Identifying ‘Discontinuity Gap’ Could Solve Freshwater Shortages
Cees Buisman (Image source: BlueTech Research)
Professor Buisman is head of circular water technology at Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands, and executive board member at Wetsus, the European centre of excellence for sustainable water technology.
His 2020 book, We Need to Change to Solve the Water Crisis (published in 2018 as Humanity is not a Plague: How 10 billion People can Exist Together), argues that it is possible for the world’s population - as predicted for the year 2100 - to live together on earth provided that the richer part no longer merely focuses on its own health, prosperity and happiness and instead starts working seriously on developing a higher consciousness.
The essay analyses some of the problems facing mankind, such as freshwater shortages, whilst overturning several clichés and offering unexpected, positive solutions. It highlights two types of innovation - technocratic and nature-based - which Buisman now prefers to call non-coherent’ and ‘coherent’ innovations. "Coherent innovations benefit the world," he has said, "and non-coherent innovation in the end will bite the world in the tail. They were only thought of for making money, and not for the public good".
The arguments set out in his book will be a focal point of Buisman’s talk at the BlueTech Research-hosted forum, taking place in Vancouver, Canada, on 6-8 June 2022.
Buisman is a long-standing friend and collaborator of BlueTech Research and was a guest speaker at its online roundtable event, held in October 2021, to address net zero carbon and water. He opened his presentation with a stark reminder about water scarcity, saying the water crisis is just like the climate crisis, “but much more urgent.”
Making a distinction between green water – which falls from the sky – and blue water which is extracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers, Buisman said that even in a rainy country like the Netherlands, farmers may be watering their cattle with green water, but the feed they eat could be imported from regions of the world with depleted blue water resources.
Similarly, the groundwater used to grow cotton for clothes bought on European high streets could be from depleted regions of the US, China or India. When those underground lakes run out, said Buisman, we will “have discontinuity with a few billion people who don’t have water anymore.”
Citing innovation as a way to breach the discontinuity gap, Buisman questioned the kind of innovations required to achieve a world we want to live in.
“Do you want to live in a world where we spend billions to store the CO2 we’ve exhausted in the ground?” he asked. “Or do you want to live in a world where we use the money to plant trees in deserts, and create welfare for the poorest on earth, and recycle the water through the trees that have been planted?”
BlueTech Research founder and chief executive Paul O’Callaghan said: “Cees is hugely respected throughout all corners of the global water community. We are privileged he has accepted our invite to be a BlueNote speaker at BlueTech Forum 2022. His presentations – such as at our recent roundtable - never fail to inspire.
“The themes running through Cees’ book align perfectly with the theme of BlueTech Forum 2022 - Radical Collaboration for Regeneration. The global water and climate dialogue is shifting away from making the environment ‘less-worse’ and towards initiating regrowth and regeneration.
“Radical collaborations are needed if we are to have a lasting impact and I know that Cees will encourage us all to think differently and spark new ideas among participants.”
Taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre, with nearby Science World as the reception venue, forum organisers are building an immersive and inspiring experience to bring the story of water to life and ensure enduring impact.
The interactive programme will include workshops, end-user sessions, roundtable discussions and the BlueTech Innovation Showcase, with sessions centering on key research themes such as water quality, decentralised innovations, creative communications, circular cities and the road to zero. Guests will have the opportunity to participate in in a hands-on team activity, involving the creation of nature-based solutions, to leave a lasting positive impact on the water environment of Vancouver.
Source: BlueTech Research