ARC Review: “The Wonder of Water” by Ingrid Leman Stefanovic

Title: The Wonder of Water: Lived Experience, Policy, and Practice
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon, University of Toronto Press
Author: Ingrid Leman Stefanovic (Editor)
Publication Date: December 15, 2019
Genre: Nonfiction

Synopsis

Facing droughts, floods, and water security challenges, society is increasingly forced to develop new policies and practices to cope with the impacts of climate change. From taken-for-granted values and perceptions to embodied, existential modes of engaging our world, human perspectives impact decision-making and behavior.

The Wonder of Water explores how human experience – from embodied cultural paradigms to value systems and personal biases – impact decisions around water. In many ways, the volume expands on the growing field of water ethics to include questions around environmental aesthetics, psychology, and ontology. And yet this book is not simply for philosophers. On the contrary, a specific aim is to explore how more informed philosophical dialogue will lead to more insightful public policies and practices.

Case studies describe specific architectural and planning decisions, fisheries policies, urban ecological restorations and more. The overarching phenomenological perspective, however, means that these discussions emerge within a sensibility toward the foundational significance of human embodiment, culture, language, worldviews, and, ultimately, moral attunement to place.

via Goodreads

Review

TLDR; I wanted to love this book, but it ended up being a little too philosophical for me. For those who care about the topic and enjoy that style, this may be a fantastic read 🙂

This is one of those books I wanted to love, but didn’t work out for me. Let’s start with some of the things I really enjoyed. The topic is incredibly relevant, emphasizing the huge importance of water in our lives and how devastating lack of access to clean water is for many communities. It’s important to acknowledge how easy it is to take some needs for granted if you are privileged enough to grow up in certain conditions, so I was eager to absorb this book and let it refocus my attention on the important things this holiday season.

I do believe the book did a great job discussing how critical safe water is and exploring the various facets of how we interact with water day to day. One piece that I found particularly compelling related water to race and community issues. Using Flint, MI as a cornerstone example, the author for that section did an exceptionally good job making the issue personal as well as broadening the scope of discussion to other regions. Aside from this piece there were one or two other highlights in the book (including the quote below which was quite profound), but unfortunately these didn’t tip the scales for me.

The logic of capital simply does not have enough capacity to grasp the time extension needed to defuse functional policy that can sustain the contemporary resource base for even the current generation.

Where this book lost me was the unexpected amount of focus on phenomenology. And before you bring up how it’s mentioned in the description, I’ll clarify that I just expected a more even mix of policy discussion vs. lived experience stories vs. philosophy. Moreover I found the reading to be more difficult than expected, needing to re-read some of the wordier sentences in many pieces. On whole it felt a little more like reading a series of papers for a humanities course than the relaxing yet educational read I’d hoped for.

For these reasons I’ve given the book two stars, since I believe ratings/reviews should be personal and this one just didn’t quite do it for me. However, if you enjoy reading pieces that lean more philosophical and would find a discussion on water by various authors fascinating, this might be a fit for you!

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