Waste Not. Want Not

Apr 10, 2017

What will the future hold for this "yard farmer"?

Welcome to High Plains Radio Readers Book club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of Water and Replenishment in our Book Club Series. Rediscovering an epic science fiction title, Dune, written in 1965 by Frank Herbert.

Book I of Dune sets the scene of the political volatile environment between the Houses, specifically the Atreides House. Events of Barron’s well thought out plan to annihilate the Atreides House thickens the plot, and yet main character, Paul Atreides is a greater threat than the Barron is willing to consider. Barron’s perfect plan hinges on a traitor in the Atreides House, a traitor who becomes a wild card and this takes place on a desert planet caked Arrakis, a.k.a. Dune.

Throughout the novel water is seen as a very precious commodity. However, all decisions and considerations are not based around water, and careful thought into preserving our water sources for generations to come need to happen now. This is very important to think about. In Book I of Dune, Dr. Yeuh says, “There is only so much water to support human life here” which is responded by, “Water…everyone you turn here, you’re involved with the lack of water!” which is more true today than in 1965 when this book was published.

An example, Agriculture in the United States, especially in California depend on water to grow their crops. Because of the lack of rain to water crops, underground water is being harvested by farmers. This causes the ground to sink where water is being harvested leading to expensive damages to roadway structure. Another example of the decisions we make today will impact how water will be available in the future is how food is thrown away so easily, so painless, and without as much as a concern. Throwing away food such as a cucumber or apple seems to be without repercussion per custom and/or tradition. However, the food item itself is not the loss, it is the resources such as the amount of water that went into producing that cucumber or apple.

Even though this 52 year old science fiction tale of how not having enough water seems to be a relentless obstacle that all characters are faced. It is a reality check to consider how this scarce resource is viewed in our society and how the reality of this science fiction can quickly become our own.  

As we move into the third book of our series, we have to ask ourselves what the future holds. I’ve talked with several Radio Readers who thought they didn’t care for science fiction until they began reading Dune in the context of just having read Milagro Beanfield War and the nonfiction Ogallala Blue. 

The works seem to force us to consider the effects of our own practices on the future.  Will our High Plains become the buffalo commons suggested by the Poppers in their 1987 essay or does our future hold something more austere?  And how will our decisions and choices influence the future of the planet? Some believe water will become the commerce of the future or, if we consider Dune, survival may depend on not just an appreciation for water, but also the knowledge that every drop of water, waste, human or nature produced plays a role in the planet’s survival.