Colourless, tasteless, odourless, ageless: water is both the simplest thing on earth and the most complex. We cannot live without it yet it kills six thousand children a day. It is the ultimate renewable resource but we pollute it without thinking twice. Why, if water is so valuable does nobody want to pay for it unless it comes in a designer bottle? Is it really the oil of the twenty-first century? Will we all soon be fighting over it, or can it lead countries into co-operation rather than conflict?
In this enthralling voyage of discovery, Rupert Wright sets out to discover exactly what water is and why it plays such an important role in history, culture, art and literature. Part reportage and part personal journey, Take Me to the Source is the fascinating story of the substance that makes life on earth possible.
This intriguing but uneven study of water and its material and symbolic necessity to human life divides investigations into major themes as diverse as water's curious chemistry, its role in the history of pathology and torture, its widespread bottling and branding, and its inspiration to philosophers and artists. Moving from Kenya's flower industry to India's heavily polluted Yamuna River, the narrative settles into a perfunctory, slapdash rhythm (augmented by the author's jarring, self-consciously literary flourishes tagged onto the end of each chapter), but at its best it is a fascinating lens for viewing human progress and imagination. There is an underlying politics to the desultory journey as well, and Wright, a former water consultant to the World Bank, eventually gets practical with a list of 10 commandments for water projects. Readers interested in such policy specifics will necessarily wade through much else besides, and may balk at the terse treatment Wright gives to complex issues. General readers in search of a lively and diverting survey will find this wide-ranging discussion often surprising if only fitfully engaging.