Thursday, August 25, 2016

The global water crisis

This article on the Counter Current website but first published at the Wealth of the Commons website by Canadian Maude Barlow makes poignant reading. 

“Half the tropical forests in the world – the lungs of our ecosystems – are gone; by 2030, at the current rate of harvest, only 10 percent will be left standing. Ninety percent of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practices. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise, “There is no blue frontier left.” Half the world’s wetlands – the kidneys of our ecosystems – were destroyed in the 20th century. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward a “biodiversity deficit” in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than Nature can create new ones.

We are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water, the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population of more than 7 billion people. The amount of wastewater produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. A comprehensive new global study recently reported that 80 percent of the world’s rivers are now in peril, affecting 5 billion people on the planet. We are also mining our groundwater far faster than nature can replenish it, sucking it up to grow water-guzzling chemical-fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities that dump an astounding 200 trillion gallons of land-based water as waste in the oceans every year. The global mining industry sucks up another 200 trillion gallons, which it leaves behind as poison. Fully one third of global water withdrawals are now used to produce biofuels, enough water to feed the world. A recent global survey of groundwater found that the rate of depletion more than doubled in the last half century. If water was drained as rapidly from the Great Lakes, they would be bone dry in 80 years. Dirty water is the biggest killer of children; every day more children die of water-borne disease than HIV/AIDS, malaria and war together. In the global South, dirty water kills a child every three and a half seconds.

Knowing there will not be enough food and water for all in the near future, wealthy countries and global investment, pension and hedge funds are buying up land and water, fields and forests in the global South, creating a new wave of invasive colonialism that will have huge geopolitical ramifications. Rich investors have already bought up an amount of land double the size of the United Kingdom in Africa alone.

The global water crisis is the greatest ecological and human threat humanity has ever faced.”

Perhaps the author is not presenting the alternative in the same language as we in the World Socialism Movement use by advocating free access and production for use, and may not agree with us on our strategy for establishing a post-scarcity steady-state planet but it seems there is a similar shared spirit when he explains that:
 “The commons is based on the notion that just by being members of the human family, we all have rights to certain common heritages, be they the atmosphere and oceans, freshwater and genetic diversity, or culture, language and wisdom. In most traditional societies, it was assumed that what belonged to one belonged to all. Many indigenous societies to this day cannot conceive of denying a person or a family basic access to food, air, land, water and livelihood. Many modern societies extend the same concept of universal access to the notion of a social Commons, creating education, health care and social security for all members of the community.”

He even cites the Emperor Justinian in 529 AD who declared: “By the laws of nature, these things are common to all mankind: the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.”

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