One of the early stops along that journey was at the door of ex-astronaut Jerry Linenger, whom he’d recruited to his advisory board. Linenger had become a water advocate after seeing the blue orb of Earth floating in space, and noticing the lights strung along the banks of the world’s greatest rivers. Linenger was invited to the World Economic Forum, which attracts 2,000 of the most powerful and richest people in the world, including a raft of current and former heads of state.
Ganter asked Linenger if he had a roommate, and the former astronaut took the hint, offering a spare bed. Ganter and Brian Collins, former creative chairman at Ogilvy, the advertising giant, were asked to present a session called “Designing Water’s Future.” Linenger provided the opening remarks about his experience making water from sweat and urine while floating in a small space capsule “above the circle of blue.”
“Once the door opens a crack, he is on his own; Carl and his wife are unstoppable,” Linenger says. “It’s amazing what two people with a vision can achieve.”
In the realm of policy wonks and international funders, speaking at the World Economic Forum is a golden endorsement, like learning the secret handshake. “Occasionally Carl writes me a note saying he’s been invited to something, like the Aspen Institute, and he always says it wouldn’t have happened without the World Economic Forum.”
But the big grant has yet to arrive. “Carl is such a nice guy he actually has a hard time asking for money,” Schneider says. “That’s his chink.” And, Schneider concedes, the nature of the mission also makes funding a challenge. “Grant funding for information organizations is one of the toughest sells. Foundations want measurables, and this is hard to measure. We can measure number of stories. And trends and who is picking up articles. But evidence of making a difference, that’s much more difficult.
One grant away, that’s it. Schneider can’t name names or talk specifics, but he says Circle of Blue is close. On the cusp. And he’s certain the Ganters will get there.
“I say to Carl, it’s not supposed to be easy,” Eileen says. “If it were easy, it would have been done before. People wanting to make money won’t be attracted to this project. People who want to despair won’t be drawn to it. We’re talking about revisioning the world’s water future, so this is a project of hope. I would like to see this area become a global center of freshwater scholarship.”