“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” W.H. Auden

Barlow

“ON JULY 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an historic resolution recognizing the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as “essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.” For those of us in the balcony of the General Assembly that day, the air was tense. A number of powerful countries had lined up to oppose it, so it had to be put to a vote. The Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solón, introduced the resolution by reminding the assembly that humans are composed of about two-thirds water and that our blood flows like a network of rivers to transport nutrients and energy through our bodies. “Water is life,” he said.

Then he laid out the story of the number of people around the world who were dying from lack of access to clean water and quoted a new World Health Organization study on diarrhea showing that, every three and a half seconds in the developing world, a child dies of waterborne disease. Ambassador Solón then quietly snapped his fingers three times and held his small finger up for a half-second. The General Assembly of the United Nations fell silent. Moments later, it voted overwhelmingly to recognize the human rights to water and sanitation. The floor erupted in cheers.

The recognition by the General Assembly of these rights represented a breakthrough in the struggle for water justice in the world. It followed years of hard work and was a key platform of our global water justice movement for at least two decades. For me personally, it was the culmination of many years of work, and I was proud and grateful to all who had helped make it happen.

But our work is far from over. Recognizing a right is simply the first step in making it a reality for the millions who are living in the shadow of the greatest crisis of our era. With our insatiable demand for water, we are creating the perfect storm for an unprecedented world water crisis: a rising population and an unrelenting demand for water by industry, agriculture, and the developed world; over-extraction of water from the world’s finite water stock; climate change, spreading drought; and income disparity between and within countries, with the greatest burden of the race for water falling on the poor.

Barlow 3
“Suddenly it is so clear: the world is running out of fresh water.” These were the opening words of my 2002 book, Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water (co-written with Tony Clarke), which warned of a mighty contest brewing over the world’s dwindling freshwater supplies. As water became the oil of the twenty-first century, we predicted, a water cartel would emerge to lay claim to the planet’s freshwater resources. This has come true. But so has our prediction that a global water justice movement would emerge to challenge the “lords of water.”

Barlow 2In my 2007 book, Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, I described the growing water cartel and its relentless drive to find ways to take control of the world’s water supplies. I also reported on the amazing work of the environmentalists, human rights activists, indigenous and women’s groups, small farmers, peasants, and thousands of grassroots communities that make up the global water justice movement fighting for the right to water and to keep water under public and democratic control. In the six years since Blue Covenant was published, much has been accomplished. Reports on the crisis are commonplace in mainstream media and the classroom. Books, films, and music move millions to action. The United Nations, other global institutions, and many universities are also sounding the alarm. A movement has coalesced to provide water and sanitation to the urban and rural poor, with mixed, but hopeful, results.

Yet in those same years the water crisis dramatically deepened. It is now accepted that, with the unexpected growth in both population and new consumer classes in almost every country, global demand for water in 2030 will outstrip supply by 40 percent. A report from the U.S. global intelligence agencies warns that one-third of the world’s people will live in basins where the deficit is more than 50 percent. Five hundred scientists from around the world met in Bonn in May 2013 at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and sent out a warning that our abuse of water has caused the planet to enter a “new geologic age.” They likened this “planetary transformation” to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. Within the space of two generations, the majority of people on the planet will face serious water shortages and the world’s water systems will reach a tipping point that could trigger irreversible change, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Already, the world-renowned scientists said, a majority of the world’s people live within 50 kilometres of an impaired water source — one that is running dry or polluted.

The stage is being set for drought on an unprecedented scale, for mass starvation and the migration of millions of water refugees leaving parched lands to look for water. All the justice and awareness in the world cannot stave off this future if the water is not there.

Open any textbook on water and you will see the numbers: how many children die every day; where the water tables have dried up; how aquifers are being depleted. Yet we continue to extract from our precious rivers and lakes and pump our groundwater, using the last of a finite supply of water that will be needed if future generations and other species are to survive.

Amazingly, most of our political leaders ignore the water crisis and create policy. decisions as if there were no end to water supplies. They continue to be captives of an economic framework that promotes unlimited growth, unregulated trade, and bigger and more powerful (and increasingly self-governing) transnational corporations, all of which hasten the destruction of our supplies of fresh water. Somewhere between the hard truths about the world’s water crisis and this perplexing denial on the part of political and corporate leaders, millions — soon to be billions — struggle to deal with disappearing watersheds.

The story does not need to end in tragedy. There are solutions to our water crisis and a path to a just and water-secure world. To get to this place, however, we must establish principles to guide us and help us create policies, laws, and international agreements to protect water and water justice, now and forever. This book puts forward four principles for a water-secure future. Principle one, “Water Is a Human Right,” addresses the current reality of water inequality and lays out a road map to fixing the problem. Principle two, “Water Is a Common Heritage,” argues that water is not like running shoes or cars and must not be allowed to become a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market. Principle three, “Water Has Rights Too,” makes the case for protection of source water and watershed governance and the need to make our human laws compatible with those of nature if we are to survive. The fourth principle, “Water Can Teach Us How to Live Together,” is a cry from the heart to come together around a common threat — the end of clean water — and find a way to live more lightly on this planet.

