review: Blue Covenant

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A review of the book Blue Covenant by Maude Barlow.

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review: Blue Covenant

  1. 1. blue covenant 1 review: blue covenant Two of the most populous nations in the world, China and India, are likely to experience the most dramatic water crisis this century. And though it may seem logical to expect that rapidly rising populations would be the principal cause, it will more likely be due to quickly diminishing supply of fresh water sources. Runoff from the Himalayan mountain range feeds seven of the largest river systems in the world and provides water to 40% of the world’s population. Yet everyday, those systems become more polluted and less viable for human use. In China, more than three quarters of all major rivers are so contaminated they can no longer support aquatic life. Seven of the ten most polluted cities are in China. Such pollution is leading to significant immediate water shortage in some of their biggest population centers. In India, more than 700 million people do not have adequate sanitation. Many of their sacred rivers, like the Ganges, are teeming with raw sewage. Degradation is occurring at a pace equal to, or faster than, increases in demand. Where other natural resources have potential substitutes, water does not. It’s the one resource humans cannot live without. As we’ve mentioned in many earlier posts, although three quarters of the planet is covered with water, the vast majority of it cannot be used without treatment. Less than 1% off all the water on Earth is fresh and accessible. There are several critical factors which further reduce that scarce amount, and the pollution mentioned above is just one covered in considerable detail in Maude Barlow’s latest book Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water. Barlow is a writer and activist with admirable credentials. She is the founder of the Blue Planet Project and the board chair of Food & Water Watch. She’s received eight honorary doctorates and written, or co-written, 16 books which cover the topics of globalization and the environment. She has become an international figure addressing global water issues. Blue Covenant shows how pollution, climate change, and privatization policies are setting the stage for future water conflicts throughout the world. While the first two factors can be easily demonstrated and seen, privatization often occurs through shadowy deals regularly disguised as humanitarian efforts. Global institutions such as The United Nations, The World Bank, The World Trade Organization, and The International Monetary Fund have set lending policies and development strategies for poor third world nations that require privatized water supply and sanitation. Often built into these arrangements is a guaranteed rate of return for the contracted water company. Although supporters would claim that these free market practices can solve large institutional problems, it doesn’t seem like www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601
  2. 2. blue covenant 2 much of a free market if one private supplier is locked in for a fixed period of time and guaranteed double digit return. The invisible hand of the market seems stacked against the consumer in such a scenario. Barlow comes just shy of suggesting that the largest water companies - Suez, Veolia, Thames Water, and Bechtel - have those global funding institutions in their pocket. Whether that’s true or not, at the very least, the system is not working. Water supply and sanitation are soon expected to be $1 trillion global industry. WIth that much money at stake, it’s not surprising that transnational enterprises are positioning themselves to take as large a share of that as possible. Nor is it surprising that back-room deals are sure to occur and questions of ethical practices will be raised. At its core, this book is a plea for citizens to stop ignoring the pending peril and take notice of changes occurring which will alter who controls what should clearly be considered the public commons. Barlow makes a persuasive argument that access to fresh water is a basic human right and not for corporations to command. Have you read the book? What did you think? Are there others that cover this subject that you would recommend? Let us know. www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601

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