Go with the FLOW: “For the Love of Water”

Jamie Workman, who will be our guest via skype in class next week, suggests the documentary For the Love of Water as a good primer for those interested in the water issue. The film is available on YouTube in eight parts.


8 Responses to “Go with the FLOW: “For the Love of Water””

  1. 1 Genevieve Antono 04/10/2009 at 12:53 pm

    One of the things that struck me while watching “For the Love of Water” was how it perfectly managed to convey a deep sense of cause-and-effect. It brought to mind a Chinese phrase I just learnt- “天理循環,報應不爽” (read: tian li xun huan, bao ying bu shuang), which I understand to mean- please correct me- “if you transgress the laws of nature (heaven), you won’t be able to escape punishment”. I.e.- karma will always bite you back in the butt.

    Isn’t it obvious?

    Recklessly pumping chemicals into water supplies, creating all-female fish and frog populations, will come back to haunt us humans as infertility problems.

    Robbing impoverished, desperate populations of their access to water, will come back to haunt us as hotbeds of social unrest, of terrorism.

    Poisoning our own water, when we need it to keep alive… Well, that’s just gonna kill us all, innit?!!!

  2. 2 Corinna Yee 05/10/2009 at 10:28 pm

    After watching the film “For the Love of Water” I could not help but feel sorrow and sympathy towards those directly affected by the privatization of water; surprisingly including those of the Northern states. I thought the structure of the film made it powerful and helped present the issue in a strong argument. The film was able to present a general overview of what is happening to our water, who is the affecter, who is being affected, and a solution behind it. Unlike many environmental documentaries or papers where solutions are not addressed, solutions to this particular issue are addressed, which means there is an answer. So, why is it that there is still no action to stop it before it gets worst? As the previous blogger stated, karma is starting to show its effect NOW not 50 years from now.

    One thing I found interesting was that there are studies that show us our water is being contaminated by runoff, chemical dumping, and industrial waste. Considering the fact that animals are being affected to the point in which they are changing sex or dying suggest that this too can happen to humans. Diseases from water kill more people than ever. Chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides are designed to kill and do not differentiate what it kills. In additional other studies have shown that due to the increase of birth control pills, due to the waste produced by women, water has higher concentrations of estrogen which are affecting men showing an indication of men becoming more feminine. Although water is cleaned and goes through multiple filtrations which kill disease causing pathogen, does not mean your body may not be affected by chemicals and endocrine disruptors. The water bottling industry wants to make you think you need clean “bottled water” which in fact, bottled water is the least monitored. The FDA wouldn’t even know the source to many bottled water. The Penn and Teller show takes this to the next step and test the people of LA. Although the water they were drinking was tap, because it had a label on it, these people started mentally thinking there was a difference between the waters although it was the same thing. If you had a taste test could you taste the difference? Has the water industry successfully brainwashed people into thinking they need to pay for clean water?

    I also thought it was really ironic that the biggest supplier of Atrazine, a herbicides used in the US is supplied from a country that banned its use. This shows that corporations DON’T care. The only idea on their mind is PROFIT. When these big corporations such as Suez tries come into a 3rd world country they make promises they won’t keep, disrupt the lives of these people, and taking away the little they had. Who gave them the right to do it? the government? Also where does the government come in? Isn’t it the government duty to protect its people?

    Like many environmental issues, due to corruption many government officials are bribed in favor to the corporations such as Nestle and Suez. When will people realize that this global issue is not going to go away and is only going to get worst? Will it take the death of million more lives in order for corporations and government officials to finally take action to solve this problem? Or is it up to the people to make the difference? This is a grassroot movement and like the documentary said, the effects are happening today. Nothing is more powerful than the voice of the people and the effects of a “foot march”. So, as awareness of this issue becomes global so does the solution.

  3. 3 James Philip Jee 06/10/2009 at 11:56 pm

    I feel like a great deal of this documentary, disproportionately so, focused on the water of the United States. And from what it said, powerful interests in government and the American system prevent well-guided conservation and prevention measures (not necessarily legislature) to fail. I have provide no contest to what the documentary said. In the United States, we know we drink tap water out of bottles, and yet, we keep on doing it. When the documentary focused on actual mountain water with the example of Nestle in central Michigan, the fact that it was actual mountain water being bottled in massive quantities simply stripped the land of its natural beauty and deeply disturbed the ecology.

    I have to say that before watching this film, I would not have considered access to water a human right. In my opinion, a human right is a social construct that we as humans create and self-enforce, such as the right to not be enslaved. In the case of water, people experiencing drought need to be provided for, though their protection in an ideal world would have been some sort of fail-safe, such as a granary.

    This film though, presenting water as being property of the public as a collective whole makes sense though, especially in the light of globalization. As large companies try to find freshwater (Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle were pointed at in the film), they often have adverse effects on their host communities as surrounding water tables drop and pollution becomes rampant. In this case, I agree with what the film says about water being a right.

