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Scooby-Doo! How old are you?

Enjoy these 50 Scooby snacks, uh, facts in honor of the cartoon canine's 50th.
July 26, 2019

Beloved cartoon canine celebrating 50 years of mysteries, meddling and Scooby Snacks

Editor's note: July 3 marked the start of "the dog days of summer," the most sweltering days of the year. (For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway.) To help you make it through, ASU Now is talking to experts from around the university about everything dog, from stars to language to man's best friend. Look for new stories every week through Aug. 9.

Zoinks! Look who’s turning 50.

Everybody’s favorite crime-cracking cartoon canine is celebrating a golden anniversary this year. In commemoration of this milestone moment and ASU Now's dog days of summer series, we spoke with Scooby expert Kevin Sandler, associate professor in the Film and Media Studies Program at Arizona State University, and did some sleuthing on our own. Here are 50 fun facts about Scooby-Doo:

1. Scooby-Doo made his debut on Sept. 13, 1969, with the premiere of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” The series joined CBS-TV’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup and introduced four intrepid teenage detectives and a talking dog named Scooby-Doo. “Where Are You!” was created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears for Hanna-Barbera Productions, the birthplace of “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons,” “The Yogi Bear Show” and other cartoon favorites.


Scooby-Doo!, Where Are You Season 1 Intro/YouTube

2. The assassination of presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 1968 propelled the production of the kid-friendly “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” according to Sandler, who is writing a book about Scooby-Doo. He says the series was a direct response to demands from the Johnson administration after the Kennedy assassination to address cartoon violence and the dangers it posed to children.

Robert F. Kennedy/Library of Congress
Robert F. Kennedy/Library of Congress

3. “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” premiered just a few weeks before the premiere of the PBS educational series “Sesame Street” on Nov. 10, 1969. Both series are celebrating 50 years in 2019.

Sesame Street- Universal Studios-Singapore Theme Park
Sesame Street characters/Flickr

4. Scooby-Doo’s full name is Scoobert Doo but he clearly prefers to be called Scooby as evidenced by his signature catchphrase: “Scooby-Dooby-Doo!”


Scooby Dooby Doo/YouTube

5. The Frank Sinatra song “Strangers in the Night” is said to have been the inspiration for Scooby-Doo’s name. Fred Silverman, the former director of daytime programming at CBS, said he came up with the name after hearing Sinatra sing the song’s scat refrain, “Do be do be do.” Also a big fan of the 1948 horror comedy “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,Silverman also said he imagined “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” as a similar haunted-house comedy.

Frank Sinatra-Library of Congress
Frank Sinatra/Library of Congress

6. Scooby-Doo’s true age is a bit of a mystery, but he is forever young. Handlers for the snack-loving sleuth have never revealed his date of birth, but the magazine that accompanied the 2002 release of the live-action “Scooby-Doo” movie leaked Scooby’s age as 7, according to several reports. In dog years that would put Scooby in the age range of about 50 human years, which means he has been 50 years old in human years for about 50 years.  

MORE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER STORIES

7. Scooby-Doo is an anthropomorphichaving human characteristics Great Dane. Known for their tall physical stature, Great Danes were originally bred as hunting dogs and were once thought to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. And while this attribute might have been handy for the supernatural mysteries sought and solved by Scooby-Doo and his pals, the cartoon canine’s cowardly character traits made him a bit of an anomaly in the original breed of boar-hunting Great Danes that are now largely considered friendly and dependable “gentle giants.”

Great Dane-Silhouette
Great Dane silhouette/Creative Commons

8. Scooby-Doo was almost a sheepdog. Initially concerned that Scooby’s Great Dane might be confused with the comic strip Great Dane Marmaduke, Scooby creators Ruby and Spears alternatively sketched Scooby-Doo to be a big shaggy sheepdog named Too Much. Sheepdogs are considered good-natured and sociable. They are said to have good herding instincts but are typically now bred to be show dogs or pets. Again facing comparisons to another cartoon canine — Hot Dog the sheepdog on “The Archie Show” — Ruby and Spears settled on making Scooby-Doo a Great Dane.

