Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever
By Maude Barlow
The New Press December 2013 Hardcover $26.95
I strongly feel that this book should be compulsory reading for college students, whatever subject they study – economy, ecology, law, business, etc. The subject matter is relevant to most courses offered at colleges. Clean water, or the lack of it, touches every aspect of our lives, and therefore should be studied carefully.
Most of us take a glass of water or a good long shower for granted. I personally learned so much from this book that I now feel guilty to throw unused water down the drain. I hold the lengths of my shower to a minimum, and shudder every time the sprinklers on the golf course outside my condo go on. The younger generations, who will be most affected by what we learn from this book, should be forced to be made aware of their dire future, and given the know-how to stave off a tragedy while there is still time.
There is so much in this book for us to discuss. The author lays out the many areas of human activity that connect for better or worse with the state of the world’s water: politics, corporate control, economics, land and water theft, energy production, farming and food production, water privatization, the building of dams. It seems that when it comes to water – that essential ingredient in all that keeps us alive, just like the air we breathe – corrupt forces are all around us to use water for their own benefit and gain. And, as we know, there are people who do not believe in Global Warming, a main contributor to the drying up of water sources. When I mentioned the content of this book to some people I know, they brushed it off by saying that we can always desalinate the ocean water. Little do they now that desalination actually adds to the water crisis. The process is very expensive, and the resulting emission is devastating to the environment.
It must be emphasized that denying people access to drinking water and sanitation is a violation of their human rights. Water should not have an influence on social structures, like the separation of the poor from the wealthy. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to afford to buy all the bottled water we need, but Barlow points out in her section about India that the poor who live in the slums can barely afford a bucket of water per family per day while the rich have the means to take long showers and generally to waste this precious liquid.
Maude Barlow has written extensively about social and environmental problems, mostly concerning her homeland, Canada. Three of her books — Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water (written with Tony Clark), then Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water, and now her latest book, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever — focus on the water crisis world-wide, and shine a light on a truly dangerous situation affecting every nation on Earth. Her books are written with an eye to explaining the most technical aspects of the subject matter to people of all educational levels. In well-organized chapters, headlined by different “principals”, the reader can easily follow and understand what the author so desperately wants us to know — how serious the global water situation really is.
Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and founder of the Blue Planet Project. She is also the recipient of Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award and a Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship. She is chair of the board of Food & Water Watch, and a board member of the International Forum on Globalization. From 2008 to 2009, she served as senior advisor on water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assembly and helped lead the campaign to have water declared a human right. She lives in Ottawa, Canada.
I think Maude Barlow deserves the Nobel Prize for alerting the world to the danger of water mismanagement. This excellent book, which draws on her extensive experience and insight to lay out a set of key principles to show the way forward to what she calls a “water-secure and water-just world,” surely deserves the highest praise.
In her introduction to the book, Maude Barlow particularly acknowledges the impact on her thinking from Nicaraguan diplomat Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the U.N. General Assembly 2008-2009, and from Pablo Solon, Bolivian Ambassador to the U.N., who never lost the belief that we could make the right to water real. In 2010 at a meeting of the General Assembly which Barlow attended, it was Bolivian Pablo Solon who introduced the resolution to recognize the human rights to water and sanitation. Reminding the members of the Assembly that “water is life,” and by showing the devastating consequences of people dying from lack of water around the world, he was instrumental in persuading the Assembly to recognize the human rights to water and sanitation, which go hand in hand. But much more has to be done to persuade governments and corporations to see water as a human need and not simply as a commodity for profit.