    What struck me the most about this documentary though was the purported role that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund played in large public works projects such as massive dams that displace hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of people as well as making privatization of the water supply a stipulation of getting loans, more often than not effectively disenfranchising the poorest echelons of a region.

    Though companies will be companies, all promoting corporate responsibility but few actually following it, the World Bank, though ultimately a corporation itself, was founded and is supported by world governments, and with such a mission as “alleviating world poverty” while aiming for a $20 billion profit per year (if I remember correctly from the film), it continues to garner much criticism, especially by academics.

    And so in our study of humanity in the context of globalization, we continue to examine the role that some of the highest levels of government play in the livelihood of the people.

  4. 4 Liu Ka Yu, Athena 07/10/2009 at 11:14 pm

    One thing inspires me a lot after watching the film. One of the scholars mentioned that actually the poor are paying more than the rich are paying for the same amount of water.

    I am asking the reasons behind this phenomenon. Rights of getting and using water should be available to every human in this world. But what we can perceive now is the wide gap between the rich and the poor. Even the poor, who cannot afford to pay, are responsible for higher price, which are actually heavily exploited by those water companies.

    They are being explioted by those who have power. Those water suppliers have huge amount of profits from providing water to those developing countries which have no choice.

    What can we do to improve the situation? Water privatization? Arouding public awareness in conserving water? Trading of water? Anything to do with consumerism?

    In my opinion, the main key to water shortage rests on how we use water. No matter how we evenly distribute our water, if none of us are going to conserve water or save water, water will also run out after years. More should be done in the process people use water. Importance of water, origins of water and scarcity of water should be introduced in order to arouse public awareness in saving and conserving water.

  5. 5 Vicko Cheung Chun Sheung 09/10/2009 at 3:39 pm

    In recent year, human consumption of water has nearly come to a double compared with population growth, thus making people start to consider about the scarcity of water. People in Hong Kong could use water conveniently, just turn on the tap and then water would come out immediately. In reality, around one-fifth of the world population does not have safe drinking water. However, the message of “love of water” has not been delivered to the better part of people yet, particularly the developed and affluent countries.

    As the consumption of water is highly correlated with the population growth, shortage of water is foreseeable in dense population countries like China and India one of the days. The economies of the two countries are developing swiftly than ever in recent years; however, their water levels are dropping at the same time. Government should draw their attention onto this urgent problem. With the close linkage with China, Hong Kong should have an eye on it as well.

    Apart from human consume water; we should not underestimate the impact of the increasing consumption of water towards the biodiversity. The wide spectrum of animals and plants are also sharing the planet with us, of which we should also take into their sources of water consumption into our consideration while developing our countries.

  6. 6 Cheung Yan Victoria 09/10/2009 at 5:38 pm

    A third of the world population now live in places that are suffering great water stress. The greatest cause of the water crisis is, as pointed out by J.A.A. Jones (the Chair of the IGU Commission for Water Sustainability), population growth. Population increase is concentrated in developing countries where water resources are even scarcer. This is alarming because unlike well-developed countries, the Third World lacks the financial capacity and technological expertise to deal with the water crisis.

    Sadly, many sources of water insecurity are, in my view, man-made. Wasteful practices, for instance, whether domestically, industrially, or agriculturally, are common. Human activities led to global warming which in turn increased the frequency and length of droughts. Urbanization and industrialization in economies like India and China also led to more water consumption and pollution. Not only that, as Mr. Workman reminded us in the last lecture, water is also involved in the production of food that we eat and clothes that we wear. With the increase in the global demand for foodstuffs and the consumption of meat, more water will be consumed as well.

    Luckily, with technological advancement, there are now water-saving systems like spray irrigation, dual-flush/low-flow toilets, and even water-saving washing machines. Yet, these technologies cannot offset population growth and I believe they can only be found in developed countries but not the Third World, where water insecurity is the most pressing.

    The most effective way to reduce water insecurity is by reducing our demands for water. Like what Athena and Vicko have mentioned, the key really depends on how we consume water. Farmers have to be educated on the optimum water requirements and every one of us should pass the message of saving water on to our friends. Hopefully, if people are aware that health problems highlighted in the documentary – birth defects, fertility decline, Tasmanian cancer – are related to our heavy use of pesticides and how we pollute water, they’ll start changing their wasteful habits before the water crisis exceeds the capacity of human beings to cope with it.

  7. 7 Chow Chung Kiu Jocelyn 11/10/2009 at 3:15 am

    As we appreciate the acutely pressing need to SAVE OUR WATER, and in turn, SAVE OUR PLANET, we keep asking, “What can we do?”

    We have mentioned the importance of advocacy work through which we may spread messages about the present critical water crisis and mobilize people to take a step further by start correcting own wasteful consumption habits. There are also suggestions that more joint-efforts be launched to further develop water saving devices, which, hopefully, when they are more widely use, can contribute to a significant reduction of our water consumption.

    These are very good intentions and practical initiatives indeed – yet perhaps not enough to counteract the problem of water insecurity in impoverished countries. These measures, after all, seem to be more about steps more developed countries (MDC) can take to reduce water consumption and guarantee more sustainable water supply WITHIN own countries only. How do they actually contribute to improving the poor’s access to water?

    One may say that by reducing their water demands, MDCs can help counteract rising water prices in the globe, and decrease the chance of further alienating poor countries from stable water supply – but even so, it seems to be only about preventing further harm done only, rather than improving the impoverished’s access to stable and clean water supply in practical terms.

    I definitely agree that the correction of wasteful habits and the invention of more effective water-saving devices will be important steps to make to save our planet– what I am trying to emphasize, however, is that these are far from the fulfillment of the positive duties we may assume to help people in poor countries, for example, farmers whose livelihoods are threatened because they no longer have enough water to farm with as it is not raining as much anymore (due to global climate change), and they are too poor to buy farmlands closer to rivers (land prices bid up by developers). While they bear the negative consequences of globalization we have largely benefited from, they are definitely no significant beneficiaries of our initiatives to cut water consumption and improve water-saving devices. Thus, more accurately speaking, our initiatives, though valuable, are more about saving OURSELVES only.
    To truly help improve the impoverished’s access to clean water, initiatives for MDCs to further take on may be:

    • Contributing both financial and technological support to international organizations (e.g. UNDP, UN-water, Oxfam, etc) which (i) through local partners in impoverished regions can identify the specific water problems and in turn, (ii) help improve people’s access to water by supplementing them with (a) “hardware” like water-pumps or transportation means that allow them to carry water from rivers nearby to their farmlands faraway, and (b) “software” like more “water”-efficient farming skills.

    • Recognizing water rights of not only their own people, but also people in impoverished countries as well – this is about addressing impoverished countries’ environmental concerns as MDC companies launch trade agreements and industrial development projects in these countries. For instance, due to corruption problems within local governments of impoverished countries, as well as the insufficiency of environmental laws and enforcement capacity, industrial materials are not properly treated such that toxins leak from industrial materials to river water and in turn, contaminate local people’s drinking water, their farmlands, their crops, the food they eat, and the food we eat. In MDCs’ rubbish-export trade with developing countries (for example, from UK to China as often reported), rubbish exported from MDCs accumulate in rural villages of developing countries in mountains and in turn, lead to acute environmental degradation as well, water contamination in particular. While one may argue that local governments of impoverished countries are to blame; MDCs actors should recognize that they bear global social responsibilities to contribute technical support and make sure that impoverished countries are better-equipped to deal with the environmental harm, and minimize any further harm done to these countries’ very rare access to clean water.

    To help the impoverished make their way through our global water crisis, we not only have to exhaust all means to reduce our water demands, but also to REACH OUT and help empower them to better cope with the situation. Otherwise – we are only saving the planet mainly for ourselves, the very privileged, only.

  8. 8 Chen Chuen Tien Nadine 02/11/2009 at 1:21 am

    I am completely disgusted by what the MNCs are doing in the developing countries. They speak as if they are doing the local people a good deed- “we bring you water through pipes, and the piping system costs a lot of money”. Well that is a lot of BS to me. Without you, the people had their own way of finding water. In fact even WITH you around, they still had to stick to their old ways since the new way is beyond affordability. And all that talk about “we have experience in making water clean!” is just plain irony. Had it not been your compatriots who introduced chemical fertilizers and took over their land to manufacture chemical-laden luxury products for export, water WAS clean. But now the water is so polluted that no filtering system on earth could prevent the pollutants from accumulating in our bodies, be it through direct consumption or indirect consumption from crops or fish and whatnot.

    The tricky thing about water is that it is a common pool resource- it’s owned by no one and free for claim by anyone. Academics that write about governing the “commons” talk about how, if such resources were unmanaged, they would be abused and depleted. While that is true for most parts of the world that is consumed by greed, there are certain common pool resources that, like clean water, are either not accessible by all to begin with (due to lack of technology for instance), or simply DISAPPEAR because pollution has corrupted its nature to the point that it is no longer suitable for consumption.

    Watching this documentary helped me understand what Rawls meant when he wrote, in the Law of Peoples, “There is no society with resources so scarce that it could not, were it reasonably and rationally organized and governed, become well-ordered.” How well a society fares in affording its citizens freedom and equality depends not on how much resources it has but on its political culture. The lack of political will when lives are at stake is just repugnant. As contended by Rawls, perhaps the most effective way of assistance is to change the political culture by emphasizing human rights. I signed the petition for Article 31- I plead that my fellow classmates do the same.

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