Old English Sheep Dog
Old English sheepdog/Pixabay

9. Scooby-Doo is one-third of a set of triplets. His wombmates are brothers Skippy-Doo, a computer guru, and Dooby-Doo, a singer and entertainer. A litter of animals typically consists of three to eight offspring born from the same mother. Guinness World Records holds 24 as the largest litter of puppies born to one dog. Scooby-Doo’s other siblings include Howdy-Doo, Yabba-Doo and Ruby-Doo.

10. Scrappy-Doo is Scooby-Doo’s feisty nephew. Scrappy's mother is Scooby’s sister, Ruby-Doo. Scrappy made his debut in 1979, joining his already famous uncle for a new cartoon adventure that producers hoped would boost Scooby-Doo’s flagging ratings on ABC. It worked. Ratings rebounded and Scrappy saved Scooby from TV cancellation. His star power and catchphrases — “Scrappy Dappy Doo,” “Lemme at 'em” and “Puppy power!” — also helped propel merchandising for the Scooby-Doo franchise. 


Scrappy-Doo and Scooby-Doo/CultKidsTV/YouTube

11. Despite saving his uncle's show from near-cancellation and becoming a star in his own right, Scrappy-Doo's individual ratings have not fared well with the general cartoon-watching public in the years since his debut. A humanities lecture at ASU addressed the Scrappy problem in 2017, examining the quick rise and fall of the plucky Great Dane pup since branded the most hated character in television history. The lecture bore the foreboding title, “Scrappy-Doo, Where Are You? The Corporate Construction and Confinement of Scooby-Doo’s Annoying Nephew.”   

12. Scooby-Doo has been translated into 15 languages and has aired in more than 45 countries worldwide. Arabic, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish are among the languages Scooby has “spoken” over the decades.  

13. Don Messick was the original voice for Scooby-Doo and another earlier cartoon Great Dane: Astro from “The Jetsons.” Scooby and Astro share a similar speech pattern and signature expression — “Ruh-roh” — that often draws comparisons.

 Scooby-Doo and Astro
  Scooby Doo/Flickr                                           Astro/Hanna-Barbera Wiki

14. Scooby-Doo’s signature style of speech is unique. In 2014, Steven Long of Marquette University’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Department diagnosed Scooby's habits of adding “r's” to his words — like  “ruh-roh” for “uh-oh” and “rapple” for “apple’ — as the invented phonological disorder “rhotic replacement.” Long told Discover magazine that he didn't expect to see many examples of this unique speech pattern given that “rhotic replacement” is a condition that appears to be exclusive to talking dogs.

15. “Mysteries Five” was the original title for “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” The series was modeled after the music-driven cartoon comedy “The Archie Show” after CBS honcho Fred Silverman suggested that the new series follow the adventures of a teenage rock band that also solved mysteries. The rock band element of the show was eventually dropped. In their musical alter egos, The Archies released the single that now seems prophetic in the context of Scooby-Doo. Their song, “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y-D.O.O),” began its climb on the music charts in December 1968, around the same time Scooby-Doo was in development.


"Feelin' So Good"/The Archies/Filmation

16. The “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” theme song was performed by pop-country crossover artist Austin Roberts. Roberts is also known for his 1975 top 40 hit single “Rocky” and has written songs for Kenny Rogers and Reba McEntire, among others.

17. Collectively, Scooby-Doo and his mystery-solving friends Fred Jones, Velma Dinkley, Daphne Blake and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, are known as Mystery Incorporated or Mystery Inc.

Scooby-Doo and Friends
Scooby-Doo and friends/Flickr

18. The Scooby-Doo gang are from the coastal town of Crystal Cove. Scooby-Doo fans have referred to the village as the “Most Hauntedest Place on Earth” citing Crystal Cove "reports" of paranormal activity and residents' brushes with urban myths and legends. Mystery Incorporated's headquarters is located in Crystal Cove's City Hall, and the Crystal Cove Spook Museum, owned by Velma's parents, holds many of the costumes worn by the villains that Mystery Inc. has unmasked over time. 

19. Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Inc. pals were based on the characters on the show “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Fred, Mystery Inc.’s clean-cut leader, was modeled after the title character Dobie Gillis, played by Dwane Hickman. The brainy Velma took inspiration from "Dobie Gillis’" resident teen genius Zelda Gilroy, played by Sheila James Kuehl. The pretty and popular Daphne was fashioned after Dobie’s crush Thalia Menninger, played by Tuesday Weld. And Scooby’s bearded bestie Shaggy was a version of Dobie Gillis’ best friend Maynard G. Krebs, played by Bob Denver.

Cast of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
Some of the cast of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"/CBS-TV/
Wikimedia Commons

20. Romance or “Ruh-roh-mance?” Members of the Mystery Inc. gang have moved out of the friend zone, at least in the “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” universe. In the former Cartoon Network series, Fred and Daphne are officially dating, although it’s revealed that the relationship has had a few hiccups along the way. Shaggy and Velma also developed a bit of a romance, but Shaggy apparently found it difficult to put his relationship with Velma ahead of his friendship with his canine companion Scooby-Doo. Some dog lovers might be able to relate. Clive Wynne, the founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at ASU, says dogs have an “unbounded capacity” to love humans, which is why it is so easy to form affectionate relationships with them.


"Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Attack of the Headless Horror"/
Cartoon Network/Warner Bros./YouTtube 

21. Villains outed by the Scooby-Doo gang frequently referred to the group as “meddling kids.” The phrase has become a lighthearted go-to for pop culture fans looking to assign blame for missed opportunities.


"Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" Meddling Kids/CBS TV/YouTube

22. Scooby-Doo's pals also have a few catchphrases of their own. Notorious for misplacing her glasses, Velma frequently says, “My glasses, I can’t see without my glasses!” or “Jinkies!” when she has discovered an important clue. Daphne owns the line “Jeepers!” when she’s scared or when she finds a clue. Shaggy’s “Zoinks” has gone mainstream to express fear or surprise. And while Fred has been known to state the obvious on occasion as in, “Looks like we’ve got another mystery on our hands," his catchphrases are a little less memorable than the others.


Scooby-Doo Catchphrases/YouTube

23. Late radio legend Casey Kasem was the voice of Shaggy for decades but abruptly quit the series in 1997 when he was asked to speak up for Shaggy in a Burger King commercial. Kasem, who was a strict vegan, reportedly refused to promote the hamburger brand and walked away from the role when producers rejected his requests to make the Shaggy character vegan. Kasem eventually returned to the series in 2002 when it was decided that Shaggy would adopt a vegetarian diet.


Casey Kasem performs Shaggy's voice during Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon/
YouTube

24. Frank Welker has been the voice of Mystery Inc.’s trap-master Fred since the first episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are you!” He also voices the characters Megatron and Soundwave in the Transformers franchise.

25. “What a Night for a Knight” was the first episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” The episode revolved around the discovery of the armor of a knight in an abandoned truck and an urban legend about a Black Knight that came alive every full moon. The episode established long-running gags of the Scooby-Doo gang unmasking villains and Velma losing her glasses.

26. The 1992 comedy “Wayne’s World” features an alternate ending in which the character Wayne, played by Mike Myers, and Garth, played by Dana Carvey, unmask Rob Lowe’s Benjamin Kane character as “Old Man Withers” in a spoof of the Scooby-Doo formula of unmasking villains.

27. Scooby-Doo loves his snacks. No one knows for sure what’s in the little brown treats that get him so excited, but Scooby and Shaggy’s love of food is well documented. Research suggests insatiable appetites like those of Scooby and Shaggy’s could be propelled by esteem issues. ASU marketing Professor Naomi Mandel once led the lecture “Compensatory Consumption: Situational Factors Leading to Overspending and Unhealthy Food Choices.” Mandel said the need to maintain high self-esteem can lead to poor consumption choices such as overeating. She also contributed to a study that found people tend to eat more food and calories if the portions they snacked on were presented in small sizes and packages. Bite-size Scooby Snacks have been great motivators for the decidedly cowardly Great Dane and his Shaggy companion. Small portions and esteem uncertainty could explain their constant need to feed.


