SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: I think there's nobody here who is interested in water who doesn't know the name of Maude Barlow. And having heard her speak on the radio I have no doubt that she will raise the roof beams tonight with the various things she talks about in connection with water.
I just want to say a few words of introduction. She doesn't need very much to most of you. In our class we've been reading her book, Blue Covenant. She's the author of 16 books, Blue Covenant being the most recent. She's an activist. She's an author. She's head of Canada's largest social advocacy organization, Council of the Canadians. She's chair of the US-based Food and Water Watch. She is author of so many books. How she finds time to do all this is a mystery to me. And I will take notes on how it's done.
Blue Covenant is about the global water crisis and the coming battle for the right to water, which is something that many people are concerned with at the moment. She's the recipient of eight honorary doctorates and the Right Livelihood Award which is known as the alternative Nobel Prize.
And, most recently, she's been honored by being appointed Senior Adviser to the President of the U.N. General Assembly. So, with that very brief introduction-- I think it would run to about 50 pages if I were to go on any longer-- I would like to welcome Maude Barlow.
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, thank you very much. How's the sound? Are you able to hear me well? That's good. Yeah. I have the mic, Gail. Gail, I think people were thinking, oh, but there's a mic.
I'm delighted to be here. And I want to just say how exciting, Gail, I think what you're trying to do here is. And that is the whole notion of combining the concept of water preservation to culture and to the way we see music, and writing, and art-- or see water through those mediums.
Very often, scientists or environmentalists, whatever, will examine the whole concept of water from a very scientific, water-specific perspective and forget that people live there. And, very often, when we do recoveries, we kick the indigenous peoples off the land. I say we collectively. I don't mean me. But we forget that there are people with rich histories. And if anybody is going to save a watershed, it's going to be the people who live there, whose grandparents live there, and who hope that their grandkids will live there. So I think what you're doing is fabulous and I thank you very deeply for it.
I'm just going to start off reading some headlines. This is from the last month, around the world, OK? Just to give us a little flavor of what we're dealing with. These are all different headlines. They don't come-- I'll run them on, but they're all different.
"Australia Burning as Country Hits the Water Wall"; "Israel Faces Worst Water Crisis in 80 Years"; Catastrophic Water Crisis Hits Iraq"; "The Worst Drought in Half a Century Has Pushed Argentina to a State of Emergency"; "China Hits the Historic Water Crisis"; "Jordan Braces for Historic Drought"; "Nevada"-- the US-- "Has Been Declared a National Disaster Area Because of Severe Droughts"; "California Facing the Worst Drought in Modern History"; "Kenya to Declare a National Emergency Over Drought"; "In Spain, Water is the New Battleground As Swaths of Southeast Spain Are Turned Into Desert"; "Pakistan Is On the Brink of Water Disaster Over Accelerated Melting of the Glaciers and the Depletion of Massive Waters of the Indus Basin Rivers"; "Growing Water Stress in Southeast Asia is Expected as Water Systems that Sustain Half the 1.5 Billion People Are Threatened."
And out of Davos, the World Economic Forum last month, where all the elite of the world gathered to talk about the financial crisis, the statement they came out with at the end was, the world is headed toward water bankruptcy. And that is what's concerning us, more than anything else we talked about here.
I just want to kind of put our heads in that mindset. I know it's hard because it's raining out there. And I come from Ottawa, Canada and I left yesterday-- the snow was almost as high as I am. And so it's kind of-- we still have a lot of snow. We're really sick of it. It's kind of hard to get your head around the concept that, maybe, this crisis is really, truly global.
But I really, as strongly as I can, want to start us off tonight with the knowledge that the world is in fact running out of fresh, clean, available water, which is something we are all taught in grade 6 couldn't possibly happen. We were all taught that there's a finite hydrologic cycle. The water goes around and round. You can use as much as you want because it evaporates and comes back through the cycle. And Bob's your uncle and we're fine.
Turns out this is not true, by a combination of pollution, depletion, over-extraction, groundwater mining, moving water where it is needed by nature for the hydrologic cycle to function to where we want it to be. We are actually destroying the available water table in the world. And I want to say that as strongly as I can.
Scientists talk about what are called hot stains. And these are parts of the world physically running out of water. And you'll notice in the headlines that I wrote, they talk a lot about drought. But, actually, that's a misnomer. In many places, it's not cyclical drought. It's the end of water. And there is a difference-- except that if you have politicians who insist that it's cyclical drought and it'll all come back, then you can just kind put your head in the sand and pretend this isn't happening.
Hot stains of the world include all of the Middle East; all of northern China, where they have decided that they can make so much more money with each drop of water by making all the running shoes and toys in the world, that the water has been diverted to making this industrial export economy go instead of leaving it in watersheds; India, where there are 23 million bore wells going 24/7, pumping that water up so hard that a group of scientists in the UK just said that there's coming anarchy as the exponential drawing of those wells takes place; Pakistan, where 75% of the people don't have access to clean water; to Mexico, Mexican Valley, Mexico City, which has pumped all the water out underneath it and is now sinking on itself; to Australia, which has absolutely hit the water wall.
And I want to talk a little bit more about Australia through the evening because I think it's a morality tale for all of us-- all the things not to do when you know you're running out of water. The American Midwest, the American Southwest, the American Southeast are all in crisis. The Colorado River is in catastrophic decline-- they're the words of a group of scientists. And Lake Mead, which is the big backup-- human-made reservoir, which was never going to run out, has 12 years left. Florida, where more than 1,000 people a day are moving into the state-- the pumping of the groundwater has been so severe that there are now sinkholes opening up and whole buildings and shopping centers dropping in.
Now I think it's important to take this time. I'm not going to be dreadfully hopeless all night. I promise you, this will stop quite soon. But I do think-- because I do have some solutions to offer. And I think they can work. I actually think we know all we need to know to catch this crisis.
And I tell you, we are going to deal with it by default or by design. We'll either be ahead of it and think about it, which is what I'm hoping these projects like the one at Cornell can be part of. Or we're going to do it by default-- that is, the water's gone. What do we do now? And that's what's happening in too many parts of the world. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as you know, just declared a state of emergency in California.
So this is the case, then, in the Mediterranean. People don't think of the Mediterranean as being one of these hot stains in the world, running out of water. The water there-- demand there has doubled over the last 50 years, while rainfall levels have declined by 20%. So you see the direction is not good.
The culprits of the crisis are, as they are almost everywhere, poor water management, inefficient water use, resource degradation, pollution, and salinization of soil, surface, and ground water, poor food production practices with a huge loss of water from flood irrigation and very lazy and poor irrigation practices.
And a tourist industry that brings in 200 sun-hungry tourists-- 200 million every single year. And, on average, the tourists use four times the amount of water every day that the residents do. So the demand and the stress on the Mediterranean, waterwise, is absolutely incredible.
France, Turkey, and Syria are leading in the growth of water demand in the area, where already 180 million people are considered water poor. And the United Nations warns that if this kind of water behavior continues in the Mediterranean, by 2050, there will be as many as 290 million inhabitants of the Mediterranean facing serious to severe water shortages.
So we are talking about a place that is now in crisis, that is going to grow in crisis, unless very serious action is taken. And we have people in this room-- a wonderful mayor in a small community in Greece-- doing fabulous work in their own communities. But we are not looking at this, I don't believe, collectively.
I think of the water crisis as being about four or five years behind the global warming crisis in terms of consciousness-- people's consciousness-- and I do blame our grade six teachers, by the way, the one who taught us that you can't run out of water. We learned that, you know, and we just don't know how to delete that tape from our brains.
So, of course, the human fallout from this is, as you know, profound and terrible. Dirty water is the greatest cause of death and disease, by far, of children in our world. Every eight seconds, a child somewhere is dying of dirty water. In every case, it would be dealable with-- one could deal with it if they could afford water, if they could buy it. In every case, it's because the family cannot afford clean water.
And we know that the World Health Organization says that 80% of all illness and disease in the world is connected to dirty water. I spoke last night in Montreal to a wonderful group of young medical students and health professional students who are simulating the World Health Organization on dealing with the world water crisis. And each one of them represented either a country or an NGO.
And I basically said to them, more important than any health care services that you can provide in the world, is stop the pollution of the water that's killing the world. That is the single most important thing-- you know, get your degrees. Do whatever you need to do there. But that is-- no service that you can provide would ever come close to stopping this the pollution that's killing this number of people.
And, as a result, of course, we have great conflict in many communities between big cities that are putting pipelines, like Mexico City, into indigenous communities. I mean, talk about culture and the theft of culture.
In Mexico City they've put a pipeline about 60 miles outside the city into a tribal community called the Mazahuas. And they have just literally confiscated their water. They put a big fortress with armed guards around this water source.
If you want to think of water sources now, this is the new image you should have in your mind-- like a gold or a diamond mine-- big, you know, fortress with armed guards-- and have confiscated that water. Because they said, there are more of us and we need it and we're a big, thirsty city.
There are conflicts, of course, growing between rich and poor where, in a community, if you're wealthy you can have all the water you want for your golf courses and your swimming pools and so on. And if you're poor, you don't. When I went to South Africa for the World Summit on Sustainable Development back in 2001, 2002, I guess, the U.N. Event was held in Sandton, which is a very wealthy neighborhood of Johannesburg.
And it was all five-star hotels and these big, gleaming office towers. And to get into the conference you had to pass all these big, corporate ads-- De Beers-- you know De Beers, diamonds are forever-- well, they had a water drop that said water is forever. And you went in, there were all these boutique water bottles available for the delegates. My favorite was Tasmanian cloud juice. You and I might think of it as rainwater-- but anyways-- selling for $40 a pop, right?
And all you had to do was walk outside Sandton and just head across this little river with cholera warning signs on it and you'd be in a place called Alexander, which is the township there, with enormous poverty-- you know, burning tires and burning garbage and rats in the gutter and no running water.
