Publications

December 12, 2018

Tragedy of the Commons, 50 Years On

Fifty years ago, a professor of biology at UC Santa Barbara named Garrett Hardin published an essay in Science magazine called “The Tragedy of the Commons.” In his essay, Hardin invites us to consider a pasture shared by numerous herdsmen as a commons. Each herdsman grazes as many cattle as possible in this shared space to maximize the benefit to him and his family, but the numbers are kept in check by disease, poaching, disputes and so forth.
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November 19, 2018

You Didn’t Think I’d Forget Did You? It’s World Toilet Day!!

Sometimes I try to imagine what living in Chicago must have been like in the 1880s, a crowded city teeming with half a million people — and no sewage treatment. Sewer pipes had been laid two decades earlier by raising buildings and streets, but the pipes conveyed sewage directly into the river. Conjure, if you will, the stench of waste clogging a sluggish, slow-moving prairie stream busy with commercial vessels and barges, receptacle for tannery chemicals and stockyard carcasses.
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November 12, 2018

Thank Yous in a Perilous Time

To the veterans I know — Alfred Saucedo, Pete Kalenik, Pete Buttigieg, Alison Jaslow, Lori Wilcox, Jeff Perez, Mike Lyons, Nakia Gibson, Jill Morgenthaler, Tammy Duckworth, Brendan Kelly, Todd Connor, John Murray — and to the many thousands whom I do not know: Thank you.
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October 10, 2018

A Day Without Water

I don’t even like to think about it, but I want to ask you to imagine a day without water. No water to drink, or even to brew coffee. No water to shower, flush the toilet, or do laundry. Hospitals would close without water. Firefighters couldn't extinguish fires and farmers couldn't water their crops.
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October 1, 2018

Aspirations (for water and people)

Did you know that all water aspires to be beer? I confess I suspected as much, but this fundamental truth was confirmed for me at the WateReuse Symposium I attended recently in Austin, Texas.
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May 24, 2018

Two Parties

On May 29 next year, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago will celebrate its 130th anniversary. The Illinois legislature established the Chicago Sanitary District in 1889 with a stern mandate: keep sewage out of Chicago’s drinking water supply (namely, Lake Michigan).
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