It's No Longer Enough to Regulate Corporate Greed: The Global Water Crisis Demands a Paradigm Shift
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This has led to a growing movement demanding a new model of governance centered on the rights of nature.
Far from being radical, the Rights of Nature model is based on the inescapable reality that we are all connected.
Our economies have been built on unrealistic expectations of what the planet can yield -- and people living closer to the land have been feeling the impacts for decades. Indigenous communities living downstream from polluting industries like the tar sands in Canada or large mining projects in Latin America have seen unnaturally high rates of cancer, skin diseases, birth defects and illness in the fish and livestock vital to their survival. The food security of communities throughout the Global South has been severely threatened by drought, leading farmers in India to commit suicide over the loss of crops.
Even the staunchest proponents of the neoliberal agenda can no longer deny the scientific evidence of our deeply ailing planet, leading countries like Canada to foolishly engage in shoot-the-messenger strategies such as eliminating publicly funded science, shrinking government departments responsible for environmental monitoring and criminalizing environmental organizations in order to blindly pursue a path of economic growth based on massive expansion of the extractive sector.
The global campaign for the Rights of Nature provides a way forward. But to simply recognize the Rights of Nature on paper does not suffice. Such an approach will be laden with internal contradictions if governments are unwilling to challenge the dominant model of economic globalization. The recognition of the Rights of Nature must be part of a larger commitment to rebuild economies based on respect for watersheds and ecosystems. This means scaling down and reducing consumption; limiting export-oriented production and nurturing sustainable local economies to bring an end to over-extraction, large-scale displacement and contamination of water, fragmentation of rivers and the continued destruction of wetlands and glaciers.
It's no longer enough to simply regulate corporate greed.
Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Chair of the board of Food and Water Watch, as well as an international best-selling author. She has received ten honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award. She served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Meera Karunananthan is a Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest social justice group. Working with the organization’s 70 chapters across the country, Meera promotes water as a human right and a commons in Canada. She also works with global water justice activists around the world through the Blue Planet Project to support struggles against the corporate takeover of water.