The grab for the planet’s dwindling resources is the defining issue of our time. Water is not a resource put here solely for our convenience, pleasure, and profit; it is the source of all life. It is urgent that we clarify the values and principles needed to protect the planet’s fresh water. I offer this book as a guide.”

MAUDE BARLOW, Blue Planet. Introduction.
DOWNLOAD E-BOOK: http://bit.ly/1wPQJc

Maude_Barlow-2013-Photo-by-Wolfgang-Schmidt


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THE PITFALLS OF MENTAL EVOLUTION, by Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) (Excerpt from “The Sleepwalkers”)

Koestler

We are in the habit of visualizing man’s political and social history as a wild zigzag which alternates between progress and disaster, but the history of science as a steady, cumulative process, represented by a continuously rising curve, where each epoch adds some new item of knowledge to the legacy of the past, making the temple of science grow brick by brick toever greater height. Or alternately, we think in terms of “organic” growth from the magic-ridden, myth-addicted infancy of civilization, through various stages of adolescence, to detached, rational maturity.

In fact, we have seen that this progress was neither “continuous” nor “organic”. The philosophy of nature evolved by occasional leaps and bounds alternating with delusional pursuits, culs-de-sac, regressions, periods of blindness, and amnesia. The great discoveries which determined its course were sometimes unexpected by-products of a chase after quite different hares. At other times, the process of discovery consisted merely in the cleaning away of the rubbish that blocked the path…

All we know is that mental evolution – from cave-dwellers to spacemen – cannot be understood either as a cumulative, linear process, or as a case of “organic growth” comparable to the maturing of the individual; and that it would perhaps be better to consider it in the light of biological evolution, of which it is a continuation.

Evolution is known to be a wasteful, fumbling process characterized by sudden mutations of unknown cause, by the slow grinding of selection, and by the dead-ends of over-specialization and rigid inadaptability. “Progress” can by definition never go wrong; evolution constantly does; and so does the evolution of ideas, including those of “exact sciences”.

New ideas are thrown up spontaneously like mutations; the vast majority of them are useless crank theories, the equivalent of biological freaks without survival-value. There is a constant struggle for survival between competing theories in every branch of the history of thought.

The process of natural selection, too, has its equivalent in mental evolution: among the multitude of new concepts which emerge only those survive which are well adapted to the period’s intellectual milieu. When we call ideas “fertile” or “sterile” we are unconsciously guided by biological analogy.

Most geniuses responsible for the major mutations in the history of thought seem to have certain features in common; on the one hand scepticism, often carried to the point of iconoclasm, in their attitude towards traditional ideas, axioms, and dogmas, towards everything that is taken for granted; on the other hand, an open-mindedness that verges on naive credulity towards new concepts which seem to hold out some promisse to their instinctive gropings. Out of this combination results that crucial capacity of perceiving a familiar object, situation, problem, or collection of data, in a sudden new light or new context…

This act of wrenching away an object or concept from its habitual associative context and seeing it in a new context is, as I have tried to show, an essential part of the creative process. It is an act both of destruction and creation, for it demands the breaking up of a mental habit, the melting down, with the blow-lamp of Cartesian doubt, of the frozen structure of accepted theory, to enable the new fusion to take place.

Every creative act – in science, art or religion – involves a regression to a more primitive level, a new innocence of perception liberated from the cataract of accepted beliefs.

* * * * *

Roughly within the five generations from Canon Koppernigk to Isaac Newton, homo sapiens underwent the most decisive change in his history. The uomo universale of the Renaissance, who was artist and craftsman, philosopher and inventor, humanist and scientist, astronomer and monk, all in one, split up into his component parts. Art lost its mythical, science its mystical inspiration; man became again deaf to the harmony of the spheres. The Philosophy of Nature became ethically neutral, and ‘blind’ became the favourite adjective for the working of natural law…

As a result, man’s destiny was no longer determined from ‘above’ by a super-human wisdom and will, but from ‘below’ by the sub-human agencies of glands, genes, atoms, or waves of probability. This shift of the locus of destiny was decisive. So long as destiny had operated from a level of the hierarchy higher than man’s own, it had not only shaped his fate, but also guided his conscience and imbued his world with meaning and value. The new masters of destiny were placed lower in the scale than the being they controlled; they could determine his fate, but could provide him with no moral guidance, no values and meaning. A puppet of the Gods is a tragic figure, a puppet suspended on his chromosomes is merely grotesque.”


ARTHUR KOESTLER (1905-1983)
The Sleepwalkers

EPILOGUE
Penguin / Arkana.
Pgs. 523-525-528-529-550.

