US energy secretary Rick Perry once tried to end a drought with prayer

“Now, hear me out…”
“Now, hear me out…”
Image: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via Reuters
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If you’ve got a bright idea for how to solve the world’s water crisis, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry wants to hear about it.

Perry has announced the launch of a combined White House-Department of Energy initiative to advance “transformational technology and innovation” on water security, via a suite of prizes, competitions and funding opportunities for research and development.

Just a few years ago, Perry had his own solution for a water-related problem: Praying it away.

In 2011, when Perry was the Texas governor, the state suffered a prolonged drought with, as Perry wrote in a proclamation,” ”some parts of the state receiving no significant rainfall for almost three months, matching rainfall deficit records dating back to the 1930s.”

The appropriate response? A word with a higher authority.

Perry called for all Texans to spend the Easter weekend of April 22- 24 praying for “the healing of our land” and the end of the drought. He assured doubters that it had worked before: “Throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer.”

The prayers didn’t work—or, at least, not for a long time after the fact. The drought continued to worsen for the next four months. By the end of April, 50% of the state was undergoing “exceptional drought,” rising to more than 70% by the end of June. The first major rainfall didn’t come until October.

But the initiative did have one tangible effect: American science fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi memorialized Perry’s prayer for rain in his 2015 novel The Water Knife, about an America struggling with the effects of climate change.

“There are drought refugees, border controls between states, and an increasingly dysfunctional and fragmented United States,” Bacigalupi wrote in a Facebook post last year. “I added in Merry Perrys, a group of religious fundamentalists who pray for rain, because Rick Perry did just that during the Texas drought of 2011. Now he’s the Energy Secretary.”