Posted by & filed under Economics, Food Shortages, Society, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

The World Bank believes in water privatisation like in the way that other people believe in Jesus, Muhammad or Buddha. The World Bank believes in water privatisation as a matter of theology. — Jim Schultz, Cochabamba Democracy Centre

The law of supply and demand has been the basis of economic activity for millennia. In the context of our present economy, with its skewed, profit-centric priorities, this means that scarcity is profitable, and abundance is not. It’s an absurd reality, but one we see played out in almost every area of our lives on a daily basis. When this absurdity is applied to a resource as fundamentally existential as water, some people get rich, while others suffer and die.

The video at top takes a very good look at the issue of water privatisation in different parts of the world, showing how an ecological crisis is being greatly exacerbated. You’ll hear how water privitisation was born out of the Thatcherite policies that brought about the sale of much of the UK’s infrastructure to corporations. (Indeed, it is exactly for reasons like this that societies create governments in the first place, to protect the people they serve from greedy, extractive interests, not to hand everything to those interests on a platter.) You’ll meet the people on the ground who are affected and the people who, often perhaps with the best of intentions, are making it impossible for many to access what should be a basic human right. As I’ve said before, economic mechanisms can actually defy the laws of physics — in that in our economy, water will actually flow uphill, away from the poor, and towards money, while armed guards are deployed to protect an industry that capitalises on misery.

I can’t help but wonder if corporations won’t yet find a way to privatise our air. Actually, in some ways they are doing it already (think carbon trading). Like air, water should be owned, and cared for, by everyone — it should be seen as part of the commons, not a commodity to be traded — otherwise what we are distributing is injustice. I say injustice because those who cannot afford to buy water are those who operate either outside or on the margins of the destructive globalised economy. They do not participate in our unsustainable activities, our ecological crimes, but they are punished for not being accomplices.

Instead of investing money in systems that lock up water supplies and distribute it only to those who can afford it, I believe we need to see policies enacted worldwide which invest in restoring earth’s hydrological cycles.

Some time ago I wrote about The World’s Largest Water Harvesting Earthworks Project. That article will show you how Sri Lanka transformed itself from being largely arid to becoming the lush tropical island we know today. Permaculturists recognise that we can do this. With sensible design, earthworks and water harvesting, it is possible to regreen the planet, recharge our aquifers, protect our land and homes from fire, and ensure a glass of clean water for all. I think of this article on Sri Lanka again now, pondering that if people of ancient times could recognise the value of water, and understood how to make optimum use of it, then why can’t we? The answer is simple — we live with an economy that thrives on destruction. It seems that there is no money to be made unless something is being destroyed. We know how to restore watersheds, we know how to farm in a way that will keep our water clean and perpetually cycling, but do we know how to reinvent ourselves — our society and our economy? Short of that, all we’re doing is applying band-aids to a cancerous sore.

Think again before you privatise. — Prime Minister of Tanzania

Further Reading:

5 Responses to “A World Without Water”

  1. Chris McLeod

    Hi Craig,

    Yeah. I provide all water infrastructure here from collection, storage and distribution. In addition to this I also have to maintain my own drainage systems and process my own wastes. I don’t get a cent from the government for this and there is little incentive for people living in this situation to implement anything beyond the bare minimum, because of the huge cost.

    I chose differently however, because of the three Permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and return of surplus.

    But, the corporatized water board has the cheek to send me an annual water bill, which is legally enforced (as it was challenged in the courts).

    Corporatisation is not a recipe for equity.


  2. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    It fascinates me that they can charge you for water you’re not using. I would just keep refusing to pay and challenging it until they got the message. Infuriating.

  3. Ari

    Thank you Craig for sharing this info.

    I respect those who share the knowledge of the divine and do understand we are all trying to survive or fight this corporate society. So why do we judge those who see it’s there right to charge for what is already divine? Do we not charge for what is divine? Example knowledge! Our intention might be different, but if we preach about unity and community then we should also involve all humanity in the change. If knowledge was shared freely, would there not be liberation throughout humanity? Is this not the reason why we ended up in this situation in the first place, from knowledge been with held from humanity.

    If we choose to play a game designed and implemented by corporations. Is it not there right to implement rules and laws if you chose to play? What does this mean? We have chosen to play by the crown/corporation rules when our parents made out our birth certificate. This certifies that you are a slave to the game/system until proven otherwise. So if we choose not to play the game then we must not use the games devices; example; roads, water supplies, transport, list goes on. Or if we chose to take over the game then we need to remove the crown and corporations out of government. The change must be done within ones self. The first step in playing any game is to learn how to play the game. Meaning we must learn the law of the divine and the petty laws of man that govern all humanity, before we take action. If all beings only learned that the purpose of life on earth is to live in love = unity = community. Lets learn from our mistakes, with compassion. Without mistakes there would be no goodtakes ;)

  4. Roger Mitchell

    Yes water is the staff of life without it we die as many have found out in the desert regions of Australia you can’t suvive without good clean drinking water but we pee in it, we poo in it we wash our cars,our houses our driveways and anything we think is socalled dirty without a thought of where it comes from but as soon as someone says privatise it everyone screems you cant do that its a gift from god well all I can say is youve abused gods gifts for centries wake up conserve it where ever you can harvest it store it and in cities dont let it run down the road and out to sea save it for all those nice green public gardens and lawns that are mostly being watered with drinkable water what a waste.

  5. francine chanovre

    didnt they try to charge people for water in a country not that long ago?
    Greed should be nipped in the bud as it begins not sensationalised


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