“People in the west live squeezed together, frenzied as wasps in the nest” – An indigenous Yanomami leader and shaman from Brazil shares his views on wealth, the environment and politics

Davi

“Their thoughts are constantly attached to their merchandise. They relentlessly and always desire new goods. I fear their euphoria of merchandise will have no end and they will entangle themselves to the point of chaos. They do not seem concerned that they are making us all perish with the epidemic of fumes that escape from all these things. They do not think that they are spoiling the earth and the sky, and that they will never be able to recreate new ones. (…) The white people’s thought is full of ignorance. They constantly devastate the land they live on and transform the waters they drink into quagmires! There is only one sky and we must take care of it, for if it becomes sick, everything will come to an end.” – Davi Kopenawa Yanomami

Read it all at The Guardian (December 30th, 2014)

You might also like:

Davi

“The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman”
by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert
Published by Harvard University Press

“The Falling Sky is a remarkable first-person account of the life story and cosmo-ecological thought of Davi Kopenawa, shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami of the Brazilian Amazon. Representing a people whose very existence is in jeopardy, Davi Kopenawa paints an unforgettable picture of Yanomami culture, past and present, in the heart of the rainforest—a world where ancient indigenous knowledge and shamanic traditions cope with the global geopolitics of an insatiable natural resources extraction industry.

In richly evocative language, Kopenawa recounts his initiation and experience as a shaman, as well as his first encounters with outsiders: government officials, missionaries, road workers, cattle ranchers, and gold prospectors. He vividly describes the ensuing cultural repression, environmental devastation, and deaths resulting from epidemics and violence. To counter these threats, Davi Kopenawa became a global ambassador for his endangered people. The Falling Sky follows him from his native village in the Northern Amazon to Brazilian cities and finally on transatlantic flights bound for European and American capitals. These travels constitute a shamanic critique of Western industrial society, whose endless material greed, mass violence, and ecological blindness contrast sharply with Yanomami cultural values.

Bruce Albert, a close friend since the 1970s, superbly captures Kopenawa’s intense, poetic voice. This collaborative work provides a unique reading experience that is at the same time a coming-of-age story, a historical account, and a shamanic philosophy, but most of all an impassioned plea to respect native rights and preserve the Amazon rainforest.” – Harvard Univeristy Press

 

HOW MONEY WORK$ – By Raj Patel in his book “The Value of Nothing”

raj-patelThe late Oxford philosopher Jerry Cohen conceived a though experiment that helps us to understand how money works: imagine that we live in a world where we have little tickets distributed at random. On these tickets are rights – the right to go visit your sick mother, the right to cross a particular road, the right to live somewhere, the right to eat a steak, the right to treatment of disease and so on. (…) If you try to do something for which you have no ticket, the law intervenes. The tickets map out the degree to which you are free (or not free) to do something – they are a complete accounting of your liberties. The more tickets you have, the freer you are.

So here’s the twist: Money is just like these tickets. What, after all, does money offer in a market society if not the ability to buy liberty, to afford health care, decent food, housing, the security of not working in retirement, insurance against accident or unemployment? Those without money are as unfree as those whithout tickets. Without cash in a market society, you’re free to do nothing, to have very little and to die young. In other words, under capitalism, MONEY IS THE RIGHT TO HAVE RIGHTS.

The gap between what people earn and the cost of their freedoms means that, for more and more Americans, freedom is just another word for nothing they can afford. (…) In developing countries, of course, the situation has long been dire, and the global recession is pushing millions more into poverty, but in both cases, this poverty has deepened under a system that offered progress, prosperity and development for the poorest, and has delivered its opposite – a yawning inequality gap, less happiness and a dogged persistence of diseases and afflictions to which we have long known the cures.

In the land of the free, the market delivers few choices to those who cannot afford them. In the U.S. health care system, for example, the value of life is famously defined by the market. Michael Moore’s film Sicko shows the U.S. health care industry’s profit-driven approach at its nadir, with stories of patients asked by their insurance company to choose which of their fingers they’d like to save…”

PATEL, R. The Value of Nothing.
1st Canadian Edition.
Toronto: Harper Collins, 2009. Pgs. 112-113.

David Suzuki: “If it ain’t working, change the darn thing!”

David Suzuki in this interview about facing the reality of climate change and other environmental issues from Moyers & Company.

The Keepers Of Our Past & The Guides To Our Future (By Arundhati Roy)

pachamama

“The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.

The first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination — an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future.”

—Arundhati Roy

(The image that illustrates this post was found in Flick; it’s a “Pachamama” Mural in Bariloche (Argentina), near the artisan market. “Pachamama” refers to “Mother Earth” and is central to many indigenous cultures across South America.)

BBC’s “The Truth About Climate Change” (Presented by David Attenborough)

DAVID_ATTENBOROUGH

David Attenborough, English naturalist and broadcaster

BBC: “The Truth About Climate Change”
Presented by David Attenborough
Documentary / 120 min
Download torrent