Review: Water Wars–Privatization, Pollution, and Profit

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5.0 out of 5 stars Original, Grounded, a Foundation Book

August 27, 2010

Vandana Shiva

Published in 2002, this is a foundation book within the twelve books on Water that I am reading, with all reviews both here and at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog where you can easily use Reviews/Water to see all my reviews of books on water.

Right up front the author impresses me with her discussion of the paradigm war–a culture clash–between those who see water as sacred and its provision as a duty for the preservation of water, and those that view water as a commodity and its exploitation for profit as a fundamental corporate right.

Up front she lists and discusses the key lessons she has drawn:

01 Nondemocratic economic systems that centralize control over decision making and resources and displace people from productive employment and livelihoods create a culture of insecurity.

02 Destruction of resource rights and erosion of democratic control of natural resources, the economy, and means of production undermine cultural identity. See my reviews of the Hidden Wealth of Nations, Identity Economics, and The Politics of Happiness.

03 Centralized economic systems also erode the democratic base of politics.

I am sure she sets people off when she speaks of the “double fascism of globalization” as well as “corporate terrorism” but the bottom line is that corporate control of government is fascism, and its time We the People woke up to all the wrong that is being done “in our name.” Those who really understand ecological economics as pioneered by Herman Daly understand that “true cost” is the measure, and that the truth at any cost reduces all other costs. This is a book of truths, including the truth that the computer industry is a bigger water polluter than traditional companies.

The entire book is a “tour of the horizon” that captures the essence of what is covered in more depth in the other books listed below. I am especially taken with her Principles of Water Democracy:

01 Water is nature’s gift
02 Water is essential to life.
03 Life is interconnected through water.
04 Water must be free for sustenance needs.
05 Water is limited and can be exhausted.
06 Water must be conserved.
07 Water is a commons.
08 No one holds a right to destroy.
09 Water cannot be substituted.

The author skirts topics covered in more depth in such books at The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters; and Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America, so this is by no means an end all book, but it is a foundation book. We are the ones responsible for environmental degradation including the paving over of wetlands and the damming of rivers as well as the ignorant and complacent externalization by corporations of all environmental costs of water exploitation they do not own and should not be allowed to expropriate.

Chapters on the global corporate control network including the World Bank, and on the unsustainable costs of industrialized agriculture. Her final two chapters (this is a short book, quick read, excellent notes) focus on the importance of both indigenous knowledge in conserving every drop of water, and on the importance of assuring that natural resources are properly valued and not just commoditized with financial values that are at best arbitrary if not downright corrupt. I am reminded of both 1491, and of E. O. Wilson’s The Future of Life.

Other books I have reviewed or am reviewing this week include:

The Atlas of Water, Second Edition: Mapping the World’s Most Critical Resource
Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
The World’s Water 2008-2009: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources
The Evolution of the Law and Politics of Water
Governing Water: Contentious Transnational Politics and Global Institution Building (Global Environmental Accord: Strategies for Sustainability and Institutional Innovation)
Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization
Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water
Whose Water Is It?: The Unquenchable Thirst of a Water-Hungry World
Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water
The Blue Death: The Intriguing Past and Present Danger of the Water You Drink

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