Tag: Maude Barlow

Barlow raises Detroit water shutoffs on CBC National and in The New York Times

CBC National news reports, “Nearly half of Detroit’s water customers are in arrears so the city is disconnecting service at an unprecedented pace. 12,500 in the last 90 days though some have paid up to get their water back. …A group here in Canada has taken up the cause. The Council of Canadians helped launched a formal complaint against Detroit’s water department to the United Nations. Three UN experts agreed saying for those who cannot pay denying access to water is a human rights violation. Barlow also plans to take this matter to the White House.”

In that CBC news report, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “It’s as clear a human rights abuse as I’ve seen even in very poor countries. In my opinion it’s a social crime and it’s an appalling thing to do in the heat of summer.”

Additionally, the New York Times reports today, “‘I’ve seen water problems in poor countries and the third world’, said Maude Barlow, the board chairwoman of the nonprofit Food and Water Watch. ‘But I’ve never seen this in the United States, never.'”

To watch the CBC news report, click here.

The New York Times article can be found here.

Further reading
Violations of the right to water in Detroit highlighted, UN responds.

Council of Canadians to organize water convoy to Detroit.

 

Water cut offs in Detroit a violation of human rights

By Guest Blogger Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of the Canadians and longtime partner of FLOW.
Read the original post here.

Maude Barlow Detroit MI Great Lakes

Maude Barlow speaks in Detroit, MI

I recently visited Detroit, Michigan and am shocked and deeply disturbed at what I witnessed. I went as part of a Great Lakes project where a number of communities and organizations around the basin are calling for citizens to come together to protect the Great Lakes as a Lived Commons, a Public Trust and a Protected Bioregion. We are also deeply worried about the threat of extreme energy such as diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta and fracked oil and fracking wastewater from North Dakota being transported by pipeline and rail near the lakes and on barges on the lakes and are calling for a ban of these dangerous toxins around and on the Great Lakes.

But the people of Detroit face another sinister enemy. Every day, thousands of them, in a city that is situated right by a body of water carrying one fifth of the world’s water supply, are having their water ruthlessly cut off by men working for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Most of the residents are African American and two thirds of the cut offs involve children, which means that in some cases, child welfare authorities are moving in to remove children from their homes as it is a requirement that there be working utilities in all homes housing children.

People are given no warning and no time to fill buckets, sinks and tubs. Sick people are left without running water and running toilets. People recovering from surgery cannot wash and change bandages. Children cannot bathe and parents cannot cook. Is this a small number of victims? No. The water department has decreed that it will turn the water off to all 120,000 residences that owe it money by the end of the summer although it has made no such threat to the many corporations and institutions that are in arrears on their bills as well. How did it come to this?

Detroit is a victim of decades of market driven neoliberal policy that put business and profit ahead of public good. Social security programs have been slashed and their delivery privatized. Investment in essential infrastructure has been slashed. Every winter, hundreds of aging pipes spew water from leaks and the water has not been turned off in thousands of abandoned houses and boarded up businesses where frozen pipes also lose huge amounts of water.

With globalization and the hollowing out of the once mighty auto industry, wealth and businesses fled to he suburbs, draining the city of its tax base and the water department of its revenues. (There are one million fewer people living in Detroit than there were in the 1950s.)

The burden of paying for the water and sewer services landed squarely on those who stayed, mostly poor African Americans. Rates rose 119% in a decade in a city with record high unemployment and a 40% poverty rate.

To make matters worse, as a cost cutting measure, the water department stopped sending bills, expecting residents to just figure out their own bills. It then installed “smart metres” that read backwards and many families were hit with bills in the thousands of dollars. Many of these bills were from former tenants, and many included water bills from near by abandoned houses but that didn’t matter to the authorities.

Recently, the city of Detroit was declared bankrupt by the state and a high priced bankruptcy lawyer was named Emergency Manager with a mandate to get the city back on its feet financially. Nothing is off the chopping block, not the city’s famous art collection or its water utilities which are about to be privatized. As the feisty Charity Hicks, a leader of the resistance to the cuts and a founding member of the Detroit People’s Water Board, which includes welfare and human rights groups and environmentalists, points out, authorities see these unpaid bills as a “bad debt” and want to sweeten the pot for a private buyer. Hence the rush to implement a ruthless plan of cut offs for anyone more than two months behind in payments.

It is important to acknowledge the class and race dimension of this assault. There have been no stories on the cut offs in the mainstream US media. One cannot imagine that fact if the people losing their water were middle class white people. But the feeling is that Detroit is a lost cause and the people there deserve what they are getting.

L Brooks Patterson is the elected CEO of the affluent Detroit suburb of Oakland. In a recent interview in the New Yorker, he affirmed that a statement he had made 30 years ago was still valid. “A number of years ago I made a prediction and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a wall around it and then throw in blankets and corn.'”

This man wins his elections with huge majorities.

What is happening in Detroit is a social crime and a violation of the human right to water and sanitation as recognized by the United Nations. It is a violation of the “Obligation to Respect,” whereby a right once realized cannot be removed.

The situation in Detroit is a travesty and the governments of Michigan and the United States itself must be held accountable.

President Obama must step in.

As more and more of the public space is privatized and sold off to corporations, is this our collective future? Never before have the differences between the 1% and the poor been greater in America.

The daily cut offs of water in Detroit, water needed for life and dignity, are an affront to the notion that we have advanced very far in our understanding of human rights or in its practice. We all stand guilty if we do not shout out against this terrible injustice on our continent.

