This week in Say More, PS talks with Giulio Boccaletti, an honorary research associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, and the author of Water: A Biography.
Project Syndicate: This year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference has begun, and the pressure is on political leaders to deliver a robust agreement that can avert the worst effects of climate change. You have advocated “integrated solutions” that simultaneously advance environmental protection, water provision, and public health. Have debates on climate action focused adequately on such solutions? If leaders do commit to “finding ways to identify and maximize complementarity,” where should they start?
Giulio Boccaletti: The trajectory of Earth’s climate over the next several decades is largely set, regardless of what is achieved at COP26. But mitigation is vital to ensure that future generations can survive worsening environmental conditions, and adaptation is essential to protect those of us alive today.
Adaptation will require us to develop a new relationship with our environment. It demands a comprehensive approach that advances a number of complementary objectives: delivering expansive renewable infrastructure, maintaining and expanding a biodiverse terrestrial carbon sink, conveying water of the appropriate quality wherever it is needed, and ensuring that catastrophic floods do not wipe out communities.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Boccaletti's picks:
by Albert O. Hirschman
This is an essay – originally a series of lectures in economic history – by the celebrated author of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Written after the political upheavals of 1968, it provides a penetrating analysis of how societies shift from collective engagement in public life to focus on private concerns. Youth movements are once again in the public eye today, as are social justice and environmental issues. This short book is an important reminder of the dynamic nature of public commitment, and the role institutions play in sustaining it over time.
by Naomi Oreskes
Oreskes has worked on the history of oceanography – and, more broadly, on the history of science – for over two decades. In this recent book, she again proves her skill as an astute observer of the modern scientific enterprise. At a time when science is increasingly driving public policy, and misinformation and conspiracy theories are proliferating, Oreskes compellingly shows how patronage can shape scientific inquiry. Motivation and institutional setting matter, often despite the private incentives of individual scientists (and the stories they tell themselves). Earth sciences are going to guide humanity’s actions over the next century, so it is essential to understand how political and institutional incentives shape them.
by Elif Shafak
Sometimes works of fiction capture the challenges of the present far better than analysis. And this moving story touches on many contemporary issues, such as the challenges of displacement, the enduring effects of colonialism and violence, and the role nature plays in our lives. Shafak is a Turkish novelist who writes in English. Her fluent, eloquent writing conveys the particular aesthetic of expression in an adopted language. Ultimately, this is a story of separation, survival, identity, and the role that a constructed, imagined, and remembered environment can play in our lives – all themes that will shape our efforts to clarify our place in the twenty-first century.