Saving Our Blue Future: The Human Race Needs a New Water Ethic

Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Environment with 0 Comments

Maude Barlow | Commondreams | Feb 26th 2014

(Photo credit: Flickr / cc / Tim Cronin / Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

(Photo credit: Flickr / cc / Tim Cronin / Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Have you heard? The world is running out of accessible clean water.

Humanity is polluting, mismanaging, and displacing our finite freshwater sources at an alarming rate. Since 1990, half the rivers in China have disappeared. The Ogallala Aquifer that supplies the U.S. breadbasket will be gone “in our lifetime,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.


By 2030, global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent, a surefire recipe for great suffering. Five hundred scientists recently told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter “a new geologic age” and that the majority of the planet’s population lives within 31 miles of an endangered water source.

Yet in election after election the world over, no one’s paying attention to this urgent issue.

That’s why I’m calling for a new water ethic that places water and its protection at the heart of all policy and practice. This may strike you as far-fetched, but we must do it now. The future of the planet and the human race both depend on it.

And taking our water crisis seriously will change everything.

What would farm policy look like if we understood that the global food system is depleting local watersheds through the export of a torrent of “virtual water”? Vast quantities of water are embedded in apples, corn, and other crops.

How would trade policy change if we understood that global trade deals give global firms the right to claim “ownership” of the water they use in other countries?

Would our energy policies change if we realized that water-guzzling biofuels may be more environmentally dangerous than the fossil fuels they’re supposed to replace?


This new water ethic should honor four principles.

First, water is a human right and must be more equitably shared. The United Nations has recognized that drinking water and sanitation are fundamental rights and that governments have obligations not only to supply these services to their people but also to prevent harm to source water. This provides an important tool to local communities as they confront dangerous mines, dams, and fossil-fuel extraction operations around the world.

Second, water is a common heritage of humanity and of future generations and must be protected as a public trust in law and practice. Water must never be bought, hoarded, sold, or traded as a commodity on the open market and governments must maintain the water commons for the public good, not private gain. While private businesses have a role in helping find solutions to our water crisis, they shouldn’t be allowed to determine access to this basic public service. The public good trumps the corporate drive to make profits when it comes to water.

Third, water has rights too, outside its usefulness to humans. Water belongs to the Earth and other species. Our belief in “unlimited growth” and our treatment of water as a tool for industrial development have put the earth’s watersheds in jeopardy. Water isn’t merely a resource for our convenience, pleasure, and profit. It’s the essential element in a living ecosystem. We need to adapt our laws and practices to ensure the protection of water and the restoration of watersheds — a crucial antidote to global warming.

Finally, I deeply believe that water can teach us how to live together if only we will let it. There is enormous potential for water conflict in a world of rising demand and diminishing supply. But just as water can be a source of disputes, conflict, and violence, water can bring people, communities, and nations together in the shared search for solutions.

Preserving water supplies will require more collaborative and sustainable ways of growing food, producing energy, and trading across borders. It will demand robust democratic governance.

It is my deepest hope that water can become nature’s gift to humanity and teach us how to tread more lightly on the earth — in peace and respect with one another.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Maude Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, chairperson of Food and Water Watch in the U.S., and co-founder of theBlue Planet Project, which is instrumental in the international community in working for the right to water for all people.

More from Commomdreams

Tags: , , ,

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on YouTube

New Title

NOTE: Email is optional. Do NOT enter it if you do NOT want it displayed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Many of the articles on this site contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental issues, human rights, economic and political democracy, and issues of social justice. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. If you wish to use such copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use'...you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. And, if you are a copyright owner who wishes to have your content removed, let us know via the "Contact Us" link at the top of the site, and we will promptly remove it.

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Conscious Life News assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms.

Paid advertising on Conscious Life News may not represent the views and opinions of this website and its contributors. No endorsement of products and services advertised is either expressed or implied.
Top
Send this to a friend