In Print : Making a splash
"Written in Water, Messages of Hope for Earth's Most Precious Resource," edited by Irena Salina, National Geographic Society, 2010, 304 ppg. $26.
As lofty as its title is, "Written in Water: Messages of Hope for Earth's Most Precious Resource for the Future" is an animated first-person collection of essays that should prove as interesting to the casual reader as it is to those zealous about the cause.
In addition to elaborating on the problems and solutions for protecting the earth's freshwater, each of the 26 distinguished writers collected here draws from his and her personal experience, taking the reader from the mountains of Peru to the Congo River Basin, from India to Long Island, N.Y.
Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, recalls her grandfather taking her on her first dive off the coast of southern France. Peter Gleick, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, in his forward, remembers exploring the waters of the Pine Barrens, N.J., and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, president of the Whitman Strategy Group, chairman of the Water Policy Institute, and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, writes about fishing with her father.
One particularly interesting story, "A Ride for Nature," tells of experiences in the Southwest during a solitary two-year, 7,000-mile trek on horseback through 25 states to raise fresh water consciousness. From January 1976 to November 1977, its author, Islander William E. "Waterways" Marks, with only horses as company as he rode from San Diego to Maine. Along the way, he spoke to groups, organizations, and schools to raise consciousness about the importance of protecting freshwater resources.
A native of Towaco, N.J., growing up on his family's organic farm, Mr. Marks was employed as senior environmental analyst for the city of Newark in the mid-1970s when, inspired by a vision, he decided to quit and ride across country. He writes: "Before those 30 days passed, I had sold all my worldly possessions and was on a plane to San Diego."
In "A Ride for Nature," Mr. Marks, with drama and detail, describes the skies and spectacular vistas, the physical hardships, challenging weather, and the drought in the Saguaro National Park, the Gila Trail, the cactuses, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and the thirst that he and his horses endured. His writing combines biology, ecology, and poetry.
"Desert breathing comes deeply and slowly. Hot, still air makes it a task to breathe. Purposely, I slow my heart to maximize intake of oxygen with least effort, and minimize the loss of body water and energy.
Economy of motion becomes our living mantra."
And when at last water is found and he drinks: "... I fantasize: flavors of sand and rock, hints of blended root, stem, leaf, algae. And other things beyond belief."
Mr. Marks's long list of recognitions, activities, and achievements on and off the Island as a freshwater conservationist makes the Edgartown resident a worthy addition to "Written in Water." In addition to his research and political activism, he founded Vineyard Environmental Protection Inc., and Vineyard Environmental Research Institute; wrote "The History of Wind Power on Martha's Vineyard" (1980), and "Holy Order of Water" (2001), and is editor/publisher of "Water Voices From Around the World."
In May, Mr. Marks, in cooperation with National Geographic, will produce a two-day fundraiser for the Martha's Vineyard Science Fair, featuring Alexandra Cousteau, Island musicians, information booths, and a panel discussion.