Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations General Assembly. She also chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch and is a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Maude is the recipient of seven honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), and the 2008 Canadian Environment Award. She is also the best selling author or co-author of 16 books, including the recently released Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.
Maude Barlow: Well, I am a Canadian. So, I am loathe to get involved in your [U.S] election.
I am mad at my own government, so it is not me coming down and lecturing you. Our government is also what we call, Bush Light [George W. Bush]. They have done the same kind of hands off of the environment, handing over our protections for clean water and so on.
So, I haven’t heard. Though with from what I have seen, and I watch pretty closely television--we [Canadians] get all your [U.S.] stations and all your media. I haven’t heard nearly enough talk about the environment from any of the candidates in either of the parties. Healthcare is tremendously important and the economy and so on, but it tends to be more those. And I still think we are certainly missing the water subject. You just don’t hear the issue of water. I don’t understand it.
I was in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival in January , and I think this is a state running out of water and they are depending on the snow melt from the mountains and they are cutting down those trees and those bushes that protect the snow so fast. There was no talk of it. I didn’t see signs saying please conserve our water.
We are running out of water.
It reminded me of this [Inaudible] cartoon [Inaudible] dogs in a raft and the big ships going down. You can see they have jumped in a life raft, and one of them says, "Ok, everybody in favor of eating all the food at once put your hands up."
It is like we are running out of water, maybe if we cut down some more trees, we can really run out of water fast. I stated this in one of these houses and condos they have and the shower had two speeds, off and hurt, it showered so hard.
It is that level of consciousness that we need and I guess it is not going to come from the top. I think it is going to have to bubble up from the bottom and this movement, it is also here in the United States, of people fighting for their water rights, whether it is fighting in Manchester, California against Nestle taking their water off the mountains or in Fryeburg, Maine; where they are fighting Poland Springs; or the river keepers who are doing wonderful work cleaning up America's rivers; or the Clean Water Action network. There are so many groups that are fighting. Or, Food & Water Watch [and] Corporate Accountability International doing wonderful work on bottled water. Take back the tap campaigns.
I think it is going to come more from the bottom [Inaudible] enough of a scare, which is why I wrote the book, which is why there are these wonderful films.
There is a new film called FLOW: For Love of Water, with a wonderful woman director named Irena Salina, who lives here in New York, which won the Mumbai Film Festival and was premiered at Sundance. With these films and books, we are hoping to get people really understanding the crisis upon us and that we should not, and I hope we don’t have to, wait until we are turning on the water and it is not there.
I talked to somebody yesterday, who was in Pakistan and went to the Bhutto family home. This is before Benazir Bhutto was murdered and 75% of people in Pakistan have no access to clean water, none. 75%. They showed them in there that they turned on the water and no water came out of the tap. Think about that. No water came out of the tap. Now, the Bhuttos are wealthy. So, they truck pure water in. They don’t care where it comes from. But if you are not wealthy, think about turning on the tap and no water coming out.
When I first discovered, really discovered, water, in a poor community in Bolivia years ago and I really looked at it, I then came home to my house in Ottawa, Canada, and I said, I looked around at my own water access. I am not rich. I have seven outlets for water in my house if you count the laundry room, kitchen, bathrooms, and the little tap out front and out back and so on. I could put them all on at once if I wanted and I could just run it and nobody would say anything. Who would know?
There is just this access that we have and this way of looking at it as if it will never dry up and that we have this right to it and other people in the world have none.
I keep saying to people, if you don’t care for yourself, if the others having none doesn’t bother you, it will come here. It is going to visit here. This is the world.
People need to see the world as a living organism and, just like the blood that runs through your veins, is all a part of everything. And if you poison it here, it is going to hit back here or here.
Similarly, if we destroy the water which is the life blood of the planet, if we destroy it in one place, it will come back to us elsewhere.
If only the billions of people are going to want to come to where there is water, and they are going to want to come to places like around the great lakes and so on, and the great lakes are declining.
It is in our best interest to make sure that people around the world are living within water means and caring for their water because the water refugees will be upon us--and what will we do then? These are really big questions and I am disappointed that they are not being debated in these [US presidential] elections coming up.
Recorded On: March 17, 2008