Vision, Water & Tomorrow’s Heroes: Uniting The Aqua Nation and The Chickasaw Nation
Recently I spoke at the OKA Institute Water Sustainability Conference on Israel’s rise as a water superpower, or what I call, “The Aqua Nation.” In my talk I spoke about Israel’s amazing accomplishments in the area of water, such as:
- Israel treats nearly all of it’s sewage and reuses almost 90% of it for agriculture
- Israel is the only country in the world with a net gain of trees over the past century
- Israel is the only country in the world with receding deserts
- Israel is now independent from the climate for it’s drinking water
More importantly, I didn’t just share the Aqua Nation’s “wow,” but also the Aqua Nation’s “how” – how Israel has achieved this miraculous feat. Although there are many factors, none is more important than vision.
Far before the modern state of Israel was restored in 1948, as early as the late 1800’s, Zionist visionaries like Theodor Herzl were focused on water. For Herzl, and later leaders like Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, water was as important as defense. Herzl even wrote a work of fiction about a return to the land of Palestine (now known as, “Israel”), describing the heroes of Israel’s futures as being water engineers. Fifty years later Israel’s heroes were, indeed, those who fought to defend the Jewish homeland as well as those who worked to water the Jewish homeland. Water was literally an issue of life and death, not only for the Jews of Palestine, but their brethren in Europe too.
In 1939 the British who controlled Palestine drafted the White Paper. Among other things the British White Paper severely limited Jewish immigration within Israel. This wasn’t merely a threat to the establishment of the State of Israel (no Jews, no state), more pressingly it was a death sentence to the hundreds of thousands of Jews trying to escape the Holocaust. And one of the limiting factors the British used to set immigration quotas was water. Immigration would be turned up or down depending upon the Israeli’s ability to provide water.
In response, the Israeli leadership set forth to create and fulfill “the Fantasy Plan,” an impressive, aggressive and visionary water plan which would provide water to as many Jews as needed. With incredible investment, supreme sacrifice and superb execution the Israelis did the impossible, they ultimately achieved water sustainability, creating a safe haven for Jews around the world.
Fast forward over one hundred years since Herzl spoke about tomorrow’s water heroes, and the majority of countries, states and cities around the world still don’t have a water plan. They are not only failing to plan for tomorrow, they don’t even have emergency contingency plans in place if the sewage hits the fan today!
The Aqua Nation has been evolving their water plans since the 1930’s and have contingency plans far beyond 2050. Israel, however, is not the only forward thinking country when it comes to water, and certainly does not have a lock on all of the visionary leaders when it comes to water.
Throughout the past year I have been to almost every state within the Silicon Prairie, and although many of them are visionary, progressive and collaborative when it comes to water, none are more so than Oklahoma.
Whereas many other states are still reluctant to plan for, or even admit, water scarcity, contamination and impending crisis’, Oklahoma is proactively addressing these issues. There is a willingness to collaborate beyond traditional territorial divides. There is a readiness to invest in expensive planning and infrastructural changes. And most of all, there is a desire to take a lead position within the region when it comes to water. Although this is due to a number of factors, you can not underestimate the power of visionary leadership. Of the hundreds of leaders I have met throughout the region, none is more visionary than Governor Bill Anoatubby, governor of The Chickasaw Nation.
Governor Anoatubby has been the elected governor of the Chickasaw people since 1987, one of the country’s largest Native American communities and Oklahoma’s largest communities, employers, industries and influencers.
I was first introduced to Governor Anoatubby by my friend and welaunch partner, Edie Roodman, Executive Director of OKIE (Oklahoma Israel Exchange). Now having met with the governor multiple times, and worked with many of his people, I can say he is a rare blend of wisdom, compassion, humility, strength and vision. The Chickasaw people certainly respect him, but so does everyone I have met who knows him throughout the state, region and country.
Additionally, Governor Anoatubby has a deep and active relationship with the State of Israel. Having visited Israel years back with OKIE, who has been fostering these types of warm relations between Oklahoma and Israel for decades, he has continued to send delegations to Israel ever since – delegations focused on many business development opportunities, but none more central than water.
The people of the Chickasaw and the people of Israel have so much in common, so much shared, struggle filled past, but struggles met with the same determination, resilience and vision. The Aqua Nation may be out front on this issue of water sustainability, but with leaders like Governor Anoatubby at the helm, the Chickasaw Nation and people of Oklahoma are “flowing” in the right direction.
Welaunch, along with our partners OKIE and Duane Smiths and Associates look forward to working with all of our Oklahoma partners devoted to water sustainability, men and women, like Governor Anoatubby who are looking beyond today, beyond their borders, beyond their self-interest, to a better and wetter tomorrow.
Thank you to everyone we met this past week in Oklahoma involved with water. You may only see yourself as water professionals, policymakers, researchers, engineers and irrigators, but indeed, you are tomorrow’s heroes. Thank you for your visionary, and heroic, leadership.