Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Power of Water

The other day I was talking to a young scientist from China who's completing her PhD at one of the very best American universities, and has just spent a month in Israel. She hails from what she describes as a "middle-or-smallish-sized Chinese town" of about 8 million people, which I admit I'd never heard of. When I asked for her impressions of her first visit to Israel (pop. 7.76 million) she gushed. First, about the geographic and climatic diversity, then over the human diversity, then over the creative energy. (The first of those three isn't of our doing).

The creative energy is constantly seeking new avenues. A couple weeks ago the Economist agreed to stop kvetching over our politics long enough to look at a spot of our economics, and came up with the story of how Israel is trying to corner the international market of water technology. It may or may not work, but if it does it will significantly benefit mankind. To me, the interesting part of the story is how we're trying to repeat a model which proved extremely efficient in the 1990s: the problems that could be solved are there, the eagerness to resolve them are there, then the government steps in with significant funds, but with the intention to jump-start an industry and then get out so as not to interfere with the private innovators and investors and risk-takers. In the 1990s it was the Yozma program which jump-started the high-tech revolution; a few years ago it was a fund for water technology; five years later the government is already moving out and the innovators and entrepreneurs who made it in the 1990s are moving in.

I expect it will take another five years or so to know if this is working. During that time many of the water-tech start-ups will fail, for various reasons. If some succeed, however, especially if any of them succeed spectacularly, Israel really could be the Mecca for anyone worldwide who's got dirty water or lack of water and wishes to improve things. Which means most of the world.

Well, perhaps not a Mecca. Though the Meccans sure could use it. Also, this success or failure will happen regardless of the settlements on the West Bank, and the blockade or not of Gaza. That's a different universe.


Silke said...

beautiful and being wilfully obnoxious:

Where is the romancing of it to the green and not so green world?

Some weeks ago the biggest German women's magazine Brigitte had a piece on the Dead Sea with Ahava featuring in it heavily (so I assume Ahava had paid some for the privilege ) -

But who got the last word in the piece which made very beauty-hungry woman yearn for immediate switching to Dead Sea stuff if not a trip to it?

A Palestinian soap manufacturer with some folksy moderatism after he had had a chance to complain oh so mildly mannered about all the "occupation" did to hurt him. Did he have to pay for the privilege also? If so, in all likelihood comparatively less than Ahava which came across all scientific and sober and state of the art. A woman's mind in front of a bath room mirror is not in sober mode, she wants to believe that the miracle will happen and some old folk wisdom no matter how fake will stick in her mind much more than what white coat said.

Dimitry said...

Another thing that will make Israel an even bigger player than it already is, is if Isarelis actually manage to find a clean way of extracting oil from shale
If this happens, bye bye Arab stranglehold on the energy market, too

Yaacov said...

I doubt the shale story, but who knows? Perhaps in a generation Israel will be one of the world's main energy suppliers, water suppliers (via technology), weapons suppliers (it already is), software suppliers (which it already sort of is), biotech suppliers, and with one of the healthiest demographics, as we discussed last week. This will truly be proof of the Elders of Zion myth. :~)

Anonymous said...

Rather than oil from shale, Israel should be working on Boron-based nuclear fusion.


Dimitry said...

Yeah, if this happens, the conspiracy theories are going to sprout like mushrooms

P.S. Why do you doubt the shale story?

Yaacov said...

1. It's too good to be true.
2. I've never heard about it at all. Not a rumour, nothing. Something this big would have been mentioned somewhere, no?
3.Dore Gold (the author) is a serious guy, whom I've known for decades, but I don't think he's an expert on this sort of thing. So how come he suddenly is?
4. The technology of extracting clean energy from shale is also something I've never heard of. Rather on the contrary: Greens love to kvetch about how shale extraction is so horrendous. Suddenly the Israelis are ready to solve the matter?

None of which means it's not true, but I'm wary.

Dimitry said...

Well, that's what I found after about twenty minutes of googling
From the names, this was what Dore Gold was talking about. I have no idea how serious these guys are. Though it would help if they didn't date their document in the future :)

chiefsnark said...

And, Yaacov, I assume that the BDS crowd, in keeping with its principles, will refuse to drink water made possible by Israeli technology, use whatever other software is available so their computers are not tainted by Israeli action, and will instruct their doctors, even in life-threatening situations, not to avail themselves of Israeli biotech and medical advances. Certainly these are people of principle who will adhere to their principles at whatever cost.

Anonymous said...

A while back some anti Israel group was urging people to boycott Israeli products at Trader Joe's. They came up with feta cheese and Israeli couscous.

Have they not noticed Israel's hugely oversized presence on NASDAQ? Do they really think the economy is dependent on exports of feta cheese and couscous?

Yes I'm sure they'll bring Israel to her knees any day now.