03 June 2012

Knowledge: It is a short walk to the edge

Last Sunday was Cornell graduation and one of my students, Yiwen Ng, handed me a note with her artwork of one of my favorite sayings. My students all know that "It's a short walk to the edge of knowledge."

I had never noticed before that the "edge" is right inside knowledge. It really is a short walk to the edge and perhaps the first step towards wisdom is recognizing how close we are to the edge.

The success of the AguaClara program has been in our ability to recognize the edge and then conduct experiments and test new ideas both in the laboratory and at full scale. We discovered that much of conventional wisdom about water treatment technologies is scaffolding built beyond the edge. We stepped back off of that shaky scaffolding and back on to the solid edifice of knowledge and began extending knowledge brick by brick.

In the past 7 years we have added bricks in chemical dosing, flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration. With Agua Para el Pueblo we've also added bricks of knowledge in governance and construction of water treatment plants. As we look ahead to the next 7 years, may we add many more solid bricks!

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