Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Freakonomics blog at the New York Times posted an interesting bit today, about The Economist's debate on the commodification of water.

At The Economist debate site, pro is supplied by Steve Hoffmann, Managing Director, WaterTech Capital & co-founder, Palisades Water Index Associates. Con is provided by Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology & Natural Resource Policy.

Hmmm, excuse me for being skeptical of the shameless frat boys that make up the free market at a time like this, but judging merely by the titles, I do have an instant gut feeling of who I should trust!

While I agree that water supplies would probably, in theory, be better "managed" were market rates applied (definition of managed being fluid depending on which "market" you were talking to), Hoffman's attempt to play the social justice card -- by offering first thing that the beneficiaries of said (safer, more consistent, more abundant) water supplies would be folks who are underserved in the first place -- make me not only suspicious, but a bit queasy.

To wit, let's ask something that makes this perfectly clear: what have corporate interests done for YOU lately? Especially one that is a "merchant and investment banking firm that specializes in serving the myriad of companies that...comprise the water industry?" When has big business cared about whether the needs of not only the underserved but our ecosystems are being met, especially if they don't have a voice to the tune of millions of dollars?

From Vandana Shiva's abstract:

When water's social and ecological values are ignored and markets determine how water flows, it starts to move against the law of gravity. It moves upwards – to money – from the poor to the rich, from agriculture to industry, from the countryside to the city. In water markets, water moves from having a high ecological and social value, but a low market value, to having a low ecological and social value, but a high market value.

Water markets take water from where it is needed by nature’s economy, people’s economy and the countryside, to where there is purchasing power for water as a commodity—the urban areas, industry and industrial agriculture. Managing a scarce and precious resource like water requires conservation, equity and the recognition that as the basis of life, water is priceless.

Water, a neccesity for all of Earth's life, should not be corralled to serve the greed of the free market.

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Blogger Trevor said...

Wow. The idea of the commodification of water is revolting. Viva V.Shiva!

Also, we have already been warned about this: Tank Girl the movie from 1995.

Seriously, why is this conversation happening? Have we become so removed from reality, that mercantilist and repulsive idea of stripping water away from the list of basic human rights is even considered?

Thanks Saudade for bringing this to my attention.

September 30, 2008 at 11:45:00 PM PDT  

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