Scooby-Doo!/Scooby Snack Motivation/WB Kids/YouTube

28. For every Scooby Snack there is a Shaggy Sandwich. Shaggy Rogers’ triple-decker sardine and marshmallow fudge sandwich is the stuff of cartoon lore. The Super Shaggy Sandwich is composed of just about anything and everything found in the refrigerator or pantry and is typically larger than the average mouth. It was introduced in the first season of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” and consisted of ham, cheese, lettuce, sardines, marshmallow and fudge in between 16 slices of bread, all topped off by an olive. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet for healthy adults. The College of Health Solutions at ASU is exposing kids to healthier alternatives to variations of the Shaggy Sandwich. Through the college’s annual Camp Crave program, young people are learning how to prepare meals, regulate portions and engage in physical activity on their way to becoming healthy adults.


Super Shaggy Sandwich/Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?/CBS-TV/YouTube

29. In the 1998 direct-to-video animated movie “Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island,” Scooby and Shaggy are fired from their jobs at an airport for eating too much food.

30. The Scooby-Doo franchise once faced accusations of fat-shaming in the 2014 direct-to-DVD release "Frankencreepy." The storyline found Daphne subjected to a terrifying “curse” and growing from a size 2 to a size 8. According to a study published in the “International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education,” the average American woman was between a size 16 and 18 in 2016. While body shaming has been conroversially deployed as a way to get people to lose weight, research shows that people who feel stigmatized because of their weight actually tend to avoid exercising in public, which could lead to additional weight gain. Warner Bros. later explained in a statement that the loss of Daphne's appearance in the "Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy" episode was actually a teaching moment about what matters most.


"Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy: The Curse"/Warner Bros./YouTube

31. Scooby-Doo earned science cred with renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan. The late author and science advocate gave Scooby a shout-out in his seminal book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as our Candle in the Darkness.” Sagan praised the series for encouraging kids to seek logical and rational explanations for strange phenomenon like the supernatural scenarios that the Scooby gang often stumbled upon. 

32. Mystery Inc.’s Mystery Machine van is an innovative wonder. The psychedelic colors of the van’s exterior was deceptive casing for a trove of “modern” equipment and tools for the case-cracking quintet. In Scooby-Doo's early years, the Mystery Machine held ladders, lanterns, ropes, a table, chairs and even a wall panel of computer equipment. New technology allowed Scooby-Doo and the gang to modify the van's features to adapt to various situations. To some super fans, the Mystery Machine is the sixth member of the Mystery Inc. crew.

Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Van
Scooby-Doo!/Mystery Machine/WB Kids/YouTube

33. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began a road trip for her 2016 presidential campaign in an armored van reportedly nicknamed “Scooby” because it reminded Clinton of the Mystery Machine. 

34. A Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine replica was sold at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, in January 2019. The 1968 Ford Econoline van was snapped up for almost $60,000.

Mystery Machine replica - Ford Econoline
Mystery Machine replica/Wikimedia Commons

35. Scooby-Doo once held the Guinness World Record for having the most episodes for any animated television series, toppling “The Simpsons" from the perch with 350 episodes. The record stood for one year from 2004-2005 before “The Simpsons” reclaimed the record. 

Scooby-Doo beats Simpsons record
Graphic by S. Wilson

36. One of Scooby-Doo’s biggest fans lives in Canada. Danielle Meger of Rocky View, Alberta, has the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of Scooby-Doo memorabilia. Guinness says Meger has at least 1,806 Scooby-related items.

37. “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” ended after two seasons and was reinvented as “The New Scooby-Doo Movies.” The show's hourlong episodes featured guest stars including the Harlem Globetrotters, the Three Stooges, Batman and Robin, Dick Van Dyke and Josie and the Pussycats, among others.

