For some time now I've been concerned about food issues, both personally and globally. A lot of my new learning has taken place in this area, as I figure out how to grow and store at least some of my own food, connect with my local food producers and eat a more localized diet. I'm also struggling to eat more mindfully, in appreciation of the food I am privileged to have available to me.
The Politics of Water: In the second section, the authors describe in detail how agreements like NAFTA, the upcoming FTAA and other free trade arrangements (some out in the open, some behind the scenes) have set the stage for transnational conglomerates like Vivendi, Suez, Enron and RWE-Thames to obtain government contracts to provide their citizens with 'water services.' These contracts have certain profit margins in them that are guaranteed by the government of the country in question - paid for by citizens' taxes of course. Then, when the government insists that the company meets its contractual obligations (i.e., that water and sewer services be provided to all citizens, not just the ones who can afford it), the companies raise water prices to ensure their profit levels are maintained. Soon, only the rich can afford clean and safe water. The water and sewer services of many people get worse. And to add insult to injury, the water corporations are even enabled, by the free trade agreements, to sue governments of sovereign nations for impeding the free flow of commercial trade! Some governments (e.g., Bolivia), with the help of massive citizen uprisings, have been able to cancel the contracts and boot out the water company, but this hasn't happened very often. The World Trade Organization and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are also large contributors to the problem. These organizations have made it compulsory that countries privatize their water systems in order to comply with 'development' goals set as part of their international aid and debt restructuring processes.
This, the second major section of the book was particularly maddening and disheartening. There was just case after case cited about how multinational corporations and agencies such as the WTO, IMF, World Bank and even the UN "serve to transfer political power from governments to corporations" (p. 175). Everything is for sale. They also talk about the destruction wreaked by international dam projects, George W. Bush's plan for a North American Water Corridor (i.e., redirecting north-flowing water towards the south) and companies like Coke and Pepsi who are repeatedly draining the aquifers of places in the developing world in order to keep making and selling their carbonated beverages. They cite one horrifying example where a mother can't afford enough water to drink, so she has little in the way of breast milk for her child, and the child is instead fed with Coke.
The Way Forward: The third section of the book focuses on how to shift our relationship with water and what collective action we can take. It outlines some of the things citizens and countries have been able to do to stop the privatization of their water supply and what citizens need to demand of their politicians before it is too late. Water is too important to life on the planet to be subordinated to the principles of the marketplace. The authors state, "Water must be declared and understood for all time to be common property. In a world where everything is being privatized, citizens must establish clear perimeters around those areas that are sacred to life or necessary for social and economic justice. Equal access to water is absolutely central to both life and justice." (p. 208)
The authors stress that we humans must renew our ties with nature and once again revere water's sacred place in it. They have developed ten principles on which humanity can proceed toward this new water ethic:
The authors conclude the book with a chapter on what people can do to move the world and its governments toward acknowledging these ten principles and actually changing how they handle water-related issues. Most of the methods they propose involve communities and countries taking political action in the form of, for example, supporting the anti-dam movement, opposing commercial trade in water, fighting for national water protection acts, and consistently confronting the IMF and the World Bank. The authors have what they call a 'beautiful dream:' that resolution of water issues in the world through the community-based enactment of the ten principles actions will:1) Water belongs to the earth and to all species.
2) Water should be left where it is wherever possible.
3) Water must be conserved for all time.
4) Polluted water must be reclaimed.
5) Water is best protected in natural watersheds.
6) Water is a public trust, to be guarded by all levels of
7) Access to an adequate supply of clean water is a basic human
8) The best advocates for water are local communities and citizens.
9) The public must participate as an equal partner with governments to
10) Economic globalization policies are not water-sustainable. (p.221)
become the source of global peace....finally humanity will bow before Nature
and learn to live at peace within the limits Nature gives us and with one
another; and that through our work together, the peoples of the world will
declare that the sacred waters of life are the common property of the earth and
all species, to be preserved for generations to come (p. 250).
The highest goodness resembles water
Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention
It stays in places that people dislike
Therefore it is similar to the Tao
Dwelling with the right location
Feeling with great depth
Giving with great kindness
Speaking with great integrity
Governing with great administration
Handling with great capability
Moving with great timing
Because it does not contend
It is therefore beyond reproach