Fighting The Corporate Theft Of Our Water
By Tara Lohan
The Bush administration is helping multinationals buy U.S. municipal water systems, putting our most important resource in the hands of corporations with no public accountability. All across the United States, municipal water systems are being bought up by multinational corporations, turning one of our last remaining public commons and our most vital resource into a commodity.
The road to privatization is being paved by our own government. The Bush administration is actively working to loosen the hold that cities and towns have over public water, enabling corporations to own the very thing we depend on for survival. The effects of the federal government's actions are being felt all the way down to Conference of Mayors, which has become a "feeding frenzy" for corporations looking to make sure that nothing is left in the public's hands, including clean, affordable water.
Documentary filmmakers Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman recently teamed up with author Michael Fox to write "Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water" (Wiley, 2007). The three followed water privatization battles across the United States -- from California to Massachusetts and from Georgia to Wisconsin, documenting the rise of public opposition to corporate control of water resources.
They found that the issue of privatization ran deep.
"We came to see that the conflicts over water are really about fundamental questions of democracy itself: Who will make the decisions that affect our future, and who will be excluded?" they wrote in the book's preface. "And if citizens no longer control their most basic resource, their water, do they really control anything at all?" As the effects of climate change are being felt around the world, including decreasing snowpacks and rainfall, water is quickly becoming the market's new holy grail.
Mayor Gary Podesto, in his State of the City address to his constituents in 2003, sang the praises of privatization to his community, located in California's Central Valley. "It's time that Stockton enter the 21st century in its delivery of services and think of our citizens as customers," he said. And there is the crux of the issue -- privatization means transforming citizens into customers. Or, in other words, making people engaged in a democratic process into consumers looking to get the best deal.
It is also means taking our most important resource and putting it at the whims of the market.
Currently, water systems are controlled publicly in 90 percent of communities across the world and 85 percent in the United States, but that number is changing rapidly, the authors report in "Thirst." In 1990, 50 million people worldwide got their water services from private companies, but by 2002 it was 300 million and growing.
There are a number of reasons to be concerned.
End of excerpt.
The article linked above is a most comprehensive look at the schemes involved in buying up our public trust to keep us hostage. And it is happening now, and in this country under the radar.
With their insatiable desire for profit corporations globally are going too far regarding infringing on a resource that is not their own. What gives a corporation the right to come into any state and take the ground water and use it to make a profit for themselves by selling it elsewhere? A resource that is a fundamental human right? This will happen more and more in the United States however, as water resources become more depleted elsewhere and demand for bottled water increases. It is a problem we must deal with now, especially also in light of changes predicted from the climate crisis should conditions remain the same or worsen as governments collude with corporations to control dwindling resources in order to extort higher prices to make a profit.
Just look at the climate crisis and the affects of it already being felt globally ( with Darfur a clear example of how far environmental devastation can go and its effects.) The Bush regime knows full well the truth about this crisis and the extent of it, and that is why I believe they are purposefully fronting a disinformation campaign to keep doubt in the minds of people as to its true repercussions in order to buy up the water resources in the meantime before people enmasse truly wake up.
This is why the politics of fear and secrecy is so important to address and fight, because it is affecting our very ability to survive.
And it is not only the privitization of our resources that we must be concerned about. The water bottling industry in this country alone is a 400 billion dollar industry. It pulls in three times more than the pharmaceutical industry and demand is rising. So as population rises and demand rises with it worldwide, freshwater resources will begin to dwindle to satisy the demand, and once it's gone it's gone. One in six Americans drink only bottled water. Moreso, bottled water is often not what it appears to be.
Corporations spend millions of dollars promoting it as safe, clean healthy, and superior in quality to tap water, while many popular brands actually come from our public taps. A Natural Resources Defense Council study found that bottled water is no more "pure" or safe than tap water. The bottled water industry is also the least regulated industry in the US. And it can be seen by the price which in many cases is marked up to cost more per gallon than gasoline! Which of course makes those in this industry very happy, but at what price to us in the costs it brings to our land and to our global environment? Do they truly have the universal right to simply use this precious resource for their own profit over the needs of others?
It was Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle which sponsored the World Water Forum which took place last March, and they account for half the global bottled water market. And they are also pushing for privatization of water resources with the World Bank backing them up. I think you get the picture.
Water should remain a public trust controlled by local government at the behest of the taxpayers. It should also be declared a fundamental human right. It is the utter insensitivity and indifference of these companies overshadowed by their greed that makes this all so unfair and so morally wrong. I believe there need to be more stringent guidelines in allowing just anyone with a permit to take water out of the ground. Again, the taxpayers of any state should have rights over corporations who come in simply to raid their water resources for profit and privitize their systems. So we must keep fighting to see the day when water, that most sacred, beautiful, and life sustaining force is treated with the respect it should be treated with and used to give life to all equally who need it.
Fighting The Corporate Theft Of Our Water
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