- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Partnership Model
- Focus Areas
- Campaigns and Actions
- Public Policy
- UU College of Social Justice
- What You Can Do
- Ways to Give
- Get Involved
- Enlist Your Congregation
- Read Our Blog
- Shop in Our Store
- Media Center
- Volunteer Network Resources
- Campaign Resources
- Multimedia Resources
- Congregational Resources
Blue Revolution — Let Them Eat Grass!
Last fall Beacon Press released a new book about water, Cynthia Barnett's Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis. Barnett's evocative prose and excellent research make this book a fantastic contribution to the growing body of work on water issues in the United States, comparing our experience to the experiences of people overseas.
A quotable and trustworthy source, Florida journalist Barnett focuses on two case studies throughout the book: the Florida Everglades Reclamation Project and the Central Valley Project in California. These two form the central thread of Barnett's argument for a "new water ethic." There are other case studies woven in, like the "Dutch miracle," where flooding wiped out communities and not one life was lost, and the "we need to eat" argument made by agribusiness (when much of water brought to homes in the United States goes to grow grass).
Coining phrases like "supersized infrastructure," "liquid litter," and the "water industrial complex," Barnett brings water down to an understandable level. For example, in Chapter 5, "Taproot of the Crisis," Barnett discusses American agriculture in its absurdities and in its hope. You will be buffeted by statistics of water policies gone mad and buoyed by glimpses of a future that we can actually make real. Barnett's book is an engaging, cogent discussion of what is wrong and what could be right about big-picture water-resources management in the United States.
One thing to keep in mind when reading the book: Barnett mentions the human right to water only briefly in Chapter 2 and again when she discusses "affordability" and how to price water in Chapter 9, "The Business of Blue." Barnett points her pen toward the environmental issues more than human rights. She says that human-rights activists believe that water should be free. Not true. Human rights require affordable water, not free water. Yes, we must price water to force society to conserve- but it must be matched with policies, like lifeline water rates, that take into account those who cannot afford high water rates. If not, we will continue to deprive people of water and make access to water a privilege rather than a right.
I recommend the book in its entirety, but pay close attention to Chapter 12, "Local Water." There, Barnett lays out the principles that should guide American water decisions, including our own personal use of water. The new water ethic would require us to do the following:
- Value water, from streams to water bills
- Work together to use less and less, rather than fighting to get more
- Keep water local
- Not make the same mistakes of taking too much from aquifers and streams and paying for the most expensive fixes when solutions that cost less and use less water are possible
- Leave as much water as possible in nature
Let us add the human right to water to this ethic to ensure that the public investment in water benefits all — and not just the select few, in select neighborhoods and select economic sectors. Read Chapter 1 online at Beacon Press and discuss the book with the author on March 4 with UUSC. Barnett's book is the second in recent Beacon Press publications on water, following Fred Pearce's great book When the Rivers Run Dry.