Your Global Water Czar: Maude Barlow

A remarkable story of survival was told today.  A hiker lost in the woods survived 6 days without water.  Heretofore it was believed that it was humanly possible to live for no more than 5 days without water.  Imagine, you have 5 days between life and death unless you have access to clean water.

Not my problem, in America we have plenty of water.  Every city has a water treatment plant to assure our supply and nearly every home has hot and cold running water piped in with no problems, right?  Well, ask the residents in the Central Valley of California, the most fertile and productive region of America, how that can change when water becomes politicized.

We also know that some States have legislation that mandates that those who catch rain water will be prosecuted because the State owns the rain.

KSL radio news Salt Lake City reported this disturbing story.

Who owns the rain? Not you, it turns out. You’re actually breaking the law if you capture the rain falling on your roof and pour it on your flower bed! A prominent Utah car dealer found that out when he tried to do something good for the environment.

Rebecca Nelson captures rainwater in a barrel, and she pours it on her plants. “We can fill up a barrel in one rainstorm. And so it seems a waste to just let it fall into the gravel,” she said.

Car dealer Mark Miller wanted to do pretty much the same thing on a bigger scale. He collects rainwater on the roof of his new building, stores it in a cistern and hopes to clean cars with it in a new, water-efficient car wash. But without a valid water right, state officials say he can’t legally divert rainwater. “I was surprised. We thought it was our water,” Miller said.

For those interested in a longer and more thorough evaluation of water rights the blog, PPJ Gazette gives more detail and history in the article “Water rights, rainwater, water contracts and the corrupt Bureau of  Land  Management.”

And then there’s Maude…

So far we know that water is essential to life, government entities are claiming to “own” the rain and collecting rainwater can be harmful to a tranquil life.  What could be more alarming?  Enter Maude Barlow the International Water Lady.  A short bio to introduce her, from the Council of Canadians:

Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She is also an executive member of the San Francisco–based International Forum on Globalization and a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Maude is the recipient of ten honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), the Citation of Lifetime Achievement at the 2008 Canadian Environment Award, and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award. In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly. She is also the best selling author or co-author of 16 books, including the international best seller Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Do not listen to those who say there is nothing you can do to the very real and large social and environmental issues of our time. There are serious problems that beset our world. I’m not now talking about a false sense of optimism based on ignoring the very real crises we face, but there is so much room for hope. And such a need to bring joy and excitement to our commitment to a different future. I swear to you this is true. The life of an activist is a good life because you get up in the morning caring about more than just yourself or how to make money. A life of activism gives hope, which is a moral imperative in this work and in this world. It gives us energy and it gives us direction. You meet the nicest people, you help transform ideas and systems and you commit to leaving the earth in at least as whole a condition as you inherited it.

– Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians,addressing Trent University after receiving an honourary Doctor of Laws, June 2009.

Maude was also appointed the UN water “czar” in 2008.

Did you know there was a World Water Conference going on in Montreal last week?  Well, Ms. Barlow, founder of the Blue Planet Project is intent upon making water an internationally controlled and owned commodity.

The Blue Planet Project is an international civil society movement begun by The Council of Canadians to protect the world’s fresh water from the growing threats of trade and privatization.

We work with organizations and activists in both South and North, and are affiliated with international networks including Friends of the Earth International, Red Vida (the Americas Network on the Right to Water) and the People’s Health Movement.

We are currently working with partners world-wide on using a human rights framework to protect water for people and nature for generations to come.  This includes working with local organizations and activists on grassroots struggles to protect democratic, community control of water, and building a movement to secure an international treaty on the Right to Water.

Maude Barlow, founder of the Blue Planet Project, has recently been appointed Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

It’s nearly impossible to get through a day — especially in America — without using an industrial, water-intensive product. Morrison sees that as a call to action and a validation of the mandate.

Here’s an interesting comment about Czarina Maude, from a “critic” as reported by FOX News:

But critics say Barlow, 61, an activist from Nova Scotia with no scientific training, has no place advising the United Nations on hydrological issues. “[She] frequently resorts to hyperventilated or exaggerated claims — she’s convinced the bottled water industry is out to take over the world,” said Tom Lauria, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association.

“She makes such outrageous statements that you wonder why the U.N. would entrust her with even a titular position.”

And she is not above dealing in threats.  From Common

OTTAWA – July 8 – Canada should be denied the seat it is seeking on the UN Security Council if the Harper government obstructs a crucial upcoming vote on the right to water at the General Assembly, says Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow.

The UN General Assembly is poised to vote on a draft resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation” presented by the Bolivian government and endorsed by several other countries. The Council of Canadians and other organizations fear that Canada is working behind the scenes to weaken the resolution before it goes for a vote at the end of the July as it has on previous occasions at the UN Human Rights Council.

The article continues at Common Dreams.