But the week we were there they showed us where Suez, the big water transnational, had put in pipes to every block of shanties-- little block of-- not-- houses is the wrong kind of word, really-- really very poor places. But between the pipe and the tap was a state-of-the-art water meter. And the only way to get at that water was to pay ahead to get the key charged up. And then you touch the water meter and it starts to-- every drop starts to be counted.
And, as one activist there said, well, about 80% of us in this community are unemployed. So it kind of gives new meaning to the concept of water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. So they all go to that river that has cholera warning signs on it-- which is why every eight seconds, somewhere in our world, a child is dying of waterborne disease.
So, in my opinion, the water crisis is not only the greatest ecological crisis of our time and is the first face of climate change, but it's the greatest indicator and visual reality of the inequality that we have allowed to be built into our global economy and a deep indictment of the last 30 years of this market above all and, you know, growth-- unlimited growth-- and nonstop, you know, stuff.
Any of you have not had a chance, I would lead you to a fabulous video called The Story of Stuff. Just Google story of stuff and you will see something very important that you'll want to share with everyone you know.
So what's the solution to this crisis? Well, I've thought about this long and hard. And I have done a lot of thinking and research and work. And I have come to a place where I believe that if we could get the principles right, we could start to build the right policies. So I want to talk to you about what my vision of-- and a lot of people's vision, because I'm part of a global water justice movement that is a very exciting and alive movement around the world. And we work very closely together, north and south. And we've taken a lot of time to work through this set of visions and principles together.
But I just want to address two realities just before I hit them. And one of them is that I want to place in your minds the notion that our mistreatment, displacement, and abuse of water by pipeline or whatever is actually one of the major causes of climate change.
We tend to think of water abuse, or water being a victim of greenhouse-gas-induced climate change. So we've got melting glaciers, which is true. And we have lessened snow packs up on the Great Lakes, for instance, and the water evaporates more quickly because of global warming. All of that's true. But we tend to think it only that way. And so it gives a lot of politicians the wherewithal to say, well, global warming made me do it. And there's nothing we can do on water.
The former government in Australia-- that was their line. The new government is better. But the former government literally said, there's nothing that we've done to our water that's a problem. It is global warming. And it's from away. So it's not our fault and there's nothing we can do. Therefore, we won't do anything. And that is literally-- literally, those are the words they used.
And, in fact, in Australia, as everywhere else, what we're doing as a human species-- and I want you to try to get this into your kind of image in your mind-- it's like we're putting a big straw down into the aquifers and the rivers and the watersheds of the land masses of the world. We're pumping that water-- we're sucking that water out. And we're either watering deserts by flood irrigation, which means that you're now creating two deserts. Or we're sending that water into big, thirsty cities. And the more we urbanize, the more we industrialize, the more modern we become, the more consumer-oriented we become, the more water we use, OK?
So in our big, thirsty cities we gulp up that water. If those cities are anywhere near the ocean, we don't return that water to the land, OK? We send that water into the ocean. And I am working with scientists who believe that that is a greater cause of ocean rising than greenhouse gas emissions and heating-- not to say that isn't important, but that we have not taken this equation into account. And that if we don't stop the practice of over-mining of our groundwater, of over-extraction of our rivers to death-- literally-- and of piping water from where it's needed for not only the healthy ecosystem but a healthy hydrologic system to function, we're in trouble.
And we also pave over what's called water-retentive landscape. That's where you urbanize. And instead of working around water and nature, we just plow over and pave over. And when that happens the water does not-- the rain does not-- come back.
I'm working with scientists in Slovakia who've actually been able to tabulate that with every percentage of urbanization growth, an equal percentage of rain depletion takes place. The vapors literally blow away. And so we are creating climate change by paving over the green stuff or cutting down, as in deforestation, the green stuff that actually keeps that hydrologic cycle flowing.
And I want to-- I feel really strongly about getting this story out because I think that in all of our talk on climate change it's been totally missed. And it's not only a huge part of the analysis it's part of the solution that's going to be part of the climate change solution as well. And we're never going to have the human right to water unless we protect water. So we're trying to build a movement that takes that ecological reality with the human rights reality and build something that puts them together. So that's kind of one reality I want to kind of lodge in our heads as we look towards solution.
The other is that what we've been doing today has failed. We've been doing either a kind of a free for all, where, all over the world, anybody who wants to access water can have all the water they want-- be it big farm, big ag industries, big, you know, intensive livestock operations, big bottled water companies, mining companies. It's tended to be a first come, first serve. In many cases, we don't charge any money for it. It's a big free for all.
And that notion of just who gets there first having access to this water is absolutely wrong. We've also now, more recently, started to use the market to determine who's going to get allocations of water. And, in my mind, this is not only equally wrong but very troublesome because, of course, the bigger you are in the market the more you can take for yourself.
And this is taking a number of forms. One is the forced privatization of water services in the global south by the World Bank, which has said to poor countries, if you want water-- funding for water services-- you have to take one of the big companies-- Suez or Veolia from France, or one of the others-- and they're going to operate on a for-profit basis. And they're going to take 10%, 20% of their income as profit to their shareholders. So if you can't pay the rates-- which they're going to jack up real high-- we're real sorry, but you're going to die. Nobody says that part but that's the corollary.
We also now have water trading where, in some of the communities, in some countries, they're actually allowing the wholesale sale of whole rivers and water systems. Chile is allowing this. India is allowing this. Turkey, where the World Water Forum is going to be held in two weeks, is allowing the wholesale-- literally sale-- and expropriation of water systems.
But more often it's the trading of water rights. Back to Australia, where they have over-extracted the Murray-Darling 80%. This is the major river system that has provided the water for most of the agricultural produce, that's then mostly exported out of Australia. It's a major virtual water exporter, which means that's the water embedded in a product that you then export away.
Australia's built its whole economy on export of goods that were-- of commodities-- that were dependent on water they don't have. And so they have over-extracted those licenses. And a number of years ago they privatized those licenses and allowed what's called the unbundling of water from the land. So if you own land in the country. And you can sell the water on or under your land to a private broker, who then sells it into the city or into the private sector or now, more recently, to big investors.
And the government is now desperate to buy water back to save the Murray-Darling because it could die this year or next. This is like saying the St. Lawrence River system could die. So they're desperate to buy this back. But the big industrial conglomerates are saying, well, we own it and we're not giving it back to you. Or we're going to sell it back to you. But the prices that they're demanding are absolutely exorbitant.
So I'm going to be speaking there in about three weeks at a big conference. And I'm going to say that the government there has to expropriate that water back and then give fair price to-- what they determine to be fair price-- to the owners, to the previous owners.
But this notion of allowing someone like T. Boone Pickens here in the US, in Texas-- like I don't know how rich you have to be, in your 80s, what you're going to do with all this money. But he's already so rich, he's now buying up huge amounts of the Oglala to keep as a form of what I call blue gold. And he's going to sell it when it's even more valuable than it is now. And it gets more valuable every single day.
I was at a conference in Lubbock, Texas a couple of years ago and I criticized T. Boone Pickens. I thought I wouldn't get out with my life. Because people just said, you know, the way it's OK. It's fine. And, of course, we have the bottled water craze. We put something like over 200 billion bottles of water in plastic around the world last year in the world. But 95% of those did not get recycled. So we are just creating a huge water footprint from this other form of privatization of water.
So the way we have been dealing with the water crisis to date isn't working very well. So here's my thought and some places that are doing something very exciting. First of all, I believe we have to name water as a public trust and a commons that belongs to all the people. And that does not mean it does not have a commercial use, but that the commercial use has to be determined by permit and comes after a priorizing that this water needs to be for people and for life, for watershed sustainability, and for more local and sustainable food production.
And I'll give you the best example I know and that's the example of Vermont. Vermont has had the big bottled water companies coming in and pumping water out because, as parts of the US run out of water, other parts that still have it are being used by these bottled water companies to pump this water up.
And we're working with groups in Maine and Massachusetts and other places fighting Coca-Cola, fighting Nestle, which is the big bottled water company from Switzerland that owns Poland Spring and Perier and San Pelligrino. And they come in and they pump aquifer water in a particular area till it's gone.
So Vermont got real worried because they didn't have any groundwater protection. So last year, led by a Republican woman senator-- state senator-- and a Democratic woman state senator-- I love this-- they introduced legislation that said that nobody owns Vermont's water. It belongs to the ecosystem, it belongs to the people, and it belongs to the future, and that everyone has a right to a certain amount of it. And then, beyond that, they set up a priority system and a permitting system, which they can then control. If anyone's using more than the water that they should be using, they can pull that water back.
So the public trust is an extraordinarily important concept. And what it means-- what it determines is that water is a public service and that we need to keep our water safe, clean, and public. And that means that we have to discourage bottled water. And we're very excited today-- the Canadian Federation of Municipalities-- which is all the cities, like your conference of mayors-- met in Vancouver and passed a resolution to ban bottled water across all of the municipalities cross country. We're very, very excited. We've been working hard on that.
And if people then turn back to their tap water-- and at Food and Water Watch we have a campaign called "Take Back the Tap"-- then you're more likely to want to put taxes into infrastructure investment and making sure that water is clean and safe and that the source has been protected. So that's the first kind of big concept.
The second big concept is this notion of integrated watershed protection management and restoration. We have to put back water into the places we've taken it out and we've got to stop this practice of dumping water that we have used into oceans. It has to be cleaned and returned to the place from which it came. And we have to use less of it and we have to put much less-- to zero-- pollution in it, so that what we're cleaning we're able to put safely back into the watersheds for further cleaning.
