A History of Water and Humankind
Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Jun. 2011. c.416p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608190034. $28. SCI
Fagan (emeritus, anthropology, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; The Great Warming) traces humankind's relationship to water through history. He delves beyond water's life-sustaining properties to explore humans' ritualistic connection to water and the necessity of controlling water in both drought and flood-prone areas. The focus is on technology, ranging from simple furrows to more elaborate aqueducts, and on the correlation between the success of these water-controlling techniques and the civilizations associated with them. Fagan proposes three stages in the evolution of our relationship to water. In the remote past, access to water was unreliable; water was often scarce and therefore sacred. From about 2000 years ago through the Industrial Revolution, water was viewed as a commodity to be exploited. The current era views water as a finite resource that needs to be managed accordingly.
VERDICT Recommended reading for anyone with an interest in the history of humans' relationship to water and for science buffs.
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