One international program that Barlow is not very happy with is the United Nations issued CEO Water Mandate.  Which would induce evil corporations to be more responsible.  From Circle of Blue’sTaking the Pulse of Global Freshwater Issues,” March, 2010:

Started by the United Nations in 2007, the voluntary CEO Water Mandate is designed as a public-private venture to help companies develop, implement and disclose water sustainability in their supply chains. In the long term, the CEO Water Mandate hopes its efforts will help mitigate the effects of the global water crisis.

Companies that sign the mandate pledge to analyze and reform six key water management areas:

* Direct operations
* Supply chain and watershed management
* Collective action
* Public policy
* Community engagement
* Transparency

Beverage industry giants PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Nestlé have signed on, along with more than 50 others. The Pacific Institute, Circle of Blue’s parent organization, manages the program.

But not everyone supports the mandate. An active community is skeptical of corporate involvement.

Corporate Accountability International, a grassroots watchdog organization, calls the CEO Mandate — among other corporate initiatives — a public relations effort by for-profit corporations to gain control over the world’s water resources and services.

“Corporations like Coca-Cola, Suez and Nestlé are trying to turn water into a high-priced commodity, the oil of the 21st century,” said CAI in a statement. “This presents a grave threat to people’s access to water. The United Nations needs to stand up for public, democratic control of a resource that is essential to life.”

In addition, more than 125 organizations in 35 countries urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw the UN’s support for the mandate. Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute, a Canadian-based political think tank, noted during a side event to the World Economic Forum earlier this year that the CEO water mandate is a “thinly veiled public relations effort by for-profit corporations to gain greater control over water resources and services around the world.”

Pacific Institute Program Director Jason Morrison told Circle of Blue he objects strongly to the assertions.

“There’s a lot of evidence we’re shown that this is not a public relations exercise,” Morrison said. “In fact, I would challenge anyone to find an initiative, focusing on the private sector, that has done more in the last two years to define what corporate water stewardship means in practice than the UN CEO Water Mandate.”

The mandate has been unusually successful, Morrison said, in pushing companies to identify water-related impacts and risks throughout their operations. It also places a major emphasis on transparency of water-related data in companies.

Morrison pointed to a study called “Murky Waters? Corporate Reporting on Water Risk” by the Ceres investor coalition, Bloomberg and UBS Financial Services as an independent measure of success. The study ranked companies’ disclosure of water data across different sectors. While the mandate did not cover all the sectors, its companies ranked among the highest in the study.

The mandate also defends human rights and the democratic water regulatory process, Morrison said. The Pacific Institute helped draft a responsible engagement and public policy document for companies that’s undergoing a month-long public review. It pushes companies to consider a range of groups its water policy affects, and guides company relationships to serve their best interests.

While Morrison believes the mandate’s success in reforming the private sector is unparalleled and has ongoing potential, he pointed out that some groups would rather not deal with the private sector at all.

“There are others, myself included, that hold the view that because industry uses such a large amount of water, it would be to everyone’s benefit if they were better stewards of that water,” Morrison said.

The problem Maude faces is that the World Bank has decided that water as a human right is too darned expensive.  The UN has mandated action and yet the World Bank is withdrawing funding… hmm.  Costs are estimated here, from EMagazine:

The water crisis is, in large part, a crisis of financing. Estimates are that the U.S. will have to invest $23 billion annually for the next 20 years to maintain water infrastructure at its current level. To expand water services and achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation, developing countries will need to double spending to about $18 billion per year. In addition, they will have to maintain existing water infrastructure, which will add another $54 billion in spending per year.

The WWC knows about big money: It is led by two of the world’s largest private water corporations, Suez Environnement and Veolia Water. Fauchon, president of the Council, is also the president of Groupe des Eaux de Marseille, a company owned jointly by Veolia and a subsidiary of Suez. Critics such as Maude Barlow, director of Canada’s Blue Planet Project and recent appointee as senior advisor on water to the U.N. General Assembly, contend that the Council’s links to private water operators and to AquaFed, the industry lobby group strategically headquartered across from the European Union Parliament in Brussels, compromise its legitimacy.

“I call them the Lords of Water,” says Barlow.

The article continues.

Well according to our friend Maude, the profit should come from you and the benefit should go to the world’s poor.  It’s only fair;  make all water the common property of the people of the world.  I think that sort of means they take the water we have and give it to someone else who deserves it more.

If you’re still tracking with me, I’ve read reams of UN propaganda, the gist of which is: capitalism is evil, making profit on the backs of the poor who have no access to clean water and something must be done. But when the rubber meets the road, the only people willing to spend the money to bring clean water to the poor people of the world are corporate giants like Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nestle, and Veolia, who are willing to invest in order to make a profit.

What’s a radical progressive advocate of “democratic” control of water to do?

Janet Smiles, a contributor to Gulag Bound, is an advocate of Internet and person-to-person activism.  She advocates overcoming the false taboos of “avoiding faith and politics” with well-behaved and vital communication of both timeless truths and current realities — all for the sake of love, for all our neighbors.

She welcomes comments directed to

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