We need strict enforcement of strict pollution laws. Martin Luther King said legislation may not change the heart, but it will restrain the heartless. We need enough-- we need to monitor and leave enough water in the ecosystem for it and a healthy hydrologic cycle to function and fully mature and protect us. Because if we don't protect these systems we will die. Well, we might won't die first here, but people will die. And, eventually, it will impact everywhere in the world.
And we must move to more sustainable, local food production. One of the hardest things in this country is going to be breaking the lock of that virtual water export through the massive agricultural exports in California and other places. That's going to be extremely hard. Those are very powerful interests that are vested interests. But we're going to have to make a distinction between local, sustainable farming-- food production-- and the food production that is destroying 60% of the world's water. Because they are the biggest culprits in terms of water destruction. A very, very big, tough issue.
But let me tell you-- I said this earlier-- we'll either do it by design or we'll do it by default. And if you wait till you do it by default, you can't plan it. And guess what? Last year in Australia, their rice exports dropped 60% in one year.
Did they know it was coming? They had scientists telling them. Did the government admit it? No. Were the farmers left desperate? Yes. Could they have done it better? You bet. So this default or design is an extremely important way for us to think about things.
And I know we live in a-- when I say we, I and you here in this community-- live in more water wealthy area of the world. But there is nowhere-- nowhere-- that is going to be safe from the kind of water depletion that we're talking about.
Then we have to priorize the use of the accessible, available fresh water that we can use-- as I say, that isn't drawing down that water capital-- and that's where we come to this notion of permit use. And that's where we say there is a commercial use for water. But let's make sure that that commercial use of water is used within the boundaries of conservation and water justice-- this notion of water for all.
The fourth kind of big principle is water as a human right. And that is the notion that water-- that it's not a human right to have water for your swimming pool, but it is a human right to have water for life. And, in a world where every single day so many people are dying, this has got to become a priority.
I'm very excited. My work with Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, who's the Nicaraguan liberation theologian priest, who's now the President of the General Assembly-- we are working towards promoting and preparing a resolution for the General Assembly on the right to water.
Until now, your country, your government and my government have opposed this right to water. My government continues to be dreadfully stubborn and we're very angry about it. But it may be very different under the new Obama administration. And it's something for those of you who are at all politically minded to start to push. Because we really need the change at the United Nations in terms of what countries are lining up against this concept.
You get a number of countries who don't support the right to water because they are afraid that they will then be held accountable to their people. And how do you provide the right to water if you don't have it. And, of course, what the answer to that is that no country is required to do something it cannot do. But you're required to take the beginning steps, which might mean removing water-- you know, you don't have those golf course water rights. You know, that water has to be used elsewhere.
And, finally, the final kind of big picture principle is local management-- local management, local stewardship of water. All real change comes from below. And the best and most exciting work being done around the world are local communities-- small villages all over New England, groups are getting together and passing what are called ordinances against the big bottled water companies coming into their communities and just saying, as a people, we don't want you here and actually passing these ordinances.
In Uruguay, five years ago, The [? Peoplist-- ?] a very poor group-- started a plebiscite. They had to get a tenth of the signatures of the population-- signatures of a tenth of the population to get a referendum on their national ballot to have a constitutional amendment that water is a human right. And they succeeded. And they became the first country in the world to actually vote for this. Very, very exciting.
Now other countries are doing this. In Colombia, which is a dangerous place to do this kind of political work, they now have the signatures of close to 3 million people, which is going to lead to a similar referendum. I've been several times supporting them in Colombia. And the first time I went, my husband was very opposed to me going. Because he said, you know, I read about these gangs that come up. And they will take you to an ATM machine and make you take money out.
So when I got there-- I had just got by my BlackBerry for the first time-- this was about three or four years ago-- and he wrote me said, Maude, the bankruptcy has come through. We are broke. We have no money. And I'm thinking, what bankruptcy? I wasn't bankrupt when I left this morning, right. And, of course, I realized, this is in case I get kidnapped, I'm supposed to-- oh, yeah, they're going to believe me. Oh, yeah, right.
Hold up your BlackBerry, lady, and show us that you're bankrupt, right. But it's a very exciting movement-- this movement in Colombia.
And South Africa, where they actually-- where Nelson Mandela became president and they had a new constitution, he put the right to water in the constitution. But they have prepaid water meters in all of the small townships.
And so people-- the poorest people in South Africa, from the townships-- went to court and said, it can't both be a human right and something we have to pay for before we can have one drop to drink. You know, it's a contradiction. And they won at a level-- one level-- at a court level. But now it's been appealed by the South African government. It's going to the Supreme Court, or it has been in the Supreme Court and we're awaiting the decision now.
So this kind of really grassroots, local assertion of power. The people in a little village in Plachimada, Kerala, in southern India, sat in vigil-- the women sat in vigil-- across from a Coca-Cola plant for three years. I had the honor of sitting with them for a few days at one point.
We had a big conference and we did it all in the open and we had loudspeakers so everybody in the Coke plant could hear all the speeches and everything from the politicians. It was quite a wonderful time. But they got such sympathy. And Coke was so draining the water sources around this area that the people went-- they got help from lawyers and scientists to take it all the way to the Supreme Court in India, which shut the Coke production plant down a few years ago now.
The company has come back with a separate appeal and it's gone back to the Supreme Court. But at this point in time, this particular Coke factory, which was across from one of the poorest tribal people in the world, has been shut down by these poor, very brave, very fabulous people.
So when I say the local actions are the actions that matter, this is absolutely true. So I'm just going to end the formal part of this-- because I'd rather talk with you than at you any more-- with the thought that we are on the brink of some very serious decisions around this water issue. I kind of think of it like the-- you know the comet movies where the comet's coming at the Earth and all of a sudden all of our differences don't mean anything because we're all going to blow up in 72 hours.
So they send Tom Cruise up and he blows up the comet. And I always say, leave him there. Could you take the wife and kid, too? And could you take Brad and Angela with you and their kids and everything. No. But just-- we're just a little tired of these movie stars, anyway, getting all this attention while things like the water crisis don't.
But in these movies we realize, of course, that all our differences don't matter. Well, there is a comet aimed at the Earth. It's called the global water crisis. And it's already here in very, very, very many parts of the earth, including the Mediterranean. And we have got to build some answers now. And we have to start thinking carefully ahead of time about how to avoid the crisis we see coming.
We know what we have to do. We know about conservation. We know about watershed restoration. We know about rainwater harvesting. We know how to collect gray water and storm water. We know how to bring in low flush toilets and low-- you know, low flow shower-heads. We know what we need to do. We absolutely know what we need to do-- to bring in porous pavement. And to build-- when we have urban design-- to build around water system to keep a living, healthy planet.
We have all the knowledge we need, including very exciting new concept called biomimetics, where scientists are studying what nature teaches us and how we can adapt. And the one that I love the best is people working on drought in Ethiopia have studied this little beetle, that, every now and then, a fog comes through this desert. Like, it's really dry. And the little beetle sticks its head in the sand and collects the fog on its back, turns it to water, collects it in its mouth from a little funnel, and drinks it, and can live for a year on the water that it drinks from this little bit of fog passing through.
So these scientists have taken what they learned from the beetle's back and how it works-- the intricate design-- and have actually fashioned a way-- a very, very inexpensive way-- for people to collect the fog water in dry communities like that. I mean, there are some wonderful innovations around the world that we can move to.
What we're lacking is political will. And what we're lacking is general knowledge that what I've said here tonight is truly the problem that it is. As I say, I think it's about four years-- four or five years behind climate change. And I hope that instead of becoming the crisis that I see it coming, it can be, instead, nature's gift to humanity to teach us you know how to live in peace with one another and, perhaps, more lightly on the world-- on our beautiful Earth.
Woody Allen says, well, you know, there are two paths ahead-- one leads to despair and utter, you know, rejection and dissolution and the other to complete annihilation. And he says, give me the gift to figure out which one is the right path. But I honestly do think-- I mean, we're working with a group called Friends of the Middle East. And these are-- Friends of the Earth-- Middle East. These are people who worked together, continued to meet together through the recent war in Gaza, with each other to find solutions to the crisis there. Because they deeply believe if they can start with water, they could move who knows where in the rest of it.
So I'm just going to end the formal part of this with my favorite quote from Tolkien. This is Gandalf facing-- I loved this quote before the movies-- but I love the movies-- before the night when all evil may take over the world and nothing alive will be left. And, as you remember, Mordor was about the death of nature. And so he's talking about being a steward. And I think I'm in a room full of stewards. So I just want to end with this.
Gandalf says, "The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in the days to come. For I, too, am a steward. Did you not know?" Thank you.
Now, Gail, we have a little time, right?
SPEAKER 2: We do.
MAUDE BARLOW: So I'm yours till the end of time. But probably 20 minutes, half an hour, whatever people want. Yes, my dear. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Maude, thanks for coming. And this is from an engineer, all right? You were talking about the price of water sometimes prevent people from drinking it. And that's true. But it seems to me that if you're going to get water to people and it's going to be good quality, you're going to have to-- somebody's going to have to spend some money to do that. And you know this question. So do you want to hide it in taxes or do you want to have it directly--
MAUDE BARLOW: Wonderful question. Thank you. In case anybody couldn't hear, it was basically how do you pay-- how do we pay for water-- if I could paraphrase-- it's how do we pay for water-- A, to pay for the true service cost; B, to promote conservation, but in a way that doesn't penalize the poor or penalize people who-- am I do-- does that paraphrase it?
I think there's a way to do that. First of all, I think we need to say we're not paying for the water itself, we're paying for the service. I just want to make that distinction. I think it's really important. It does cost a lot of water to bring high quality water from your tap. And we should be paying for it.
Secondly, I think we can do it in a block system, particularly in the global north. This is a very touchy subject in the global south, because pricing has been used to deny people water. It's been used as a weapon, not a tool. So when we're thinking of it as a tool, we need to be sensitive. If I were to say this at a conference in the global south, you know I'd run out of the room because they'd be running after me. So this is more for the global north.