38. The 1980s series “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” depicted puppy and child versions of Scooby and his pals, joining a TV time-travel trend referred to as the “babyfication” of cartoon characters. “The Flintstone Kids,” “The Muppet Babies” and “The New Archies” were among the characters that got the “babyfication” treatment in the 1980s. “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” aired from 1988-1991 on ABC.


"A Pup Named Scooby-Doo"/ABC/Cartoon Intros/Youtube

39. Sixteen original series bear the Scooby-Doo name, the most of any U.S. television series ever. The newest series “Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?” premiered on the Boomerang Channel on June 27, 2019.

40. Scooby-Doo has been adapted into five feature-length films since Scooby’s 1969 debut, beginning with the theatrical live-action and computer-animated movies “Scooby-Doo” (2002) and “Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed” (2004). The Cartoon Network also aired the made-for-TV films “Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins” (2009) and “Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster” (2010). The spin-off film “Daphne & Velma” was released on DVD in 2018.

41. Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the first two live-action Scooby-Doo movies, took over as the voice of Shaggy in the cartoon series after longtime Shaggy voice actor Casey Kasem retired in 2009.

42. Jamaican reggae artist Shaggy, born Orville Richard Burrell, took his stage name from Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy character. Shaggy, known for hits such as “It Wasn’t Me,” and “Boombastic,” even remade the original Scooby-Doo theme song for the 2002 live action “Scooby-Doo” movie. The song was titled “Shaggy, Where Are You.”

43. The members of the rock band Kiss performed a Halloween concert for the Scooby-Doo gang and helped them solve a mystery in the 2015 direct-to-DVD feature “Scooby-Doo and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery.” The action began when Mystery Inc. traveled to the amusement park Kiss World so that Daphne could meet her Kiss crush Starchild, portrayed by guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley.


"Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock 'n Roll Mystery"/Warner Bros./YouTube

44. Scooby-Doo and World Wrestling Entertainment have teamed up for two videos. WarnerMedia produced two direct-to-video films in conjunction with WWE Studios: “Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery” (2014) and “Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon” (2016).

45. The group of characters in television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (WB and UPN, 1997-2003) who battle the supernatural forces of evil identified themselves as the “Scooby Gang” or the “Scoobies.” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, who also played Daphne in the 2002 live-action “Scooby Doo” movie.


"Scooby-Doo!" (2002)/Warner Bros/You Tube

46. The Scooby-Doo gang took a decidedly dark turn in the DC Comics adventure “Scooby Apocalypse.” The limited-series comic reimagines the mystery-solving do-gooders in a postapocalyptic world stricken by a virus that causes mutant creatures to negatively react to their fears. Scrappy-Doo is portrayed as a villain bent on killing his uncle Scooby-Doo with the help of his Scrappy Gang. Unlike the kid-friendly themes on which the original Scooby-Doo cartoon was founded, the storyline for “Scooby Apocalypse” earned the comic a teen-plus rating.

Scooby Apocalypse
"Scooby Apocalypse" cover/Wikimedia

47. Scooby-Doo was voted the second-greatest cartoon character in TV history after Bugs Bunny on Ranker.com. Animal Planet ranked Scooby-Doo No. 13 in Animal Planet’s Greatest TV Animals.

Scooby-Doo Image
"Scooby-Doo! Case File 1: The Glowing Bug Man"/Warner Bros/YouTube

48. “TV Guide Magazine” ranked Scooby Doo No. 5 on its list of the “60 Greatest Cartoons of All Time.”

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
"Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!"/CBS-TV/Flickr

49. A new Scooby-Doo movie is in development. Titled “Scoob,” the movie is described as an “origin story” that will recount how Scooby and the gang first met. It will be the first animated Scooby-Doo movie to be released theatrically. “Scoob” is due out in 2020.

50. Scooby-Doo is touring like a rock star for his 50th anniversary. A new production titled “Scooby-Doo and the Lost City of Gold” will combine innovative technology with music, puppetry, dance and video to share the story in large-scale theaters across the world, according to Billboard.com. The show is expected to launch in March 2020 and visit more than 30 countries over the next five years.

