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, we already have water refugees in the world. Thousands and thousands of people who are seeking water and so moving from where they have run out of water, or they created deserts, to places where there is water. Already, there are two billion people living in parts of the world that don’t have enough water. Well, one billion who have absolutely no access to clean water at all. So, they die. No can't afford water, because they are pricing it.
You go to the rivers that have cholera warning signs on them and that is the water you use and you watch your kids die a horrible death. More children die in our world of water-borne disease every day than HIV/AIDS, war, traffic accidents, and malaria put together. It is the number one killer of kids and it is absolutely totally preventable.
Half the hospital beds in the world are filled with people who would not be there if they had access to clean water. I call it the inconvenient truth about water.
I think that the way the consciousness about green house gas emission and climate changes now suddenly begun to permeate everybody's mind, I think similarly this issue around water has got to get to that level where it is just really fundamental for people. But living without water is a crisis.
And then if you are in a wealthier country, like Australia, that is running out of water, people aren’t dying. That is absolutely true. But there is now a whole new frantic feeling about water and people [i.e. Australians] telling on each other if they water their lawns at night because they are not supposed to. They are now on boiled water alerts. They are on really, really strict water diet in the major cities because Sydney has maybe three to five, maybe 10 years of conventional water sources left.
They are building these great big desalination plants, which are expensive and energy intensive, and produce a very highly polluting brine that you put back out into the ocean and, in my opinion, is what you do when you run out of every other option, right?
Instead of thinking about real serious conservation and understanding that we have to change our ways and we have to protect source water, we are still in denial and people need to understand that the Atlanta story is a story you are going to hear more and more and more about, even here in North America where we have had this myth of abundance of water.
Recorded On: March 17, 2008