Water for Food, Water for Life

Monday, March 28, 2011 - 3:10pm

With water stress, climate change, and rising food demands increasing around the globe, the question arises: Can we meet the food and water demands of eight billion people while at the same time protecting the aquatic ecosystems that sustain our economies and the planet’s web of life?

Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project, says the answer is yes, but only with a transformation in how we use, manage, and value fresh water. She will tackle these topics when she speaks about “Water for Food, Water for Life: Adapting to a Warming, Water-Stressed World” Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 pm in Hooker Auditorium.

For the last half century, the construction of large dams, river diversions, and millions of groundwater wells helped meet the population’s water demands. Today, 70 percent of the world’s water goes to agriculture but nearly one billion people are chronically hungry. Rivers are drying up, aquifers are being depleted, and freshwater ecosystems are being threatened.

In her talk, Postel will discuss several new strategies to deal with these issues, such as the establishment of “sustainability boundaries” to preserve ecological health and the deployment of technologies and practices to double water productivity, among others.

In 2010, Postel was appointed the Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, where she is the lead water expert for the society’s freshwater initiative. She is the author of several books, including Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, which was the basis for a 1997 PBS documentary, and is coauthor, with Brian Richter, of Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature. Postel was also named one of the world’s “greatest minds” by Mike Wallace in his book The Way We Will Be 50 Years from Today.

From 2000 to 2008, Postel was visiting senior lecturer in environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College, and, late in that term, served as interim director of the College’s Center for the Environment.

This lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Science Center Directorship of Mount Holyoke College and the Miller Worley Center for the Environment. There will be a reception prior to the lecture at 7 pm in Hooker Auditorium.