students, faculty and staff joined speakers and environmental experts
Oct. 17 for "A River Runs Through Us," a seminar focused on sustainable
water resource management. Government experts, scholars and representatives
from various organizations explored ways to protect the world's
director of the Global Water Policy Institute and WorldWatch Institute
Senior Fellow, delivered the opening address at the forum and also
spoke to a class of approximately 40 School of Communications students.
with the students about the role of communications in getting a
message out, and the importance of global water issues.
"I have had
to think quite a bit about how I can get my message out to people,"
she said. "It's very important for people to be informed about
the status of water. At all levels, globally, nationally, regionally
and locally, we have important decisions to make."
back on her college days. "One of the things that influenced
my career choice a lot was a mass media and engineering fellowship,"
she said. "I worked as a science writer for the Charlotte Observer
for a summer. It taught me many things I still rely upon today.
Communication of important issues is the name of the game. If you
can't publish your results to the public at large, then your work
may not bring that positive change it could in the world. Those
skills are important to what I do."
about water issues regularly on radio and television, including
appearances on "CBS Sunday Morning", "CBS Evening
News," CNN, BBC Radio, NPR's "Science Friday," NPR's
"The World" and Radio New Zealand. Her first book, "Last
Oasis," was named by CHOICE magazine as an outstanding academic
book of 1993 and it inspired a 1997 PBS documentary with the same
title. She has written some 20 op-ed features that have appeared
in more than 30 newspapers around the world, including The New York
Times and The Washington Post.
to write a lot myself across the whole spectrum of public magazines
to reach an audience with my message," she said. "It's
difficult to track the impact of what I do. It's a whole arsenel
of opportunities that you try to take advantage of."
In her research
presentations, Postel has pointed out that an estimated 1 billion
people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, and
2 billion do not have adequate sanitation. She adds that this situation
accounts for as much as 80 percent of the disease in third-world
"It is important
to examine our own impact on water, the 6 billion impacts we have
as individuals on this planet." Postel said. "I think we can make
a significant difference."
She spoke in
favor of tying more world-trade decision-making to its environmental
impact. "We have the World Trade Organization, but there's
no comparable body called theWorld Environmental Organization,"
she said. "The market fails terribly when it comes to protecting
She said a
global-trade issue of growing concern is the privatization of water
supplies. "Using urban water supplies as a profit-maker for
private corporations can be trouble," she said. "We have
public-trust problems. Do we want the water coming out of our taps
to be under the control of a corporation with headquarters in France,
or do we want a public body representing our rights and interests
to be in charge of that water supply? It's a subset of the globalization
Americans can make choices that will help preserve our water supply.
"We should live as sustainaby as we can ourselves," she explained.
"The average American diet takes twice the water to produce
than most other diets - eat lower on the food chain, eat organic.
Consuming less also effects water in a positive way - water is used
to make shoes, clothes, paper, computers, everything. How we landscape
is also important - we don't need to use a ton of water and chemicals."
She said individuals
can protect water resources by becoming advocates. "Becoming
informed is the first thing we need to do," she explained.
"Then become involved and engaged. Watershed groups are a way
in which people can be active. A watershed is all the land draining
into a water body. All of the land on Earth falls into the category
of a watershed. Within that you have subwatersheds - at that scale,
individuals have the ability to influence decisions being made about
what's draining into our rivers and streams. Thinking about land-water
connections is important. It's where all key decisions are made."
Center for Environmental Studies hosted the event that brought Postel
to campus. Co-sponsors for "A River Runs Through Us" included
the North Carolina section of the American Water Works Association,
the North Carolina Water Environment Association, Duke Energy, Syngenta,
the Piedmont Land Conservancy, the Haw River Lands and Trails Association
and Alamance Community College.