    Top photo courtesy: Flickr

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    What will we do when the water runs dry?

    July 26, 2019

    Global water shortage crises prompt questions about what communities will need to do to conserve the precious resource

    Earlier this summer, the sixth-largest city in India, Chennai, ran out of water. The cause wasn’t just a weak monsoon. Overextraction of groundwater, unmaintained reservoirs, runaway urban growth and leaking pipelines all played a role.

    Chennai’s four reservoirs are puddles of cracked mud. Some parts of the city have not had piped water for five months. An Indian government think tank predicts Day Zero for 21 Indian cities next year.

    Water crises are now global. Cape Town, South Africa, narrowly escaped Day Zero last year, but it’s still at risk, as are Sao Paulo and Mexico City. Iraq, Morocco and Spain also face water shortages.

    Two years ago, eight Arizona State University students spent a month living in a Mojave Desert ghost town in the dead of summer, living on 4 gallons of water per person per day and no air conditioning. A hybrid art-science experiment, it started off as a water exercise and turned into a lesson on collaboration no one expected.

    The idea was co-directed by two ASU faculty members: Marco Janssen, director of the Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment and a professor in the School of Sustainability, and Adriene Jenik, a professor of intermedia in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. They created a near-future fictional scenario and dubbed the experiment Drylab2023.

    Recent news has transformed Drylab2023 into more of a training scenario than an experiment. ASU Now talked to Jenik about the crises, the eerily prescient experiment and the nexus between the two.

    Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

    Question: The sixth-largest city in India is out of water, and 21 other Indian cities are facing Day Zeros next year. What are your predictions on the outcomes: mass migration on a scale that makes the Syrian diaspora look like a casual commute? Life with a daily water supply similar to Drylab2023? Any predictions about impacts to industry and urban life?

    Answer: What we are seeing in Chennai right now is a devastating illustration of human-driven climate disruption. A short and sparse monsoon season has not replenished water storage, reservoirs and aquifers that people depend on for water consumption and agriculture; the large and developing population has been drilling wells deeper and deeper, rapidly draining groundwater reserves. Their freshwater ecosystem of marshes, streams and estuaries has been covered with landfill and built upon, further impacting weather systems and the resilience of the natural systems. The more well-to-do (and their neighbors and friends) are able to continue on, for the moment, without many disruptions due to private wells, but the poor and aspirational find their lives organized around the sound of the water truck and reconfigured economically, socially and aesthetically in relation to the scarcity of this precious resource.

    Sadly, these disruptions are not hard to predict. They are a regular part of the forecasting and planning of large businesses and national, regional and local governments, including our own country’s military forecasting. But the effects are not in a distant imagined future. Many don’t realize that the current humanitarian crisis on our southern national border is caused in part by climate migration, revealing the complex impacts of our historic overconsumption of natural resources.

    It is hard for me to picture a near future where access to clean, fresh water continues in as plentiful a way as it is in most of our country at this moment. Between aging city water infrastructure threatening water quality, increased privatization of water sources, groundwater contamination as a result of fracking and other extractive technologies and the increase in climate extremes including drought and desertification of land that affects agriculture, the current thoughtless use of water in our culture will not be sustained for long.

    One vision does turn in the direction of an apocalyptic scenario where water scarcity produces increased conflict and increases the desperation caused by the gap between the rich and poor — with the rich retaining access to this precious resource and the poor dying of thirst and disease. Pretty grim.

    Another vision, which Drylab2023 shows is just as plausible, is that people will join together as a community to honor and steward this precious resource. Dr. Elinor Ostrom, ASU faculty and Nobel Prize winner, through her observations of cultures around the world, showed that the management of a commons is doable and not at all unusual. She and her research partners even outlined some design principles that made it more likely to occur and be sustained successfully over time. We can learn from our indigenous colleagues and their communities, who treat water as medicine and understand it as the sacred life force that it is, that there are other ways to live in relation to our water. We can be proactive in overhauling our building and industrial codes so that they incorporate greywater and composting systems, and we can rethink our diets by moving away from animal protein.

