Tuesday, May 5, 2015

movie review - Blue Gold

I remember taking a trip from Schenectady NY to Ithaca NY a few years ago with a friend who was a native of New Mexico. The road winds through the small towns of southern central New York. Just outside one of the towns is a roadside spring. These are not uncommon in the Northeast, where the snowfall in the mountains keeps clear water flowing downhill. This spring had a pipe and a small cement basin under the pipe and a paved pull-over for cars.

We’d brought a picnic lunch and some empty jugs. We were not the only car in line. As our friend got out of the car and saw the spring, she was amazed. In New Mexico the water does not flow down the hillsides like a faucet. People were filling jugs to take home. A toddler was tall enough to reach into the basin and he was splashing and playing and drinking from his cupped hands. Our friend was appalled. “It’s safe?” she asked.  “Yes.” we said, “Have some.”

Watching an adult experience her first connection with naturally running water, I was struck by how much I take clean water for granted. I learned much more about water by living with a finite supply while we traveled the US East Coast on our sailboat for 2 years. I know fresh water is scarce in most of the world. I watch the communities where my children live in the Southwest struggle to keep their water supplies adequate during this drought.

Water is kind of important, so when I saw Blue Gold in a list of movies to watch for Earth Day, I wanted to get more of an understanding about the world’s water supplies. 

I had some knowledge about water, having read Written in Water a few years ago, and follow Change the Course updates, but seeing Blue Gold gave me a new piece of of the puzzle that I had completely missed. That piece is understanding the privatization of the world’s water.

In much of the world, the fresh water reserves have been bought up by large corporations. These companies own and operate municipal water utilities all over the globe. Here are the top ten. They are not in business to provide water to people as an unalienable common right, they are in business to make a profit. 

Over and over, the movie showed examples of water taken from it’s origin, away from the area’s inhabitants, to provide profit ventures in other places. Water is taken from lakes and springs to supply bottling plants for water and soft drinks, then sold back to the local residents and shipped overseas. Water is diverted from citizens in Kenya to grow roses for European markets. Water is used to grow alfalfa in the US, which is then shipped to Japan to feed Kobe beef, which is then shipped back to be sold in the US. Couldn’t we have just used that water to grow our own vegetables?

At first glance, these examples just sound ridiculous, a market gone astray, but this is water we’re talking about here. The Stuff of Life. How can we sit by and watch this precious resource be stolen away from communities to sell elsewhere? 

The movie shows actions by some communities that were able to take back their water supplies from corporations. I’ll be following more stories like this one to learn more.