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Area residents, especially those with an eye on agriculture, may be aware of the years-long drought that has afflicted the Midwest. But what about the droughts in sub-Saharan Africa or central India?
Other parts of the globe, too, are confronting chronically dry climates. And Kansas University researchers who study other regions of the world are putting on a conference this week in part to see what Midwesterners can learn from them.
“We hope that this conference is a way to kind of show the implications and the importance of looking at it from different perspectives,” said John Kennedy, director of KU’s Center for Global and International Studies. The CGIS is one of a host of KU centers sponsoring the Global Water Conference set for Friday and Saturday in The Commons at KU’s Spooner Hall. Others are the centers for study of Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, East Asia and Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as KU’s environmental studies program.
The theme is “Drought, Conservation and Security in the 21st Century,” and three guest speakers will talk about those issues from global and regional perspectives.
The headline speaker, who’ll appear at the end of the event Saturday, is Anupan Mishra, a writer and environmentalist from India.
Mishra has spread word around the world about traditional rainwater harvesting methods that people in rural India have used for years and years to manage their water supply. He gave a 2009 TED Talk on the subject that’s still viewable on ted.com, where it’s drawn more than 450,000 views.
“He’s looked at how local communities use traditional methods for water conservation that are actually quite effective,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes when we look at the big picture, we miss the local and traditional ways of getting things done.”
On Saturday, Environmental Protection Agency official Karen Flournoy will speak about issues surrounding the Midwestern drought. She is director of the EPA’s Water, Wetlands and Pesticides Division for Region 7, which covers Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa.
Also speaking Saturday will be Christopher King, the dean of academics at Fort Leavenworth’s U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He’ll give a talk with an eye-catching title: “Whiskey is for Drinking, and Water is for Fighting Over, Again and Again.”
Researchers from KU and other institutions will also speak on a variety of panels, on topics ranging from water issues in Latin America to KU’s Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets.
Drought isn’t an issue of importance just to hard scientists, Kennedy said: It also matters to political scientists, economists, environmentalists and others. Not to mention anyone who wonders how the Midwest, or the rest of the world, can conserve water in years to come.
“I think it’s going to bring both the community and scholars, both local and international, together,” Kennedy said.
The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Attendance is free, but anyone wishing to come should register ahead of time online at global.ku.edu/conferences. A full schedule for the conference is available there, as well.