    As you can see, the rethinking of water necessitates a rethinking of all of our living systems, so this will take immense political and social will. I am hopeful that these initial Day Zero events — like the one last year that forged significant changes in water use and management in Cape Town, South Africa — are not just seen as far-off problems befalling impoverished nations, but are understood as warning signs for us to not continue in a “business as usual” fashion.

    Q: At the end of Drylab2023, participants hoarded sizeable amounts of “personal” water they’d saved up. No one squandered it on things like showers, but there wasn’t a lot of sharing either. Do you think this is predictive of how a similar situation will shake out socially in reality?

    A: I was personally shocked and surprised at what ended up happening in Drylab in relation to this “hoarding” issue. When we first designed the project, each person was to be granted 2 gallons of water for personal use (so as to not dehydrate) and 2 gallons for the common pool to be negotiated with others. Upon arriving on site, with the co-directors no longer involved in decision-making but solely serving as chaperones and observers of the process, a subset of the group started to lobby for a 3:1 distribution — 3 gallons personal, 1 gallon common pool. The rest of the group went along, even as they recognized and commented upon the degree of distrust they had taken on from growing up in such an individualistic culture. This decision was especially poignant, as several of the students from nonwhite backgrounds understood that they had a different experience of community — that their needs had been met within community settings and as a result, they had a greater sense of trust.

    Most disappointing was that even though the data showed that they had plenty of water to share after week three and they could easily change to a 2:2 distribution, many participants still argued against changing. I believe that if the experiment had gone on longer than 30 days that the data would have won the day, but what happened certainly underlined the critical importance of trust and community-building for the success of these changes long term. Trust takes time and is more difficult as we scale to a larger population, and so we can see that if we are in a crisis and rushing changes through, and if they are enacted across a large scale of population, they are less likely to be embraced.

    Q: According to research, nearly half of the human population is living with water scarcity, inhabiting places unable to fully meet their drinking, cooking and sanitation needs. What are your thoughts on that?

    A: As informed as we believe we are, many of us live in an illusory bubble of constant access — and growing in amount and speed — to natural resources and consumer goods. Even if we are aware of the impacts of water scarcity throughout the world, we don’t understand ourselves and our overconsumption as the cause or connected. One of the more profound lessons of Drylab2023 was a deeper understanding for each participant and the directors of the ways in which we are implicated personally and culturally in what is happening. Few cultures waste as much water as we doThe average daily water usage in Tempe is 80-100 gallons per day.. It is this waste and overconsumptive lifestyle that is now glorified and “the dream” of many other peoples and cultures — no wonder people continue to put themselves in danger to migrate! It is our responsibility to join with other privileged cultures around the world to address the possibility of another way of living — to honor and value and support, rather than degrade and deign to “improve," the water conservation and land stewardship that indigenous and poor cultures have developed over millennia. Can we be humble and learn these lessons even as we develop technological innovations?

    Another lesson learned was that fostering community while bringing beauty and mindfulness to the process of daily living can actually elevate what at first seems like a life of hardship and depravation. Again, ancient cultures already know this!

    Q: Do you plan to resurrect Drylab2023?

    A: I would very much like to continue offering this as an immersive/experiential learning module and am putting effort in the next few years into developing an ongoing offering, either within ASU or with another external partner. On-campus ASU presentations have shown a significant interest among students for participating in future offerings. Ideally, our ASU community could face the existential challenge presented us, and take on further responsibility as a “sustainable campus” to encourage the radical rethinking of our use patterns. In some cases, as with Drylab2023, it could forge a new lifelong relationship to water; for all it would increase empathy and understanding of the real hardships and obstacles of people living without clean fresh water.

    Top photo: A woman in Pushkar, India, draws water from the well to take to her tent in the desert. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/iStock Editorial

    Scott Seckel

    Reporter , ASU Now

    480-727-4502