But I believe we can do it in a block pricing of-- a combination of block pricing and caps on use, depending on how much water you have. So, for instance, Osaka, Japan has a three-tier pricing. So very little for the first amount that a family uses. And that will be dependent on your area, how much water people use, and that kind of thing.
Then, you use more than that, it goes right up. You use more than that and, let me tell you, you will think twice before you start paying the money for that third tier. And I find that a really interesting concept. Now there'll be other places, there isn't enough money for you to go to that second or third tier, even if you have money. And that may be in places where there isn't enough water. You just can't waste it, whether you have the money or not. And then you're forcing a distribution. So it's going to depend a little bit on the local condition.
I would-- and then the third condition for me would be that it's still in the public realm, that the money that then is collected goes into infrastructure repair, goes into source protection and so on, instead of being a private company that's collecting that money and sending it to their investors and to pay their CEOs-- the kind of money we all know CEOs make.
You know, if I had my druthers, I guess, probably, I would want it in taxes. But I'm realistic people aren't going to want to pay more taxes. And I'm realistic that you wouldn't then dedicate that tax to that water. And if we want clean water, we have to pay for it. So, to my mind, that's a fair way to look at it.
Now, just to tell you, in Perth, Australia, they are now seriously considering charging per flush. They are now looking at the waste water use end of-- not only per flush but how much water you send in your washing machine, your dishwasher-- like what comes out of the pipe-- as opposed to what did you take in, what did you send out-- to encourage conservation.
MAUDE BARLOW: I know. I know.
AUDIENCE: --for a day or two.
MAUDE BARLOW: I will let-- you know, if it's yellow, let it mellow. I mean, I was in Montana not long ago and I talked to a group of people who moved into and built their homes in a new development. But the government said to them, we cannot deliver water to you. We cannot. We have no facility. We can't pump it up there. We don't have the energy. If you're building there, you'll have to build-- and they gave them, I think, some kind of subsidy of some kind to build-- to become water self-sustainable.
And they all built cisterns. And they're all self-sustainable. And this one guy said-- somebody said, well, what do you tell your guests? And he said, if you don't like the yellow let it mellow rule, go pee in the desert. Because you're not flushing every time. Because I know where every drop of water comes from. And I know every time it goes out. And you watch your water.
I mean, we are we just-- we're so cavalier with it. I remember the first time-- this was years ago now-- that I went to a really poor community and saw what it's like when you have little water that you use again and again and again. It finally gets put dirty onto the vegeta-- few vegetables that you're growing.
And I came home and I counted the water sources in my house. And I'm not rich. I'm rich by their standard but not by ours. I'm middle class. You know-- kitchen, laundry room, bathrooms, the sink and the toilet, the bath tub, the tap out front, the tap out back-- I could have turned them all on for days. Nobody'd know. You know? So it's that notion of not having any value for it. So I thank you for asking that. Because I am not opposed to pricing in. And, I think, for commercial use we have to put a price on it.
In my province, in Ontario, we charge $1.73 per million liters of water industrially-- stupid. That's just stupid. There's no excuse for that whatsoever. And it doesn't encourage any kind of conservation. And just another fun statistic-- in one city I had this thing called the Unbottle It tour in Ontario. We went from city to city asking people to take the pledge not to drink bottled water.
And in one city-- and it would be comparable to any North American city-- the city engineer said, if you drink eight glasses of water per day from the tap-- which, by the way, you don't have to drink. That's a myth of the bottled water industry, but anyway-- if you do, and you drink it from the tap for a year, it'll cost you $1.88. Like $1 and 88 cents, right? If you take it from that vending machine, it'll cost you $2,190.
I'm telling you, I have-- to me, that's-- I don't have to say anything else. I say that all the time now in this recession. And people say, why am I putting that kind of money into that bottle when the stuff coming out of my tap is cleaner, it's safer, it's more regulated. Any problems that are in the tap water are in that bottled water. But you're, at least, more regulated and tested if it's coming out of the tap.
So these stats could be really powerful when you kind of put them together. But, anyway, I loved your question. It's really important. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Do desalination technologies-- can they play a role in the water crisis?
MAUDE BARLOW: I'm really, really, really worried about the new dependence on technology. And even your lovely president-- I have to tell you, I'm madly in love with your lovely president-- last month-- oh, not even last month-- two weeks, three weeks ago, he came to Canada. He came to my city, Ottawa.
And the last time your president-- your last president-- came to Ottawa, we had a big protest. And this time we held up signs saying, we love you, would you be our prime minister, and don't go home.
I mean, you'd just have to have seen the difference of the love-in, right, that greeted this president. But even this president is into technology as a savior. And I really worry about it. Technology has a place. But technology isn't going to save our water problem. Our water crisis is going to be saved by protecting nature and protecting water in its first form, in its cleanest form. That is the most important thing we can do.
Now will there be a place for small-scale desalination? Probably. But let me tell you, the big desalination plants are very expensive, OK? They are energy-intensive, which means they create greenhouse gas emissions, which is part of the problem of global warming, which is part of the problem of the water crisis. They emit a terrible brines. What they do is they intake the ocean water-- which includes, by the way, if you're a city like-- I keep going back to Australia-- Sydney, Australia and you pump your untreated sewage into the ocean, then you're taking that back in. Just a thought.
You're also taking in the aquatic life. And then you take out the water-- you take out everything from the water-- and you'd have this de-mineralized water, which now, in Israel, they are just beginning to discover is not good for their plants. Because they're planting all their plants with this, really, distilled water. It doesn't have the minerals it needs.
And then what you're putting back into the ocean is this brine, with thick salt, chemicals that were used for the reverse osmosis, the dead aquatic life, and whatever sewage you brought in. And, you know, there's a solution in places is, well, we'll just build deep water pipes, deep ocean pipes. And we'll just pump it into the ocean and hide it out there, you know?
So, to me, it's really-- and here's what was so disappointing the other day with Schwarzenegger-- he said crisis, and then he said a good thing and then he said a troubling thing. He said conservation. We must conserve our water. And then he said we're going to speed up our de-sal program, which is 25 to 30 major desalination plants planned.
And what happens is when you start putting billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars into this technology, you commit future generations to it, because it's that path dependency. Well, maybe if we had the decision now, we wouldn't have made that decision. But we've already sunk, you know, $10 billion of taxpayers' money into it. We can't turn back now.
And, by the way, now the new thing in de-sal is nuclear-powered desalination. So there's a whole bunch around the world. So there's a whole new worry for us when we think about nuclear.
So, to me, the big technology-- then you get the technology like General Electric and Dow Chemical-- the nice folks who brought us Bhopal are now into cleaning our water for us. They put a huge amount of money into mostly chemical treatment of dirty water.
And I worry that, of course, then they need a steady supply of dirty water to keep that investment going, right? So is there an incentive to have water cleaned or keep water clean in the first place? So I'm really worried about this over-dependency on technology. I think there's a place for it. But I think we need to be very careful about it. Yes?
AUDIENCE: It may be right, but is it reasonable to expect countries like the US to support a right to water when they won't even recognize a right to food? And that will create a legal obligation, as I understand it, for the US to make sure not just South Africa will have to support it's people, but the US would have to support South Africa's people, or Malawi, or wherever?
MAUDE BARLOW: Yeah. You're right to a place and then I'll-- here's the situation-- both my country and the United States now-- and we'll see if it's different under the new president-- and Australia do not support the right to water because they do not support the right to food. You're absolutely right. One follows the other. And that's the true reason-- they don't want to be held accountable.
But, however, it's really accountable to their own people. No right that you-- no treaty that you sign at the U.N. or that you ratify-- requires you to physically provide that thing to the other country. You are morally pressured to fund those countries becoming more self-sufficient in those areas.
But, for instance, the Canadian government says, well, we don't support the right to water because we might be forced to send our water to the US, which is just nonsense. There is no right to water for Las Vegas, right, like to swimming pools and golf courses. The right to water is the right to water for life.
And that would all be commercial and it wouldn't be charity or whatever. But that is nonsense and the Canadian government knows it. The real reason is they don't want to do that because on our first nations, our indigenous, Canadian communities, we have terrible water situation. And they don't want the right to water to be used by indigenous communities to say you have to clean up the water in our communities.
Similarly, here, I think it's the same question. People here would say right to water, right to food. You've ratified it, you have to provide it for us. So if they tell you that it's that they're worried they have to provide it to other countries, they know perfectly well that's not true. A ratification of a treaty at the United Nations is between a government and its own people. Yes?
AUDIENCE: It's very interesting. I also So believe in the water crisis. But how do you see the developed country over the crisis compared to the developing country? I come from a developing country. There is a type of crisis I see is absolutely lack of intensification and also economy [INAUDIBLE] of scarcity's at. Water is not managed for productive purpose to intensify and so on, whereas the problem here is more of intensification and a misuse of water.
Because of systematic problems, that is a bigger picture-- not only what happened [INAUDIBLE] the rural degradation of the environment, overpopulation, and so on. Actually, the hydrologic system is heavily affected.
How do you see this concept of actually [INAUDIBLE] development and to get water crisis, compared to the need for investment-- new investment-- in these developing countries? How do you see this?
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, look, if I had the answer to that, I'd be queen of the world. I mean, there are very--
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] question. [INAUDIBLE]
MAUDE BARLOW: I'm sorry. The-- I'm sorry-- the question is basically-- if I can paraphrase-- to compare the situation in the global south, particularly poor countries that are also water poor and that desperately need investment, with the mismanagement and kind of cavalier attitude of water in the north. Is that a way to paraphrase it?
