How corporations took over a basic human right


Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood" (Credit: Paramount)

Water is the new oil: How corporations took over a basic human right

So what does this look like globally?

Pretty dire. I think there are three main issues facing the planet in terms of our water supplies and a global water crisis. One is climate change, one is pollution and one is groundwater over-extraction. Basically, we have the same amount of water on Earth as we’ve had in the time of the dinosaurs, and a lot of people don’t realize that. The problem is that what has changed is where water is located. So climate change moves water, pumping groundwater moves water. But people are not so movable. You just can’t pick up Los Angeles and move it to wherever the water has gone when this year’s snowpack disappears.

“Water shortage” is a sort of misnomer. What we’re losing are our water storage systems. So we’re losing our glaciers, which are called our freshwater banks, and we’re losing our fossil water, which takes thousands and millions of years to be replenished. One of those places is in the United States: the Ogallala Aquifer is disappearing. Also, in Northern India there’s an aquifer that’s been depleted so much they’re experiencing epidemic fluoride poisoning right now, because when you get to the bottom of those aquifers you find pollutants that have settled there over time. They’re naturally occurring minerals that have settled there.

Then there’s also the problem of pollution. Twenty percent of the world right now does not have access to clean water. Twenty percent of the world also happens to live on less than a dollar a day. And it’s interesting to look at how much those two groups overlap. When people don’t have water, what you get is social instability, basically, and that 20 percent may have been living next to the same river since the beginning of time, but suddenly that river is polluted and they get sick and die when they drink it. So what happens is that corporations see water pollution as sort of a boon for them because as water gets more polluted, it gets more expensive to drink and then you get even more of a divide between the rich and the poor over who gets clean water and who doesn’t.

And one last thing with climate change. I think people don’t really understand a lot about how it works. They say, “Oh, the glaciers are melting so we’ll have more water.” But the problem is that water is just rushing into the ocean. So you have to think of climate change as this giant saltwater-making factory, almost. It’s just like sending water to the ocean. And we couldn’t build enough giant dams to stop all that water, and if we did it would cause all sorts of other problems. It’s the same thing with the way we do agriculture. It’s like we’re pumping out these fossil aquifers mainly for agriculture and that’s where the world’s breadbaskets are. But when we do that, that aquifer also becomes polluted and salinated and runs to the ocean. So there’s an enormous amount of water that we’re just throwing away in this sense.

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I am at a point in my life where my health is giving me some challenges. There are those on this planet who deal with challenges every day to their health and very lives due to lack of access or quality of water. If we care anything about health we need to understand what is happening to our global water supply. I have not been well of late but I still care about this most important issue. Please take this seriously and take action- and be grateful for your own health.

Thank you.

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