Earth 'Drying Up'

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Metro News/CA

Earth 'Drying Up'

Water Rights Activist Will Stand Inside To Accept Award; If Necessary, However, She Will Stand Outside with Protesters

Brian Towie

Leave it to the unsinkable Maude Barlow to protest an award she's about to receive.

The national chairperson for one of the nation's biggest citizen activist groups, The Council of Canadians, is indeed grateful for the Citation of Lifetime Achievement that she'll accept at the Canadian Environment Awards in Toronto tonight for her work in raising awareness about the growing global water crisis. However, she says that should there be demonstrators outside the gala protesting Shell - activists who argue the presence of the oil company and award sponsor is a travesty against the global climate change fight - she will show her solidarity by joining them arm-in-arm.0602 09

As one of the few energy companies in support of the Kyoto Accord, Barlow notes Shell has made some progressive strides, but she still has some major concerns, among them being its coal-bed methane operations in Northern B.C. and its history in Nigeria.

"I will support the demonstrators outside if they are there. I don't see it as a choice: You can go inside and accept the award but at the same time make a statement, which is what I'll do," says the author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis And The Coming Battle For The Right To Water. "You can be critical of these corporations and advance the work together. I think I'll be doing inside-outside support."

Barlow plans to address several hackle-raising subjects during her acceptance speech. The main ones include the danger of the corporate takeover of water systems and the government's enthusiastic plans to sell off Canadian water resources to an already thirsty U.S. - adding the Bush administration and the Pentagon have been getting advice from Lockheed Martin, the world's largest weapons manufacturer, on how to appropriate water from sources outside of its borders.

Barlow also wants Canada to recognize water as a fundamental human right at the United Nations, and she doesn't buy Ottawa's argument to the contrary, saying she can't imagine a more willing vendor than the Harper government.

"Our government says if water is a human right, we'll be forced to sell it to Americans, which is crazy," Barlow said.

"A human right is for people who are dying, it's not to provide golf courses or swimming pools to wealthy people. It's just an excuse: The real reason Canada is opposing the right to water at the UN is because in NAFTA, we have supported water as a tradeable good. And it would be a true contradiction - which I think would be great, but they don't think would be great - if we were to say it was a right."

The lack of potable water is an emergency for many parts of the globe, says Barlow, and an award ceremony such as this is an opportunity for her to get the word out that this predicament could reach Canadians sooner than they might think.

"The Earth is kind of like an apple that's green in some parts, but it has brown spots where it's drying up. We have to have this image in our minds," she said. "We have to live differently. We have to grow our food differently. We have to stop assuming technology is going to solve everything, because it isn't. We have to protect our public water systems. This, to me, is an emergency that equals climate change any day. I do what I can to sound the alarm and get this information out to the world."

Going against the flow
Below are Maude Barlow's tips on what you can do to save water:

  • Don't buy bottled water, says Barlow. "It's a scam. It's sitting in plastic, which is made up of fossil fuels and chemicals. Go back to regulated and tested tap water. Last year, we put something like 200 billion litres of water in plastic bottles around the world. Ninety-five per cent of those did not get recycled. This is insane. It's not acceptable."
  • Notify your provincial and federal politicians that you support the campaign for a National Water Act - which would set national water standards, map out ground water supplies and ban the commercial export of water (
  • Use low-flow showerheads, washing machines and dishwashers.

© 2008 Metro News

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