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Water—and the human impacts of abundance and scarcity—flowed in song, poetry, and a new interdisciplinary approach to the global water crisis 

Words Poured: Art, Science, and the Thirsty World

August 4, 2015

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Water—and the human impacts of abundance and scarcity—flowed in song, poetry, and a new interdisciplinary approach to the global water crisis.

A wide-ranging collaboration between Cornell and Oxford University brings together artists, humanists, scientists, and communities in arid Greece. Launched with an Academic Venture Fund award to Mediterranean literature and culture scholar Gail Holst-Warhaft and soil and water resources engineer Tammo Steenhuis, this multiyear initiative on international water policy has yielded two books, original music and dance, poetry, photography, performances, and international meetings—and most recently, a video.

Produced by Holst-Warhaft and conductor Cayenna Ponchione, currently a doctoral student at Oxford, the video reflects on how the arts can help us imagine the frightening possibility of water “running out” and motivate us to take collective action to protect our most precious resource.

Chemist and humanist Roald Hoffman, Cornell professor emeritus, appeared in the video, speaking with Holst-Warhaft about the project’s achievements so far. “Scientists talk to artists. We try to understand,” Hoffman said. “I think this is the main positive result of what you have done.”

“You never know what sort of tree a seed grant award will produce,” Holst-Warhaft remarked. “Without the Atkinson Center’s AVF grant, we would never have attracted the sponsorship of the Brettschneider Fund for collaborative work with Oxford University or the partnership with Global Water Partnership–Mediterranean. We have just been funded by Cornell’s Einaudi Center to continue working in Greece. We hope the tree keeps growing.”

View the Art, Science, and the Thirsty World video.

Read about Water Scarcity, Security, and Democracy: A Mediterranean Mosaic, a book supported by ACSF.