Water’s influence through history
Time: August 13, 2017
Place: Brought that library book with me everywhere.
Pointer from: Strong, long-time interest in water
Source: Water by Steven Solomon
Note type: Inspired
Water by Steven Solomon
Water has always been man's most indispensable natural resource, and one endowed with special, seemingly magical powers of physical transformation derived from it's unique molecular properties and extraordinary roles in earths geological and biological processes.
Although often overlooked the Advent of cheap abundant freshwater was one of the great growth drivers of the industrial era: it's usage grew more than twice as fast as the world population, and its ninefold increase in the 20th century rivaled the more celebrated thirteenfold growth in energy.
Failure to maintain waterworks infrastructure or to overcome water obstacles and tap the hidden opportunities water always presents has been a telltale indicator of societal decline and stagnation.
Water is the planets most universal solvent: it's extraordinary capacity to saturate, dissolve, and mingle with other molecules to catalyze essential chemical reactions makes it earths most potent agent of change.
How societies respond to the challenges presented by the changing hydraulic conditions of its environment using technological and organizational tools of its times is, quite simply, one of the central motive forces of history.
5 ways water used in world history
- Domestically for drinking cooking sanitation
- Economic production for agriculture industry mining
- Power generation
- Environmentally to sustain vital ecosystems
Whenever a major breakthru occurred in any of these principal uses, it often had an outsized transformational impact on history by converting what had been a water impediment into a dynamic force for expansion.
Power of pharoah
Used to make paper
The Nile artery the richness of it's valley and the delta, the predictable onset of it's floods, and it's protective surrounding desert also rendered Egypt one of world historys most inward-looking changeless, rigidly ordered, and longest-enduring civilizations.
One crop system with limited capacity capped max population and high susecptible to famine and instability during prolonged periods low nile floods.
New kingdom of Egypt conincided 3 century good floods
New water lifting technologies
Full embrace of sea trade
Intitated by queen hatshepsut first important queen of ancient history
Ancient Mesopotamia (fertile crescent modern day turkey Syria Iraq) faced far more complex and adverse hydrological Environmental challenges that those posted by the Nile. The rivers Tigris and Euphrates helped create the world's most precocious large civilization, featuring The wedge-shaped cuneiform that was mankind's first written language the first large cities sophisticated water lifting and irrigation tech, the wheel
Flooding unpredictable and typically at odds normal growing cycle. Many branches complicated hydraulics.
Key year round regulation of 2 rivers thru extensive water works.
Natural hydraulics made Egypt gift of Nile, Mesopotamia artificial whose success defiance design of naturethru water engineering and organization of society.
Enki Mesopotamia mythology water God
Salinization in Sumeria
Hammurabi of Babylon: in the early part of his reign he dedicated himself to the smallest details of essential internal developments such as digging irrigation canals and fortifying cities.
Iron (transforming innovation) production dependent on skillfull use of freshwater. Began in Caucasus mtns
Ninevah (700 bc) used water pressurized u-shaped inverted siphone pipe to carry water across and up topographical depression
Assyrians institutionalized clean urban drinking water-- the qanat. (Read up: xinjiang)
Long deep slightly inclined tunnels thru subterranean rock face into underground mtn aquifers and ran by gravity to lower lying populations.
Mohenjo Daro discovered along Indus
Underground municipal network with indoor toilets and water Wells "precocious understanding of sanitary water supply and waste removal"
Believed to have been before Rome's by about 2000 years. And before 19th century Awakening by about 4000 years. Think thrived 2600 to 1700 BC. Disappeared 1700 bc. Think culprit fragile environment
Indian subcontinent checkerboard of disparate hydrological and topographical environtments. No arterial waterway linked independent regions into coherent politically unified society. Until British no one ruled over all of India.
Thales philosophized : he reasoned that everything on Earth was a manifestation of water in some transformed aspect
Rome. It's unique genius as a civilization resided in combining it's military power with it's pragmatic well organized large scale applications of engineering technologies -- the control and use if water prominent among them
Changing transport allows new things to happen (better for water?)
Rome high unemployment subsized food
Civilizations in power might change (300-400 yes) but cities can sustain e.g. Rome
China Grand Canal early 7th Century
So closely correlated was river management and governing power that the very Chinese character for politics is derived from root words meaning flood control
Taoism vs Confucianism perception water. Taoism: water exemplry model human conduct. Confucianism: advocated forcrful manipulation of both nature and himan society to achieve public good.
Why hydraulic state so inward looking?