for water resources management in America and around the world.

20 March 2010

More than just one day...

This upcoming Monday, 22 March 2010, is once again World Water Day. The focus this year is on water quality, with the theme ''Clean Water for a Healthy World.'' Numerous sites have grown up across the web to emphasize the need for adequate water quality worldwide and its links to adequate sanitation facilities in developing countries. The official UN Water site for World Water Day (WWD) has tons of information, banners, posters, recent reports by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and WWD FAQs in several languages. A comprehensive companion site co-sponsored by Water Advocates has emerged as a collaboration of numerous groups working on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives in low-income countries, where you'll see just how widely this issue is regarded among NGOs in the global community.

Ahead of WWD, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF cooperate on a Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) that has just released a report titled ''Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water: 2010 Update Report.'' The good news is that an estimated 87% of the global population has access to safe drinking-water sources, and that ''the world is on track to meet or even exceed the drinking-water target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).'' The bad news is that 39% of the world's population still lives without improved sanitation facilities: ''If the current trend continues unchanged, the international community will miss the 2015 sanitation MDG by almost one billion people.'' That would be Paul Collier's Bottom Billion by that time, consisting almost entirely of African and South Asian populations if we extrapolate from present circumstances.

What else do I see in those statistics? Consider that the availability of improved sanitation in a region is closely linked with the availability of clean water supplies, especially where both depend on surface water resources. Where treatment of wastewater is lacking, treatment of drinking water must take up that slack. If ''improved sanitation'' only means ''take it away'' in one village or city, the next downstream neighbor's drinking-water supply is compromised: a zero-sum solution, unless treatment is introduced. Ad infinitum, if we treat only the drinking-water supply at the point of capture and/or use, the oceans collect all the waste; that's the ''no-action'' (that is, ignorant) alternative. Treatment for potable water and the treatment of wastewater cannot proceed independent of each other and without concomitant development, or the environment suffers as well. Taking responsibility for our ecological footprint, as individuals or corporations or cities or countries, in community with our neighbors, is the SMART alternative. My guess is that the aggregate liability cost of no-action far exceeds that of active improvement in treatment capacity, over both the short and long terms. That's a topic for another post on this WWD, or at least sometime before Earth Day in April.

At the highest levels, on WWD a UN Water event in Nairobi, Kenya, will culminate the gathering together of policy makers, scientists and eminent personalities to discuss how to address the challenges of degrading water quality around the world. The event is hosted jointly by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN-Habitat, and the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), on behalf of UN Water and the Government of Kenya. One group, the Pan Africa Chemistry Network, has already released their report titled ''Africa's Water Quality,'' based on the outcomes of an earlier international conference of the same name, at this gathering to stress that ''African governments must act upon their scientists' expert advice,'' according to a weekend press release. It will be interesting to see what other statements and activities of a wider scope than Africa's current issues, including water quantity and quality issues as well as the proliferation of hydropower projects funded by international investment, will appear from that meeting. I would expect activities of significant substance to emerge from coordinated efforts by organizations with strong connections to the grass-roots-level issues. Water quality restoration seems to me, at least in developing countries, to emerge as a bottom-up process rather than by government fiat in a top-down, regulatory manner. In Africa, a focus of many groups' concerns and efforts, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has compiled a list of notable achievements for release in commemoration of WWD and to emphasize "a strategy of significantly increasing its interventions in rural water supply and sanitation while continuing to support urban and peri-urban water supply and sanitation and promoting integrated management of water resources." Different from the developed countries, where agriculture may account for 50-90% of total water use, in Africa only 5% of agriculture is irrigated. In the richest countries, water resources tend toward complete development and over-allocation of available supplies, while only 20% of the irrigation potential and about 6% of the hydropower potential across Africa has been developed. These statistics on African development will also be the subjects of later posts...

While the official UN Water site has numerous events listed from worldwide sources for commemorations of WWD, the WASH companion site has more extensive information on the many activities in the U.S. that are sponsored by the numerous site partners and stretching over more than just Monday. That is just the kind of collaborative, global-scope effort with connections to (and support from) the grass-roots-level that I mean. In fact, some of these organizations are stretching the focus on water quality all the way to Earth Day in April, turning the next several weeks into a continuous observance and celebration of the global population's second-most-fundamental need (just after air) that is still not yet a basic human right. But that's a debate for another time; for now, let's acknowledge that where people are in need of any water at all, it needs to be clean in order to be useful and safe.

In Europe, the Dutch IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre has developed a WWD site that also covers the globe, with a basis in the European Community (EC) and World Health Organization initiatives and continuing efforts throughout the developing world. The International Water Association (IWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), in their coordination of World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD) targeted for celebration annually on 18 September, will honor their WWMD 2009 Water Champions on WWD. In a high-profile and media-friendly stunt, End Water Poverty, the Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), and the UK-based Freshwater Action Network are co-sponsoring the World's Longest Toilet Queue in more than 70 countries around the world. End Water Poverty is an extensive coalition of more local action-oriented groups with activities spread throughout the developing world and totaling more than 1M supporters globally, and the WSSCC lists individual members in academia and as country and regional representatives in the thousands.

If you're a Facebook or Twitter user, Water.org would like to borrow your status stream over the week beginning on WWD for their "One Week for Water" campaign. The charity:water organization will kick off a special campaign on WWD to support long-term recovery solutions for clean water supplies in Haiti. Shortly after WWD commemorations, the Annenberg Foundation (Sesame Street, anyone?) and National Geographic Magazine will open a photography exhibit in California with the overall theme ''WATER: OUR THIRSTY WORLD'' to coincide with the release of National Geographic's April 2010 issue of the same title, definitely some visuals and reading to look forward to!

Four-star global charity Water for People has built a strong network of support over nearly twenty years to aid the development of clean, renewable fresh water resources in eleven developing countries, and their effort continues on a daily basis. ONE focuses on poverty relief, Water Advocates espouses the global WASH effort, and Water.org has adopted those fundamental efforts as well as the emerging microlending movement with the impressively effective WaterCredit organization. All of these great groups recognize that ''Clean Water for a Healthy World'' is not just a slogan, and they celebrate the principles of World Water Day every day.

01 March 2010

The Most Important Thing He Knows...

From the 1997 book The Most Important Thing I Know, compiled by Lorne Adrian and re-printed in 2000:
"Ever since my youth I have been inspired whenever I contemplate the Nile, the river-god my ancestors worshiped. The Nile flows on indifferent to mere events. It carries a message from the heart of Africa, our common home. It brings life to all who live near its banks. It contributes its water to the Mediterranean and the great civilizations which surround its shores. And eventually it flows and merges with all the world's oceans which link every continent and all people of our planet. To me, it is a constant reminder of our common humanity."
Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1992-1996