2011 Anita Houston Lecture With Alex Prud'homme

Category: Speakers & Lecture Series
Location: Adrian Lamb Room

Alex Prud’homme, author of The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century, will be the guest speaker for the 2011 Anita Houston Lecture, to be held in the Adrian Lamb Room at the New Canaan Library on Thursday, November 17, at 7:30 p.m.  This lecture is co-sponsored by the Library and the UN Committee of New Canaan. 

In The Ripple Effect, Alex Prud’homme, journalist and co-author with his great-aunt Julia Child of the acclaimed and best-selling book My Life in France, provides a deeply researched, character-based narrative about the declining state of our fresh water supplies and why it is time for America to pay attention to our most vital resource.

As Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child were completing their collaboration on her memoir, My Life in France, they began to talk about the French obsession with bottled water, which had finally spread to America.  From this spark of interest, Prud’homme began what would become an ambitious quest to understand the evolving story of freshwater.  The questions he sought to answer were urgent: 

  • Will there be enough water to satisfy demand?
  • What are the threats to its quality?
  • What is the state of our water infrastructures – both the pipes that bring us freshwater and the levees that keep water out?
  • How secure is our water supply from natural disasters and terrorist attacks?

The most fundamental question Prud’homme addresses is this: Is water a right—as free as the air we breathe—or a commodity, a source for sale?waterap.jpg

Alex Prud’homme traveled across the United States to answer these complex questions, and the result is the most comprehensive investigation of our nation’s water supply to date.  The Ripple Effect is a masterwork of investigation and dramatic narrative that takes readers into the heart of the daily dramas that will determine the future of this essential resource – from the alleged murder of a water scientist in a New Jersey purification plant, to the epic confrontation between salmon fisherman and copper miners in Alaska, to the poisoning of Wisconsin wells, to the epidemic of intersex fish in the Chesapeake Bay, to the wars over fracking for natural gas.  Prud’homme introduces readers to an array of colorful, obsessive, brilliant – and sometimes shadowy – characters through whom these issues come alive. 

Just as Michael Pollan's The Omnivore’s Dilemma changed the way Americans viewed how food reached their plates, The Ripple Effect will change how we think about the water we drink, providing a crucial wake-up call to what the United Nations calls a “looming global crisis.”

Alex Prud’homme has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Talk, and Time.  His books include My Life in France (with Julia Child), The Cell Game, and Forewarned (with Michael Cherkasky).  He lives with his family in Brooklyn.