Fresh on the heels of yesterday’s historic decision by the United Nations General Assembly which (finally!) added water and sanitation to their list of basic human rights – thanks in large part to her tireless advocacy – the esteemed Maude Barlow, visited our little town and spoke at an event sponsored by our local Peace and Justice Center, the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) and Burlington’s own not-for-profit Community Sailing Center.
Aptly dubbed “Water, Keep it Pure. Keep it Public.”, tonight’s talk also served to showcase three organizations that have worked for years in Vermont on the assumptions that the UN only yesterday affirmed; that water is a public trust, that water and sanitation is a human right and essential for life, that it is not and should never be a commodity, and that it must be conserved and protected for current and future generations. Ms. Barlow, orating before a large crowd at the “Film House” in the Main Street Landing building, spoke very highly of the VNRC’s successes, most recently of its work to hold accountable the owner of the aged Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant for leaking radioactive tritium into the ground water beneath the facility. She also praised the work of our citizen legislature in combating private efforts to bottle Vermont’s groundwater and securing Vermont’s water for its citizenry, over for-profit corporations. Most compelling, her first person account of the history leading up to yesterday’s historic vote and her obvious excitement over the outcome was contagious.
I first learned of Ms. Barlow’s body of work a couple of years ago after reading her book “Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water”. Before reading her book, I had only a passing notion of the crises that confronts us when it comes to the global water shortage, waterborne disease, and moves worldwide to privatize water. Therefore it was a delight to revel in Ms. Barlow’s energy and enthusiasm, especially so, after the UN’s recent decision. Her connections with the Blue Planet Project also led me to support their important work.
“At the global level, approximately 1 out of every 8 people do not have drinking water. In just one day, more than 200 million hours of the time used by women is spent collecting and transporting water for their homes. The lack of sanitation is even worse, because it affects 2.6 billion people, which represents 40 percent of the global population. According to the report of the World Health Organization and of UNICEF of 2009, which is titled “Diarrhoea: Why Children Are [Still] Dying and What We Can Do,” every day 24,000 children die in developing countries due to causes that can be prevented, such as diarrhea, which is caused by contaminated water. This means that a child dies every three-and-a-half seconds.
as they say in my village, the time is now.”
~Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations