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Friday, May 4, 2018

Moisture Farms Aren’t Science Fiction Anymore

Like the fictional "vaporators" from 'Star Wars,' we can now harvest fresh water from thin air.

Paging Luke Skywalker: this May the 4th, your moisture farm is calling!

As countries and cities such as Cape Town, South Africa, struggle to quench the thirst of growing populations, a new technology will soon be able to pull water from thin—even arid—air. Cutting-edge sorbent-based “atmospheric harvesters” (Luke knew them as “vaporators”) will soon be available for thirsty people in some of the most inhospitable climates, with relative humidity as low as 10 percent.

Engadget reports that this new technology makes it even easier to leverage the invisible water floating around us every day:

Earth’s atmosphere contains an estimated 13 trillion liters of water vapor at any given time—that’s the equivalent to 10 percent of all of the planet’s available surface freshwater.”

This innovation reminds me of the famous economics and business professor Julian Simon whose book The Ultimate Resource argued that humanity is not limited (either for population growth or potential for improved lifestyles) by any finite raw material (such as water, trees, or fossil fuel). Rather, it is human ingenuity (Simon’s ultimate resource) that allows raw materials to be applied to productive uses, thus transforming them into actual resources.

We discussed Simon’s idea in last week’s FEEcast in regard to the concern that humanity is outgrowing the Earth’s ability to sustain us. (Even that language—“Earth’s ability”—is misleading in that it charges an inanimate, non-thinking entity with the job we, as people, have to figure out how to improve our own lot.)

Just as Luke was motivated to begin the journey that would lead him to become a hero of the Rebellion, it’s up to humanity to apply our minds to solve all of the problems we might face.

  • Richard N. Lorenc is Chief Growth Officer of Iron Light, an award-winning strategic marketing firm specializing in helping purpose-driven brands change the world. He served at FEE from April 2013-November 2021, most recently as FEE's Executive Vice President.