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« Help for Haiti: Several Lists and More | Main | Eight Water Myths? »

Friday, 15 January 2010


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"More than 2/3 of the Earth's surface is covered in water..." Yes, I think I saw a world map once.

"...but less than 1% of it is freshwater." Bummer. Sounds like we're in trouble... Wait, how much of that 1% is Lake Baikal? Time to invade Russia!

"The human body is __% water." Yes, and?

More than 2 billion people "lack access to adequate sanitation," as a euphemism for the fact that they do not or can not dispose of their feces in a way that it won't re-contaminate their food or water.

In writing about overseas development, stating "local government lacks capacity." It's kinder than saying that government is weak and ineffective or that bureaucrats are lazy and uneducated. Never fear, this can generally be solved through "capacity building."

The "Global South" for developing world or, to use a phrase which has fallen out of favor, third world. The northern hemisphere has its share of poor countries too.

"Greedy corporations are plotting to steal our water!" As if this is news. Companies have been trying to control and sell water and electricity from the beginning.

Long exposition on global water problems, including the fact that millions of people in poor countries die every year from preventable water-related diseases, followed by, "so you should take shorter showers and avoid buying bottled water!"

The "global water crisis." If it started decades, no, centuries ago, and won't end anytime soon, is it really a crisis?

David Zetland

Thank you thank you thank you. I'm SO tired of these...


Dear Fritz and Lynn,

Thank you both for your comments. I appreciate that your taking the time to respond.

Lynn, I am not 'disrespecting' the English language. 'Sustainability' means different things to different people. Like many English words, it can have a variety of meanings. An economist looks at a water resources system different from an aquatic ecologist and each may have a different concept of the system's sustainability. The problem is that people talk about 'sustainability' without defining what they mean.

Fritz, you're right about 'Water Wonks.' I plead guilty as charged. But I'm not yet ready to retire it.

Fritz Fiedler

How about "Water Wonks"?

I agree with Lynn to a degree. While certain phrases and quotes are over used, how words (adaptation, sustainability, restoration, etc.) are used, and the context in which they appear, matters as much as the word itself in determining the annoyance factor.

Lynn Montgomery

I think this is all reverse semantics. Words like sustainability are real words, folks, and attempts to just take them away because you find them annoying or whatever is disrespecting the English language. Many of these terms and colloquialisms are very useful to expression of true thought Let's move on and stop playing games.

Eric Perramond

I don't know about "stationarity" being dead, it's always been a straw person argument for people to use when an audience doesn't understand what a mean (average) is.
It came up again in the NM Water Dialogue yesterday (latest posts on the dialogue)

Emily Green

To: speechwriters
From: The governor of California

Great work. The governor esp. likes this part: Water, which connects us all as it flows uphill to money, is the lifeblood of the region where the Delta is the hub, but the true value of water from toilet to tap can only be understood by integrated adaptive management.

Query: The governor can't pronounce stationarity. Is it a problem that it's dead or may we cut it?

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