I’m reading Maude Barlow’s Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water (2007).  The first chapter gives a quick overview of the state of water globally, and it is alarming, and depressing.  A human being needs 50 liters of water a day to survive, and in the North, we use over ten times as much per day.  Ideally, the earth should never run out of freshwater–which, in any case, is only about a per cent of the earth’s total water–but as humans, we have managed to break into the natural cycles that would allow such to remain the case.

Instead, we have managed to find ways–many, many ways–to pollute it, drain aquifers and freshwater lakes with industrial sized bores and pipelines, dam it, divert it, desalinate it, and use it in ways that will make freshwater–easily accessible, clean and potable–another one of the casualties of the neoliberal economic age of profit till one’s dying gasp.

Where has all the water gone? To roses cultivated from water in Lake Naivasha in Kenya, home to the largest population of hippopotamuses in Africa, for export to Europe.  To filter tar (now called heavy or shale) oil sands in Alberta. To the production of biofuels (seventeen hundred liters of water to produce one liter of ethanol). To industrialization, accounting for more than half of freshwater water use. To CAFOs (concentrated animal feed lots).  Since I write this in Calgary:  “the glacier that feeds Alberta’s Bow River is melting so quickly that in fifty years, there will not likely be any water left in the river except for the occasional flash flood.” (15)

Large scale industrial production coupled with neoliberal economic practices and models of development continue to crop up as unsustainable practices and mindsets, in just about anything I read related to global warming and environmental degradation. Time for a change, anyone?

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