Monday, April 12, 2010

WATER IS A TRANSIENT RESOURCE NOT A COMMODITY

Recently I have watched the documentary Flow, which investigates “the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st century- The World Water Crisis.” Although the documentary focuses on the privatization of water, two points that Salina mentions that resonated in my mind that I would like to discuss is how the green revolution has changed the rights to water as well as water being a transient property that cannot be owned just as sunlight and air are not commodities that can be purchased.

In the interview of an Indian woman she made a poignant response that with the presence of the green revolution in India more water is being used on the crops in order to keep up with the thirst of these new plants, pesticides and chemicals that are being used. Because these new agricultural practices require more water the efficiency of this new system is not ideal for the common people who have to sacrifice their water supply for the production of crops that they do not have the funds to acquire. As large agricultural companies reroute the water to bring irrigation to their corporate farm lands many people in India and around the world are losing their access to water.

Not only are people being relocated by a lack of water they are also being relocated by the presence of water. A growing trend in the world is the construction of immense dams that channel large amounts of water power to create hydro electric power. One statistic that Flow mentions is that 40 to 80 million people have been displaced by the construction of water dams throughout the world.

The issue with both of these situations of water’s use in our society is the shift in our society’s view that water is now a commodity good and not a property of the commons, a view that many ancient civilizations have held.

A case study of water as a commodity is seen in the ongoing battle between Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v. Nestle Waters North America, Inc. Nestle rented the land that there plant is for $69,000 for 99 years and are earning 1.8 million dollars per day through the pumping of water from the underground aquifer. The issue that the people of Michigan are protesting is that Nestle is not paying for the water that they are pumping and selling to the public and that the water they are removing from the ecosystem are linked to their own lakes, streams and wetlands.

The decision in the circuit court ruled that Nestle’s pumping activities adversely affected the environment and they must put a stop to their pumping. But Nestle appealed to the Supreme Court of Michigan and was allowed to pump during this appellate process, the final decision goes against the Michigan constitution that allows citizens to protect natural resources of their land and allows Nestle’s pumping and destruction of the ecosystems to continue.

I believe that in our capitalist economy that the transition in thought that we can own and market transient goods is destroying our environment. Any natural resource that is in constant motion should not be harnessed and redistributed for private profit; these resources are the property of the commons. Just as how many corporations are controlling the property and redistribution of the water supply many corporations do not acknowledge the mobility of the toxic exhaust they dispel into the air or the affects that industrial smog have on people’s access to sunlight. The fact that such practices are allowed in our globalized society that destroy the common right to these natural resources is why we are being presented with climate change and worldwide catastrophes that are arising from our handling of the land, water and air.

Flow can be watched for free here.


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