Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Water: Without It, There's Neither Life Nor Liberty

It all boils down to this (article by by: Maude Barlow, YES! Magazine):

As climate change and worldwide shortages loom, will people fight over
water or join together to protect it? A global water justice movement is
demanding a change in international law to ensure the universal right to clean
water for all.
It's a colossal failure of political foresight that water has not emerged as an important issue in the U.S. Presidential campaign. The links between oil, war, and U.S. foreign policy are well known. But water - whether we treat it as a public good or as a commodity that can be bought and sold - will in large part determine whether our future is peaceful or perilous.
Americans use water even more wastefully than oil. The U.S relies on non-renewable groundwater for 50 percent of its daily use, and 36 states now face serious water shortages, some verging on crisis. Meanwhile, dwindling freshwater supplies around the world, inequitable access to water, and corporate control of water, together with impending climate change from fossil fuel emissions, have created a life-or-death situation across the planet.

We heard about this when Atlanta was thirsty, but when that crisis was averted, politics forgot the basics of life.

We forgot to think about water. But the Pentagon did not forget.

Now the Pentagon, as well as various U.S. security think tanks, have
decided that water supplies, like energy supplies, must be secured if the United
States is to maintain its current economic and military power in the world. And
the United States is exerting pressure to access Canadian water, despite
Canada's own shortages.
Under the name, "North American Future 2025 Project," the U.S. Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) brought together high level
government officials and business executives from Canada, the United States, and
Mexico for a series of six meetings to discuss a wide range of issues related to
the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a controversial and tightly guarded set
of negotiations to expand NAFTA."As ... globalization continues and the balance
of power potentially shifts, and risks to global security evolve, it is only
prudent for Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. policymakers to contemplate a North
American security architecture that could effectively deal with security threats
that can be foreseen in 2025," said a leaked copy of a CSIS backgrounder.
And there in plain English, "water consumption, water transfers, and artificial diversions of bulk water" were right on the table.

The water and security connection deepens with the fact that Sandia
National Laboratories, a vital partner with CSIS in its Global Water Futures
Project, also plays a major role in military security in the United States.
While Sandia is technically owned by the U.S. government, and reports to the
Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, its management
is contracted out to Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest weapons
So why would they want water? For workers and others extracting oil from the Alberta tar sands to drink. But why would a weapons manufacturer be in on this? It has to do with corporate profit and control of resources, both energy resources and that most precious of life resources, water.

In language that will be familiar to critics who argued that the United
States invaded Iraq not for democracy but for access to oil and profits for
corporations, a 2005 report from CSIS's Global Water Futures project had this to
say about water:
"Water issues are critical to U.S. national security and integral to upholding American values of humanitarianism and democratic development. Moreover, engagement with international water issues guarantees business opportunity for the U.S. private sector, which is well positioned to contribute to development and reap economic reward."
It's another phase of disaster capitalism: anticipated disaster capitalism. The world is in a water crisis, right? Countries like India and China may be economically "rising", but they also have a huge water crisis - potable water crisis, that is - on their hands. And that's a disaster in the making. So the U.S. wants its "private sector" - not you and me, but huge corporations - to "capitalize" on this "disaster potential" and thus control the world ... again... or something to that effect...

Clearly, the powers that be in the United States have decided that water is
not a public good but a private resource that must be secured by whatever
But there are alternatives.
North Americans must learn to live within our means, by conserving water in agriculture and in the home. We could learn from the many examples here and beyond our borders-from the New Mexican "Acequia" system that uses an ancient natural ditch irrigation tradition to distribute water in arid lands to the International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance in Geneva, that works globally to promote sustainable rainwater harvesting programs.
Is it not true that we live in a global economy and one planet, that one nation's disaster is no longer our business opportunity, but somehow the source of our next disaster? And if we privatize what essentially is a human right and a human necessity, do we not endanger our entire species and its civilizations in toto? But the corporate powers are a formidable beast.

Conservation strategies would undermine the massive investment now going
into corporate technological and infrastructure solutions, such as desalination,
wastewater reuse, and water transfer projects. And conservation would be many
times cheaper, a boon to the public but not to the corporate interests that are
currently driving international water agreements.
Certainly, corporations will fight tooth and nail for this most lucrative commodity, even though in essence it's a sort of blackmail: we'll take your water and sell it back to you for our profit - and power. This gets especially nasty when multinational or foreign corporations "claim" water belonging to original residents of an area, among them animals and plants... But there is hope, and something we can do, and it is of incredible importance:

At the grassroots, a global water justice movement is demanding a change in
international law to settle once and for all the question of who controls water,
and whether responses to the water crisis will ensure water for the public or
profits for corporations. Ricardo Petrella has led a movement in Italy to
recognize access to water as a basic human right, which has support among
politicians at every level. The Coalition in Defense of Public Water in Ecuador
is demanding that the government amend the constitution to recognize the right
to water. The Coalition Against Water Privatization in South Africa is
challenging the practice of water metering before the Johannesburg High Court on
the basis that it violates the human rights of Soweto's citizens. Dozens of
groups in Mexico have joined COMDA, the Coalition of Mexican Organizations for
the Right to Water, a national campaign for a constitutional guarantee of water
for the public.
The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries actively
blocking international attempts to recognize water as a human right. But
movements in both countries are working to change that. A large network of human
rights, faith-based, labor, and environmental groups in Canada has formed
Canadian Friends of the Right to Water to get the Canadian government to support
a U.N. right-to-water covenant. And a network in the United States led by Food
and Water Watch is calling for a national water trust to ensure safekeeping of
the nation's water assets and a change of government policy on the right to
The U.N. recognizes water as a basic right for all humans, which may help. But it is grassroots work on the part of many, with a little help and recognition of the issue from those in power - how about you, Barack Obama??? - that can ensure that our most precious resource is not improperly used, polluted, diverted, or otherwise mishandled to the detriment of all inhabitants of our most valued planet. It is more urgent than almost any other issue - just ask anyone in India who has to spend their entire day on the logistics of obtaining water ... are we going to wait until it comes down to that?

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