The Politics Of Water


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From the Ontario Trillium Foundation 2009 Professional Development Conference

For most of us, turning on a tap is an everyday occurrence, and we likely don’t think twice about it. For this session’s presenters, however, that simple act isn’t quite so simple.

Henry Lickers, Environmental Science Officer for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, is concerned about how dirty the water is – and what decades of industrial pollution in the St. Lawrence River have done to the health of both the Mohawk people and their economy. Veteran journalist Chris Wood wonders how much longer the tap will run at all, given that global warming is drying up lakes, aquifers and rivers all over the world, even as consumption rises. Both believe that poor “accounting” – the failure or unwillingness to accurately measure the environmental cost of progress – has allowed the problem to get this serious, and that action can and must be taken.

From local remediation to global conservation, each will share inspiring examples of workable solutions that can be implemented and individual choices that can be made, for the benefit of the natural world and future generations. At the end of the presentation, there will be a half hour for questions and answers.


Henry Lickers, Environmental Science Officer, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne; Member of Environment Canada's Science and Technology Advisory Council, International Joint Commission Science Advisory Board and Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks

Chris Wood, author, Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America; former Nation Editor, Maclean’s Magazine

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  • Was… nature so vast economists… and book-keepers and governments all it was could formally be declared ‘external’ to the ‘real’ economy. And with so much oversupply…. Price of nature was inherently between zero and not much.
  • Well.. that was then. Now: in permanent, intensifying ‘shortage’. This is historically profound in way that our thinking, let alone our social and physical infrastructure, really hasn’t caught up with.
  • Farming’s the original ecological goods provider. Now we’re beginning to see farms paid to provide ecological services too. In Europe and Mexico and South Africa and the United States, farms are also recognized as ecological service providers—and paid for that service.
  • But it’s happening at the scale of villages and counties and farm too. These folks farm for nature in the Ohio and sell wetland offset credits hills. They could just as easily be Canadian 1 st Nats, co-ops, individuals…
  • The Politics Of Water

    1. 1. The Earth is changing.. <ul><li>Another near-record ice melt in ‘09. </li></ul><ul><li>Australia’s bread basket gets half the rain this decade that it did in 1970. </li></ul><ul><li>California gets a third fewer ‘chill days’ needed for fruit crops than it did in 1950. </li></ul><ul><li>Rainfall in the Canadian Arctic has risen 11% in the last 50 years. </li></ul><ul><li>Changing weather is blamed for a 75% decline in NWT caribou herds. </li></ul>
    2. 2. Still skeptical? <ul><li>World ocean surface temperature this past July was warmest ever on record. </li></ul><ul><li>Combined world land and ocean temp in July was fifth warmest ever. </li></ul><ul><li>Global land surface temp was tied with 2003 for ninth warmest ever. </li></ul>
    3. 4. Heat drives the weather
    4. 5. The weather changes
    5. 6. If it were just getting warmer
    6. 7. But it’s getting crazier too
    7. 8. And when wilder and warmer work on the weather together…
    8. 10. The reality of the new climate hits us sooner and harder than the ‘average’.
    9. 11. The Ontario outlook to 2020 <ul><li>More volatile weather </li></ul><ul><li>Less reliable seasons </li></ul><ul><li>Bigger storms, heavier rain, more floods…. </li></ul><ul><li>But also emptier lakes and reservoirs </li></ul><ul><li>Lower rivers, disappearing streams </li></ul>
    10. 12. ET’s invisible tax at work: <ul><li>Lower Great Lakes, especially in autumn </li></ul><ul><li>Drier soils for farms and gardens </li></ul><ul><li>Water loss from open reservoirs </li></ul><ul><li>More lake-effect snow in winter </li></ul><ul><li>More summer humidity, wilder storms </li></ul>
    11. 14. Since forever… to ~1980 <ul><li>Eco-supply >>>> human demand </li></ul>
    12. 15. Now… and forever? <ul><li>Eco supply < < < < human demand </li></ul>
    13. 19. Cheaper. Prettier too.
    14. 20. “ Water farming” in Mexico
    15. 21. In Jose Martin Granadero-Alvarado’s Ejido… <ul><li>“ It’s the vision that the people can live with the forest, maintain the forest, and sustain themselves from the forest. People are hopeful.” </li></ul>
    16. 22. Farming for nature in Ohio <ul><li>“ We farm in reverse. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s the neatest thing. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s like Wild Kingdom.” </li></ul><ul><li> -- Steve Panzner </li></ul>
    17. 23. Near Waterloo… <ul><li>“ People whose income comes solely from their farms, are going to need a lot of money to change.” </li></ul><ul><li> -- Carol Cowan </li></ul>
    18. 24. And in Norfolk County.. <ul><li>Pioneering eco-farmer Bryan Gilvesy ‘raises’ native prairie.. </li></ul><ul><li>As a few more exotic cattle enjoy the grazing </li></ul>
    19. 25. Opportunities for the non-profit sector: <ul><li>‘ Honest brokers’ in payments for eco-services: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Aggregators of ecological services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Authenticators of eco-service quality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intermediaries between eco-providers and funders/purchasers </li></ul></ul>
    20. 26. We’re in it together..