The situation is desperate in many countries, as you know. Africa-- 22 countries are in the water crisis now. One in three people in Africa now do not have access to clean water. Within 10 to 15 years-- unless something dramatic changes-- it's going to be one in two. I mean, that is just appalling.
You know, and the Millennium Development folks at the U.N. say, well, we're getting there, we're getting there. And I say, well, excuse me, on this different organization within the U.N.-- this different agency-- you know, has very different stats. You're not getting there at all. I mean, the statistics are stunning. You know this.
And you have the combination of pollution and poverty and, oftentimes, that first-come, first-served of the mining companies, or whatever, who gets in there. It's the same issue for energy. And so the question then becomes, A, what do the countries themselves do? And then, what is the role of people like us in the global north and how can we support the different kinds of answers?
I still believe that the principles that I outlined here apply everywhere. I believe that every country in the global south needs to say what Bolivia just said, under Evo Morales, that their water is their water. It is a public trust. They have passed public trust legislation like Vermont's.
And they have said that they will manage the water in their territory for their own people and for appropriate development. They are very clear about appropriate development. They don't want a lot of investment from the north because they think that they pay too high a price, like China in Africa and the price that's being paid in some places.
So they are more trying to build a sustainable agriculture, sustainable industrial base using their own resources for their own people. And they're trying to build coalitions with like-minded governments in the area. And I find that a better model than letting global corporations from the north come in and do what they want.
Because I've watched-- certainly with water, but with mining and everything else-- where-- look, these companies come in. They take what they want. And when it's gone, they leave. You know that. I mean, they're not there to be good citizens. They don't bring their kids and send their kids to school there. They generally leave them home. They come in and they take what they want. And now they're taking water.
And the latest thing that's been happening is that rich-- money rich-- but water poor northern countries like Japan, Saudi Arabia, some of the European countries, are buying land in poor countries in the global south so that they have their water. And that's the latest colonialism, in my opinion.
Or they're using that water, like England. People say, well, what part of the world is actually doing best conservation. And it is Europe. Northern Europe is better than pretty well anywhere. But most of those countries import their water footprint, OK? So England-- Great Britain-- imports 2/3 of its water footprint. They bring all their roses in from this lovely lake called Lake Naivasha in Kenya.
I was there last year and went out on this lovely lake in the Rift Valley. It's the last wild hippopotamus herd in this part of Africa-- absolutely beautiful. And we were sailing over this-- or, sailing-- rowing-- this man in a very old wooden boat was rowing us over this exquisite blue lake.
And I looked at an island and there were wildebeests and giraffes and pelicans. And I said, oh, my god, that looks just like Out of Africa. And he said, well, that would be because that's where Out of Africa was filmed. Right there, like right there you could see Robert Redford landing his plane and Meryl Streep waiting for him. And it was really quite magical, right?
The lake-- which used to be the lake that supplied water for the Masai people in their farming-- has been totally surrounded by the rose industry-- as in roses, as in Valentines from Europe-- and they are sucking the lake dry. It'll be gone-- it's already 25% down. The hippos are dying in the sun. And every year it's down more and more and more.
So, you know, on Valentine's Day everybody sends Valentines in Europe to their loved ones. It's killing a lake in Africa. And the companies have already decided on the next lakes to go to.
So I'm not saying it's an easy thing. But I would love Kenya to say that they should get the hell out, you know, and preserve that water. And people say, well, there are jobs, you know, there are people working-- local people working. Yeah, they'll be there for five years, those jobs. And then they'll be gone when the lake's gone. And so will the lake be gone-- this beautiful lake in the Rift Valley. Trying to get Robert Redford to help me on this. He's busy getting married and things. He should just stop that and come and help me on this. Yes?
AUDIENCE: I'm just wondering if you can recommend a source that will lay out clearly the connection between our misuse of water and global warming.
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, I write about it in Blue Covenant. My first chapter is called "Where Has All the Water Gone?" And I write about the people that I'm working with. There's a guy-- the most important person is a scientist called Dr. Michael Kravcik-- K-R-A-V-C-I-K-- in Slovakia. And he's written a book-- he's written a lot-- but he's got a new book out on this. And they've actually been able to actually tabulate that for every percentage of urbanization that covers over water-retentive landscape, there is a decline in the rain.
There's also been that same process quantified, and I write about it in the book In the Amazon. The Amazon acts as a great big kind of a-- I don't know what-- I'm trying to think of the image-- it drinks in the water and it catapults it back out into the hydrologic cycle-- catapults it and keeps it back and it does this.
As you cut down the rain forest, the rains are going away. The rain-- I mean, Brazil-- who could imagine Brazil might have troubles with water. Brazil's going to have troubles with water. When they cut down the Amazon and they're using all their land for biofuels to feed their cars, which-- and biofuels use huge amounts of water. You know, there's no such thing as a place that can't destroy its own water if they try hard enough.
So I want there to be a whole bunch more research done on this. But I name the people that I know are working on it. And I've had a lot of scientists and hydrologists and people that, when I talk about it, come up and say, you are so right. Last night, this guy, he-- at this conference-- he's from California. And he's just finishing his PhD. And he's an hydrologist.
And he said, when they keep writing about global warming and drought in the southwest-- and he said it isn't the parts of it now getting rain, it's the displacement of the water. So we've got to get it right. And I figure I didn't-- I'm not a scientist. I had to teach myself this. And, therefore, I feel I can explain it in ways. Because I read these scientists-- and I'm like, god, it's like, do you write so that nobody can read? Do you do this deliberately?
So I sat this Michael Kravcik down and I said, talk to me slowly. You know, lay person-- talk to me so I can understand. But if you think of it, it makes sense. If you pipe water out of a watershed and it turns to desert-- China's creating an area of desert the size of Rhode Island every year, just as one example. Totally, completely linked to their displacement of water for their industrial production. Yes?
AUDIENCE: One [INAUDIBLE] quick question-- I know that dams are also-- you mentioned in your book that dams are also a big problem causing global warming because of all the sediments that get deposited behind the-- so how-- what is the-- I know, like if you look at China and the Three Gorges dams-- those dams actually saved thousands of people from monsoons, which would be dying every year.
And also they redistribute the water to different areas around there, you know, allowing for more irrigation, for more agricultural expansion. So what do you propose-- if you can't build a dam like that, what would be a solution?
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, I think we have to adapt more to the natural world. And I would-- I wish I could have some of my anti-dam friends from China here to tell you-- to argue with you, that the Three Gorges Dam, for a lot of people, has been an unmitigated disaster. It's brought huge pollution and great flooding.
And there are people who believe that if the government-- the administration there-- could do it over, they would undo it-- that it has become-- the cost overruns have been phenomenal. The displacement-- while the displacement-- there's been about 800 million people displaced by large dams around the world in the last decade to 15 years.
So I guess it depends on if you're the wealthy in the city that are getting some benefit from this change in nature or the people who were thrown off the land with no compensation, no way of livelihood.
I do believe that we're going to have to depopulate some of these big cities. And we're thinking-- two years ago, or three years ago, I guess, now, more of us, for the first time, lived in cities than in the rural communities around the world.
And, very often, it's-- you know, the cities are that rich and poor mixture, that, you know, that contrast with the very wealthy having the very best of everything and then the people living in the slums surrounding it having nothing. And every year more and more people are displaced by big dams, by lack of water in their communities, by industrial agriculture and flooding into these big cities where they have no access to clean water, to health, to education, to anything.
So I would argue that there is a place for small dams. But I think we're much, much better to look to more traditional rainwater harvesting techniques and to be trying to depopulate these big cities and move people into more livable communities-- which we're going to do better with if we stop destroying their water heritage in the first place. Somebody over-- yes.
AUDIENCE: With some of the questions that were asked, I think, maybe, a good place to look at this is, maybe, a-- we like to generally put is a free market system. Because our trade agreements-- I think NAFTA was the first trade agreement to embed and also to codify water as a virtual water trade.
So our trade agreements are actually working against, I guess, any kind of idea of conservation. I think it's why North America is not on board with create-- considering it a right, because the free market won't allow it. It's because it's part of our trade agreements. And the more trade agreements we pile on and then get the nod of absolution from the WTO, we're just creating a monster that may-- it's going to be harder and harder to undo and so show any kind of justice to the global south.
MAUDE BARLOW: Couldn't agree with you more. And thank you for saying that. I actually got involved in the whole issue of water because of NAFTA. I had Canadian public advocacy organization that-- we do a lot of work on a whole bunch of areas-- health care and energy-- we have a big campaign against the tar sands in northern Alberta and so on.
And water our was one of them because water was included in NAFTA. It was actually included in the agreement-- people don't-- most Americans don't know-- but before NAFTA was the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, which is the first free-trade agreement in the world. And then NAFTA came next. And then the World Trade Organization was based on that.
And water is a good in NAFTA. And it's also an investment. And what it means as a good is, if any state or province starts to export its water commercially across borders, then the NAFTA provisions and privatization kick in. These corporations have enormous rights.
The investment part of it is that any company that has water-- that needs water for its investment in another NAFTA country-- owns that water, basically. So when I was in Vermont, I told the people there's a big Canadian bottled water company setting up down there. And I said, if you let them set up, you won't be able to change your mind. They'll be able to demand compensation for any new legislation you bring in.
Similarly, the big American energy companies operating in the tar sands in northern Alberta-- destroying, let me tell you, the water system there-- three million barrels a day are being poisoned and held in great big holding tanks the size of the Three Gorges Dam, as a matter of fact. And if the government of Alberta were to say you just can't keep destroying this water. We have to cut your access to it. They would be able to sue for-- the Canadian government-- for financial compensation.
And there are now over 2,000 of these bilateral agreements where water is a tradeable good and an investment around the world. So, yeah, it's one of the reasons we've-- I've been tear-gassed in many nice WTO venues, fighting these provisions and others that straitjacket the rights of governments to maintain the kind of environmental health and safety policies to protect their people and their resources.
And when Mr.-- President Obama says that he's open to reopening NAFTA, or he means it-- wow. That's where we want to start. We want to start with water and Chapter 11-- that provision that allows corporations to sue the government of another country.
I'm just going to take maybe-- OK, I see three hands and then I don't want to lose people, so I'll go here, here, and up here. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Thank you. I have two questions. First is sort of like a qualifications about your proposed solutions. You mentioned, the first proposed solution is to make water as a public trust, as a common.
I've been following this global water crisis as well. And, from what I understand, a successful common is that which is owned and managed communally, by a bunch of people. So the rainwater harvesting in Rajasthan, India, for example. How do you envision treating water as a public trust? Is it government-owned, basically? Or, as in the case of Bolivia, like you said, incorporating it into the country's constitution? That's my first question.
My second question is related to what you said also earlier, that you're working-- I guess U.N. is trying to work a resolution to say that water should be a human right. You know, my concern about that-- that's a very commendable effort. U.N. resolution-- many U.N. resolutions are non-binding.
Why, instead of working towards that, doesn't the U.N. work towards improving the current, non-navigational use of water laws, that govern many [INAUDIBLE] states in the world?
MAUDE BARLOW: OK. On the public trust, it would depend on the government or the community or how you're going to think of what is a community. And Rajasthan-- Rajendra Singh-- the Rain Man, they call him-- has done wonderful work with traditional rain harvesting techniques, bringing water back. The government's tried to claim that water. They say, well, that's our water. And he says, no, it's not. The people who brought it back-- it's their water.
So sometimes the notion of communal water actually has to be put up against your own government that won't recognize it. But the ideal would be for governments to recognize it and to protect the local, communal management rights and responsibility of local communities. Because I think local management and local transparency and local democracy around water is fundamental.
But you want that protected by legislation. So I'll go back to the Vermont legislation, which I like very much. And it says that water is a public trust that belongs to all Vermonters. But then they encourage watershed management and watershed control, if you will, by the people who live on the watershed. So it's not an either/or. It's not the government's going to do this or-- it's the government passes legislation to protect that concept.
Give you my best example-- it's not water, it's health care. In my country, we have universal insurance for health care. And do not believe people who say you can't choose your own doctor in Canada. You certainly can choose your own doctor in Canada. It's not true. It costs us one-half-- literally 50% of what it costs Americans per capita for our health care system because we don't have to fiddle around with private insurers because it's all insured.
My mother just had cancer surgery at the age of 88. She never saw one bill, not for anything, not for the ambulance, not for the surgery, not for the post-op, nothing, not one cent. She got the same quality of care she would get if she were a wealthy 20-year-old, you know, really good care.
The thing is that it-- but people say, oh, that's the government does everything. No. The government says that we will be an insurer. So the hospitals don't have to chase down private insurers, right? But there's still lots of local innovation. If you think it's not different to have a community health center up in the Northwest Territories than it is in downtown Montreal, think again. Of course it's different. I mean, we're a big country and that innovation can live within this notion. So you protect the concept at that level.
Now, in terms of the UN-- look, I am advising, as a volunteer, a pretty wonderful, radical guy who's the this year's Chair of the General Assembly. I don't speak for the U.N. And I don't apologize for all the things they're not doing. And there's tons of things they're not doing. There's tons of things they're doing wrong.
What I'm hoping to do in my time there and with the influence that I might have is to try to turn the ship of state from supporting the notion of water as a private commodity-- which the U.N. has been doing-- to the concept that it's a right-- not just a human right but a right of the earth-- so that we start to change the thinking and start that-- the language I used tonight starts to get put in there.
And I spoke at the U.N. General Assembly on the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, in December 10. And so I had a chance to use the language I used here in front of the whole General Assembly. So it's little baby steps. And, of course, there's about a million things I want the U.N. to do that they're not doing, and to stop doing about a million things that they are doing. So I'm not here to answer for them. I don't hang around there. It drives me crazy. They drive me crazy. Yes, my dear.
AUDIENCE: Thanks. I wanted to challenge you also on the first and last of the principles that you listed. On the first one-- the public trust, the public ownership-- you've maybe just addressed that in relation to the last speaker. So I'm not sure if there's more that you'd want to add. But you're putting a lot of faith. in the performance of the public sector. I mean, you look at public ownership of other assets-- the state of public parks compared to private gardens, the state of subsidized public transport compared to private transport.
You're projecting scenarios that sound very attractive. But can they deliver? I'm prepared to accept the line of argument but what I don't like is that you're completely ruling out the private sector. And I think you've presented a slightly distorted view.
Clearly, there are problems, if there are large-- inherently, in the water sector, the private sector ends up as a natural monopoly. And if the political environment of the lack of regulation isn't there, then we can have undesirable results.
But we can equally project scenarios where that regulation is in place, where there are incentives for good practice in terms of corporate, social, and environmental responsibility, where the right structure of property rights would perhaps allow a water company to pay for environmental services and land users, who also have structured property rights for land and water in the upper parts of the watershed that could lead to desirable outcomes that could well be better than the model. So I'm just-- I don't know if you want to respond further on that part.
[INAUDIBLE] To promote it as a universal solution, I think, is a bit simplistic. Your fifth and last principle was about local action. And I'm a bit of an advocate of decentralization and I like the idea of local action.
But, probably, for every story of success, you can also find stories of problems, of local capture by elites, of problems of lack of accountability and problems of corruption at the local level, of problems of a lack of capacity to deal with the complex technical issues involved in water management. So, again, it's a little simplistic just to list it as a solution.
MAUDE BARLOW: OK. I'll start with the last one. And that's why I said to my friend up here that while I think it's important that we have local management, local stewardship, that the rules that establish that are established in law at the state level so that you don't get those local elites taking over and you don't get a local water management system providing water to their friends and nobody else, which is what happened in Cochabomba, Bolivia, which is what led to the privatization, which was also a problem. But so was the public system in that case. Government literally-- the government agency-- gave water to the people who voted for the government, didn't give water to those who didn't.
So, absolutely, you need laws at the federal and state level to guard against that. The concept is, however, that people who live in a watershed are the most appropriate to know what that watershed needs and how it's to be managed. And that citizen management is a very important piece of it. But that doesn't displace the rules that you need at the state or federal level. Absolutely agree.
On the private sector-- I am not saying that the private sector can't deliver anything successfully or efficiently. But I don't believe that it automatically does better. And I come from a country where we've had a very proud tradition of public transport and public water distribution and so on that works very well-- and our public health care system. So I come from a culture where we see efficient use of public-- and I've watched many inefficient public systems. I understand that. And that's the best argument for privatization, is when a-- particularly in the global south, when a country doesn't have the facility to deliver publicly.
But I would argue that water is different than anything else and that the for-profit motive in the delivery of water does not belong. It belongs, maybe, in some other areas. And we can dispute which ones it does and doesn't. Doesn't mean there's no place for the private sector. We need the private sector for laying pipes, for infrastructure development, for appropriate technologies. There's a huge role for the private sector in helping us come up with the answer to a water-secure future.
But we can deliver good, clean, safe water on a not-for-profit basis once you get those systems in place. And I think the World Bank would be much better to put its money and its clout behind building those accountable, efficient, not-for-profit systems within governments.
And, let me tell you, I've studied the 15 years of privatization-- forced privatization-- in the global south by the World Bank. And even the World Bank admits that it hasn't worked. And the largest indictment-- the biggest, most important indictment I can give you-- is the stat-- which is absolutely confirmed by everyone, including the World Bank-- that in the 15 years of pretty well enforced privatization in exchange for funding for water services, the amount of money for water services, water development, in the global south from the global north, from the banks, from the development agencies and countries and so on, decreased as the need rose exponentially.
The argument was, well, the private sector will invest so we can pull back. The private sector did not invest. The private sector took World Bank, Asian Development Bank money, et cetera, and used that. And they did not invest. And everybody, including the U.N. now, including the World Bank, is admitting that something went very wrong.
So where do you-- how do you set it right. And I don't think there's an easy answer for sure. But I think if we start with principles, that this water must belong to the people and the ecosystems of the place and must be managed for them and their future and their heirs, and not for the financial benefit of a corporation from France, I think we start at a very important place.
And, by the way, those two companies-- Suez and Veolia, which have run the water systems in Paris for 110 years-- have just had their contract canceled. And the city of Paris is going public. First time in history. We're very excited. Last question to you, my dear.
AUDIENCE: OK. [INAUDIBLE] On a somewhat related note, the topic of the World Bank. There's been so much movement that, you know, we've all heard about, about these anti-privatization, community organizing, trans-local organizing, against water privatization and the private firms running the water systems. But, I think, at the same time, there's now a lot of work from the pro-private sector to kind of re-frame that what happened in a way that still encourages privatization as the best solution.
I was reading something-- one of the CEOs of [INAUDIBLE] International, which is the fourth largest private-held water company, saying that the problem was that the public sector was too involved when they were doing their work in the global south, and that if the private sector had been allowed to do everything on their own, it wouldn't have been such a failure.
So with that, you know, other side also, you know, sticking their heels into the ground, do you think that these movements are going to be able to continue to mount like such a strong resistance?
MAUDE BARLOW: It's an ongoing struggle. And, probably, the greatest struggle around water right now is who is going to make the decisions about allocation. Will it be large corporations? Will it be the private sector? Will it be the market? I debated a whole bunch of pro-market people at Northwestern University not long ago. I was the only one in about 10 people who had my perspective.
I mean, there really is a very strong voice on the other side now to let the market run it. And my argument is, if the market is allowed to determine who gets water, it will go to those who can buy it, not to those who need it. It will be a disincentive to protect source water because there would be money to be made in dirty water. And the theft from nature will be more of a free for all than it is now, because who's going to buy water for nature in a free-market system.
It's not to say there isn't a place-- I'll say it again-- for private-sector innovation. But the delivery of water, which is an essential service for life itself, must not be a for-profit-- there must be no for-profit motive in it. There just must not be. Because, you know, over the long term-- and some of these contracts are 50, 60 years. You set up the hardware and then you just rake in the money. And you just keep jacking the price of water up.
I mean, the statistics are there. We know what's happened. In fact, there's a good new study on privatization of water in the US. Go to Food and Water Watch's website, Food and Water Watch. It just came out last week, showing as much as 100% higher rates with private water delivery in the US. This is just the US privatization-- cutting of corners.
They tell stories of like Atlanta, Georgia, where the city-- which was totally gung-ho for privatization-- threw Suez 2 and 1/2 years after they signed a 20-year contract because they were just so furious at the delivery that Suez had given them-- you know, the quality of water and so on.
But I don't know who's going to win this struggle. And I'm telling you, I'm off to the World Water Forum next week in Istanbul, Turkey. And we're holding an alternative water forum-- an alternative people's water forum. The bulk of people will be at the big water forum. But we're noisy and we tend to shake things up when we're there.
And, you know, this is a very powerful struggle that's going on-- the same struggle with the big bottled water companies-- Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle-- these companies are all digging wells in poor countries like crazy and, you know, trying to reverse this image.
And Nestle, in fact, just announced that it's cutting quite a lot back on its bottled water division because our bans are working. The work that we're doing around the world is working. And I really do have to cut this-- very quickly, last two, OK? Here and here.
AUDIENCE: I'll ask you a question about the rain issue. When I [INAUDIBLE] it's [INAUDIBLE] you are not in favor of dam or nuclear power. This is clear. But the [INAUDIBLE] information [INAUDIBLE] under the regions of the world needs energy, needs agriculture, needs industry for their development. And [INAUDIBLE] is not an option for them. They need energy for-- they need energy, they need agriculture. And they need water for that. What's your solution, what's your suggestion for them. The [INAUDIBLE] Nations has [INAUDIBLE]. But they are not the world.
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, if you haven't enough water you cannot implement that kind of industrial model. It'll kill the water that's left. The Green Revolution in India destroyed so much water. I mean, yes, it fed twice as many people as they were feeding before on the same land. And they used up, in some places, 10 times as much water.
You run up against the reality of the end of water. This is why I said at the beginning, design or default, we will deal with this. What I'm hoping is that other countries will learn from the mistakes that we've made in the north, that Australia's made, that California's made-- that we based our economic future on the overextension of these limited resources.
Everything we have, everything we eat, everything we wear, everything we have, comes from nature. And it's not asking people in the global south to do without it, saying, don't mimic the mistakes that we've made. Because we're slamming in to the resource wall. And that's incumbent on those in the global north to be living a different way of life and to be living a simpler way of life and to go back to a different kind of agricultural, you know, development and a different kind of food policy. We're going to have to do this because we've all hit the limits of the earth.
I just reviewed a book on the ocean called Sea Sick. Oh. So bad, you know. The gyres of plastic in the ocean is broken down so much now that the amoeba are ingesting them. 80% of the large fish are gone. The coral reef's gone. I mean, we have a very limited earth here. And we're slamming up against the reality of the earth.
So it's not a question of why can't such and such a country develop this model. This isn't a good model. How do we undo that model in our countries? How do we start to do that? There are a bunch of dams being decommissioned. And there are a bunch of nuclear power stations being decommissioned as we move to alternative sources.
I mean, we're fighting in my country the tar sands. And I would invite you to look at this month's-- because I'm not standing here preaching to you guys. Believe me, my country is just terrible. But I would invite you to look at this month's National Geographic and look at the story on the Alberta tar sands. It's just unbelievable.
I flew over it not long ago. And I held a press conference and called it Canada's Mordor, you know, from Lord of the Rings, which is the death of nature. I mean, it's just-- the First Nations, the indigenous communities there, they have to pipe in the water. The fish have three eyes and two mouths. I mean, this is not a model that's sustainable. It's not.
And it's not sustainable for the workers and it's not sustainable for any of us. And we're going to have to give up this thinking that we can keep growing. The American environmentalist said that the notion, the belief, the ideology of unlimited growth has the same DNA as the cancer cell. It has to turn it on its host in order to survive. Can't we just-- it's got-- something's got to give here. And it's going to have to be our species that gives. Last word, yes?
- Like the Alberta tar sands, here, now, natural gas is being taken out of the shale. And in New York and the state of Pennsylvania, it requires millions of gallons of water for each well. And the water has been used and drawn back out is-- what I understand-- it's totally taken out of the ecosystem permanently. And yet, people are-- companies are trying to make injection wells to put this back into the earth, or other suggestions. Do you have anything to say?
MAUDE BARLOW: I think it's bad. Only that this is part of this larger story that we're talking about, this search for conventional energy, for a conventional lifestyle that we don't seem to want to give up. And--
MAUDE BARLOW: Yeah. Well, I would suggest here in the US-- I'm Canadian-- but I'd suggest you get in touch with Food and Water Watch. And I know there are other groups that are fighting the destruction of water in the shale mining production. There are some good groups here that are working on it.
Natural-- HRDC is also working on-- NRDC, the National Resource Defense Council, is also working on that here. And I would guess Waterkeepers. I would guess Robert Kennedy's Waterkeepers is involved and they really do terrific work.
MAUDE BARLOW: OK. There you are. And, you know, I just want to end by saying I actually feel very hopeful. I feel that-- well, for one thing, I think hope is a moral imperative. So that's just the way it is. You just get up and fight again, right?
But I do believe with all my heart that we have to see what's happening-- what happened with the financial crisis as being an opportunity. And I don't mean that cavalierly. Because I know people are hurting very badly with the unemployment. And the International Labor Organization says as many as 200 million people may lose their jobs in the next year internationally. So we are talking about pain that's very deep here.
But it's also a moment to ask ourselves what went wrong and our faith in this shadow financial world and total, outright market capitalism and economic globalization and this unlimited growth. This is a moment to say, well, that didn't work very well, you know? And those who keep saying, well, let's just do it again. Let's just try again. Maybe we shouldn't follow them this blindly this time. And maybe this is the moment.
And I do think, with all the limitations that he's going to have, your new president is a symbol to you in the world of a new day of hope. And, you know, I feel a renewed energy and a renewed vigor around it.
And I'd remind you of the words of a 95-year-old friend of mine. When anybody gets discouraged about all the new issues like this and says oh, you know, there's always a new issue. She says you young people-- and by that she means anybody under 85-- that really loves her, right?-- she says, you just think that fighting for justice-- whether it's environment or women's rights or whatever-- she's done everything-- or social justice-- she says, you think it's just something you do now and then and, you know, then forget. Well, it's not. It's a way of life. It's a commitment. It's something you do every day. And then she gets all riled up and she says, oh, she says, fighting for justice-- that's like taking a bath. You do it every day or you stink.
Thank you, guys. Lovely to meet you.
AUDIENCE: There are different-- labor is more expensive. All kinds of things have changed, that they abandoned for some reason. In New York, we had all kinds of agriculture. And all the hills, which you see now, are full of trees-- they're for agriculture.
Going back to agricultural, which is the traditional form, would be disastrous. But they would be not healed in order to make up for the lake. So my [INAUDIBLE] It is useful, these traditional forms. However, they need to be adapted to the modern times. And it might be that they are not applicable any more. What do you think?
SPEAKER 3: I would answer that-- I guess I would have to answer more loudly than I would if I had the microphone. But they-- of course, that's true in part. But then the modern, or the 20th century, view was to simply throw out the old completely. And I think the point that's being made here is that some of the local knowledge can be used to break the problem down.
So that while there are issues-- say, of clean water supply for drinking and for aspects of modern life that didn't exist 2000 years ago, other aspects-- in my case, gardens or landscape features-- could probably better be served by a closer attention to water sources and water distribution methods that have worked in that specific area for a very long time.
So I think the point that was made about discarding local knowledge was very important at this moment in time as we-- and then you can also take local knowledge and give it a new technological dimension. So looking at the full spectrum of possibilities, rather than regarding the past as a burden to the present, is probably characteristic of our time.
AUDIENCE: And it certainly [INAUDIBLE] saying they weren't important. I think they are very important. And, especially, in your case, where you are using the landscape, or landscape design, money is-- I mean, the economic value, or the economic [INAUDIBLE] different then in case you would use it for agriculture. And I think the work of [INAUDIBLE]
SPEAKER 4: I totally--
SPEAKER 2: Leave it in there. It's--
SPEAKER 4: I totally agree. I mean, traditional knowledge is not the solution for everything. You cannot think to apply traditional knowledge in bigger cities like Lagos in Africa or Cairo today. But, in contrast, in a rural context, these traditions and these techniques may be still very useful and should be taken more properly into account-- that water-- a bigger program-- international program-- for a corporation to development are doing today. They are not taking into consideration at all what is the local knowledge.
So, at the same time, we should not only look at the techniques-- because today they may be very much limited-- we should look at the principles-- for example, water harvesting. We are suffering in the south of Italy, in Greece we have seen, in Spain, of a water scarcity, of desertification problems.
In the south of Italy, there is ignoring harvesting technique, ignoring harvesting practice that was done in the past since Neolithic times. And today we have forgotten everything. Today there are motor pumps, water pumps, that are simply taking water from the aquifers and causing, also, big problems. Because when they exhaust the aquifer-- at the same time, if you have an intrusion, sometimes, of salt water, of other waters. And then you get the consequences of an underground aquifer to restore. And who pays for that?
So before taking to consideration just, you know, this kind of what I called the technocratic model or approach to consider water as a limitless reservoir-- because you have water in the underground until it is not exhausted-- that's our cultural attitude. We should start to think about, to re-evaluate water harvesting technique, rain harvesting techniques, for example. This is very simple. It could be done and could be funded also by government programs.
But, for the moment, it's not taken into account, even in Italy.
SPEAKER 3: We had an interesting example in Nagar, in Rajasthan, where we-- it's a desert fortress palace and its water harvesting system had been completely restored in order to run the fortress palace-- it's a UNESCO site-- as a economic generator for the town through tourism.
And the last piece of the system was watering the gardens-- the [? Chaharba ?] Gardens at the end-- and when they calculated the evapo-transpiration rates, they concluded that it would be too expensive to get enough water to those gardens. So how did they do it in the past?
When we did excavation of the garden soils, it appears that there was a whole sub-irrigation system to these local gardens that had been forgotten about. And that was the last piece in the puzzle that would reduce the evapo-transpiration rates and allow the system to work more as envisioned.
The modern techniques of irrigation of those gardens didn't fit the puzzle. It was the-- the last piece is the underground system the memory of which had been lost.
SPEAKER 5: Well, just to say one thing is that, in my case, I refer-- or I would refer more to local knowledge. Considering, in any case, that in local knowledge, there is always a part of traditional knowledge.
But, considering local knowledge, what I prefer is to see how water is lived by people in local contexts and how, in this process of living water-- for example, any kind of water debates, problems, new problems for building new dams-- that was the first case in which I began to study water issues some years ago.
We could see how people lived those problems in local contexts, in the villages, in the small communities, in the valleys, in the small regions and how, doing so, they were producing culture. And these cultural products have been significant to create a social movement in Spain, at least, which has been very influential to create a new proposal for a water policy, which having called a new water culture.
That should be my argument, trying to go from new water culture to this question-- to me, very important-- off local knowledge, and in them a part of traditional knowledge.
AUDIENCE: There are two aspects that I have some kind of question. Again, I think that local knowledge is extremely important. And we try to, in our efforts, to really spend some effort on that. But there are two things I think you have to remember. One is, a significant amount of that is within a particular power culture. And so there is a tendency to use that as indiscriminately as we can to use technocratic culture. You tend to reinforce the existing structure.
So the extent to which it's un-equitable, where the poor don't get their fair share, you tend to reinforce that. So that's one of the things, I think, you have to be very careful about in evaluating the appropriateness of that. And the other question is the scale. You emphasized that it's most appropriate at the local level, at the local scale. When your problems are not local, when they represent larger, regional questions, then the question of how much of local knowledge really fits, is, I think, an issue that you have to address.
SPEAKER 4: According to the literature, what is stressed very much is that these techniques are very often multi-functional. They don't answer to specific problems. They try to solve different problems at the same time. And another character very important to this local knowledge is that it's very flexible, more flexible than what we usually think. Because water, the environment, changed all the time. And societies tried to find answers in different periods, in different eras.
So, possibly, this local knowledge should be taken into account because it doesn't address only specific problem, you know? It's our science-- if we have a problem we try to answer it in a specific way. If we apply sort of traditional or multi-purpose approach, there are different answers at the same time. So this is what has been stressed by different scholars.
SPEAKER 5: I would like to answer. But-- sorry if I-- no--
SPEAKER 3: No, go ahead.
SPEAKER 5: I would like to answer, mainly, your second question that was, I think, more [INAUDIBLE] than specific, no? No, I should say that-- no, I think I agree with you. Water is not just local knowledge, of course. But local knowledge is important and perhaps we are now trying to stress the value of local knowledge.
But if we follow with local knowledge, I think that it is important to see how this process of going from local to global has been a part-- at least in Spain-- has been a part of the action of the social movement engaging water issues. Because they began, some 20 years ago, being local movements, related just to a single problem-- a new dam, for example.
But time passed. And with the help, of course, of researcher from university and mainly from academics, this local movement began to relate one to the others. And so they began to create a kind of network. And, some years after, what you had finally was that the initially local movements were becoming more and more global movements.
And, finally, in Spain they have created national associations. Of course, that is not global at all. It's just national. But it is a very important step. And, internationally, they have, of course, have followed other steps. And if we consider water from the-- not from the point of view of the technical, the point of view of the [INAUDIBLE] or from the point of view of institutions-- but from the point of view of people, of citizens, we have now really global movements, which were born some 20 years ago as local movements.
And that has been a very important social and cultural process on the part of culture and, especially, in the creation of new symbols, the use of myths. The way huge new [INAUDIBLE] have been created has been extraordinary. And that is a very important value, I think.
SPEAKER 2: Well, if there are no more questions, we're going to-- oh, there's one more question. Let me go there.
AUDIENCE: I can't help it. [INAUDIBLE] will kick me. I'm teaching landscape architecture as [INAUDIBLE], as well as turf grass. And what I'm trying to do to my students is I'm trying to get them to evaluate the site, and then take everything under consideration, get the [INAUDIBLE] stuff and go on and design. And we usually do have that debate about grasses and lawns and-- I know that you mentioned it-- and it's nice that you brought it up-- that bad example.
Now what I'm saying to them-- and I have made a study for huge project that I delivered just before I came here-- is that grasses, at their worst case, they're not consuming more water than other cultivations. And knowing that, as landscape architects, we can not have dew escaping everywhere.
And planting was working through olive tree gardens but now you want some open space that has to be covered with plant material-- should we consider that we do have grasses-- that they're really consuming very low water. And, actually, I do run experiments that my turf grasses are using less water than even-- almost the same water like [INAUDIBLE].
We had the winter grass that it went through a heat wave and it stood up as green as you can imagine it. The first time, after getting off its dormancy [INAUDIBLE]-- it was done in the first week of June-- then the poor thing only had a couple of more irrigations. It went through the summer as green as you can imagine it.
And then I do have to remove that grass [INAUDIBLE] is everywhere in the Mediterranean. And it's green from early April to late December. It doesn't use much water because nobody's irrigating it. If it gets close to water, it is brown green. And I do really want your opinion, as landscape architect-- am I wrong? Because I'm coming from the turf grass science background. I did my PhD here with [INAUDIBLE] and [? Alan ?] [? Steelhouse. ?]
And on my way home, I'm going to debate on that subject with environmentalists and ecologists. And I'm really glad that I can get that question out to-- and I want to make sure that I'm not blindfolded and I do what to have some further input on that. Because wherever I'm going, they're just showing lawns and grasses.
But [INAUDIBLE] doesn't say that. I'm coming here-- the table with water. But I have measured it in cubic meters, or thousand square meters, per month of growth. Because not all consequences of growing the food year-round. And those things are getting doubled in my mind that I'm putting in turf grasses. So what's going on?
SPEAKER 3: Well, I think it's another one to break down. I think-- there's nothing wrong with lawn. And, I think, in the arid climates, if you think about it the way you might a carpet, you know-- if there's an area of space that you want small children to play on or-- I mean, it's really a wonderful material for that.
I think the problem maybe comes back to your question where it is symbolic of a larger power structure that has trickled down, that everyone wants one. Or that large resorts, very large developments, want green as a symbol of luxury and of water use. That's where you have the problem.
So when you see, for example-- I work in Israel-- I can't remember that I've seen them in Jordan and Turkey myself-- but golf courses, your area.
AUDIENCE: This is what I'm in the debate for.
SPEAKER 3: Right. Now there are golf courses that are being designed to be minimally water consumptive. But many golf courses are still being built in arid climates to have maximum temperate climate impact. So the aesthetic is changing, but not yet widely, to a golf course whose spirit of the place is it's arid setting. And it's a shame that most of the Middle East now has to go through this conversion along with the United States golf industry, having already invested a lot of money and massive amounts of turf grass for parts of courses that could be done-- could integrate with the arid climate landscape.
So I think meadows and lawns have a place in an arid climate culture, going quite a ways back. But the power aesthetic that came with the British is still prevalent. And that's the piece that I was arguing could go away.
With improved water-- you know, the developments you were just describing-- more grass could probably be used in the past. And that's the creative part of working in a specific time is working with the grass that makes sense at the moment.
SPEAKER 2: We have a small time constraint here. So I'm going to suggest [INAUDIBLE] and Catherine get into a corner to discuss golf courses while we adjourn--
AUDIENCE: It could make us late.
SPEAKER 2: I apologize-- my apologies to [? Lari ?] for not giving his presentation today. We also have another surprise presentation tomorrow-- Josephine Alcott, who I've seen in the background somewhere, has been running backwards and forwards to a small child who refuses to go to sleep-- was a student here of yours-- wasn't she, Catherine?-- and did an extraordinary project, I think, on traditional techniques of conservation of snow water, studying in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada and then moving into the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. And she will give a slide presentation of that work tomorrow as well.
So we have an interesting day tomorrow. A lot of that will be spent on Greece. Mayor [? Kastroinikes, ?] who has come here from Crete, will, with some help in interpretation and so on-- he'll be showing us a video of his area of Crete, which is regarded as one of the most water-scarce areas of Greece.
And we'll talk about ways in which all our ideas that have been expressed today could be addressed to the problems that he is facing there and as a blueprint for dealing with other issues.
So thank you those who come this afternoon. Hope to see you tomorrow.
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The water situation in the Mediterranean area is the setting for the perfect storm: limited supplies, pollution, too many demands and deep historic and religious conflicts. To address such issues, Maude Barlow, senior adviser on water to the United Nations and author of "Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water," delivered the keynote lecture at the Water-Sharing and Culture in the Mediterranean conference at Cornell on March 7, 2009.
Barlow discussed principles of water as a common and a public trust, integrated watershed management and restoration, public oversight and local management of water supplies based on local cultures and histories, and the human right to water.
The conference gathered Mediterranean and local water experts, students and others to present research into the water crisis and discuss a strategy for future action and research in the area.