Photos: Maude Barlow Presentation in Detroit: Great Lakes and Water Privatization

2014-05-22 PWB Barlow panorama

The Wayne State Engineering Building auditorium was full for Maude Barlow’s presentation on Great Lakes and Water Privatization issues.

2014-05-22 PWB Barlow Will See speaking

Artist Will See opened the evening bringing a poetic voice to describe the situation of water issues in Detroit.

2014-05-22 PWB Barlow Olson speaking

FLOW Founder Jim Olson discussed the public trust as the legal basis for preventing the privatization of public water supplies, in Detroit and around the world.

2014-05-22 PWB Barlow Maude speaking

Keynote speaker Maude Barlow helped contextualize the issue of water privatization and shut-offs in Detroit in the scope of global water privatization struggles, and the ultimate successes of the public in maintaining cost-effective, shared water systems.

2014-05-22 PWB Barlow Gaia Women singing

The Gaia Women led the group in song to close the evening, “to connect the head to the heart” and capture the essence of the importance of water both physically and spiritually.

2014-05-23 PWB and Maude Barlow

Maude joined a number of People’s Water Board Coalition members after her presentation.

World Renowned Water Activist, Maude Barlow, to Speak on Regional Water Issues in Detroit

Click here to view and download the press release as a PDF.

May 14, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director

231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

World Renowned Water Activist, Maude Barlow, to Speak on Regional Water Issues in Detroit

Detroit, Mich. – On Thursday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. the People’s Water Board Coalition will partner with Wayne State University’s Office of Sustainability to host a special discussion on regional Great Lakes water issues and public trust with Maude Barlow.

Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of the national consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch. Barlow is the recipient of eleven honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), the Citation of Lifetime Achievement at the 2008 Canadian Environment Awards, and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award. She is also the best-selling author or co-author of 17 books.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) recently announced its plan to shut-off water at thousands of Detroit residences. At the same time Detroit’s Emergency Financial Manager, Kevyn Orr, has announced his intention to privatize DWSD, the drinking water provider for roughly four-million people in southeast Michigan. This event will highlight the benefits of protecting our water systems from private interests, and why public control is the key to ensuring safe, clean, affordable water for all.

Barlow will be available after the event to sign copies of her new book Blue Future.

This event is free and open to the public.

Who:  People’s Water Board Coalition

Speakers: Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians; Jim Olson, Founder, President and Advisor of FLOW (For Love of Water); others to be announced.

When: Thursday, May 22, 2014, Doors at 6:00 p.m. Program 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Where: Marvin I. Danto Engineering Development Center
5050 Anthony Wayne Drive
Engineering Development Center (EDC)
Auditorium, Room 1507,
Detroit, MI  48202

Parking: Parking Structure 2 – 5150 Lodge Service Drive, Detroit, MI 48202

The cost is $6.50. There is also metered 2-hour parking located on the street. The cost for 2 hours is $2 at a meter.

The People’s Water Board includes: AFSCME Local 207, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Green Party, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Food & Water Watch, FLOW, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Matrix Theater, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, Sierra Club and Voices for Earth Justice.

# # #

FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes.

Great-Lakes-tabloid-Detroit

Do We Have a Blue Future?

By Guest Blogger Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of the Canadians and longtime partner of FLOW.
Read the original post here.

The world is running out of accessible clean water. Modern humans are polluting, mismanaging and displacing our finite freshwater sources at an alarming rate. Since 1990, half the rivers in China have disappeared. The Ogallala Aquifer that supplies the breadbasket for the United States will be gone “in our lifetime,” says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By 2030, our global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 per cent, a sure-fire recipe for great suffering. Five hundred scientists recently told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter “a new geologic age” and that the majority of planet’s population lives within 50 kilometres of an impaired water source.

Yet in election, after election the world over, no mention is made of the elephant in the room. In my new book, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, I call for a new water ethic that places water and its protection at the centre of all policy and practice if the planet and we are to survive.

What would agriculture policy look like if we understood that the global food system is depleting local watersheds through the export of “virtual water” embedded in commodities and other products? How would trade policy be different if we understood that current trade agreements give transnational corporations the right to claim ownership of the water they use in other countries? Would our energy policies change if we realized that water-guzzling biofuels may be more environmentally dangerous than the fossil fuels they are meant to replace?

This new water ethic should honour four principles.

The first is that water is a human right and must be more equitably shared. The United Nations has recognized that drinking water and sanitation are fundamental rights and that governments have obligations not only to supply these services to their people but also to prevent harm to source water. This provides an important tool to local communities in mining, dams and energy-extraction struggles around the world.

The second is that water is a common heritage of humanity and of future generations and must be protected as a public trust in law and practice. Water must never be bought, hoarded, sold or traded as a commodity on the open market and governments must maintain the water commons for the public good, not private gain. While the private sector has a role in helping find solutions to our water crisis, it must never be allowed to determine access to this basic public service as its need to find a profit will of necessity come before the public good.

The third is that water has rights too, outside its usefulness to humans. Water belongs to the earth and other species. Our belief in “unlimited growth” and our treatment of water as tool for industrial development have put the earth’s watersheds in jeopardy. Water is not a resource for our convenience, pleasure and profit, but rather the essential element in a living ecosystem. We need to adapt our laws and practices to ensure the protection of water and the restoration of watersheds, a crucial antidote to global warming.

Finally, I deeply believe that water can teach us how to live together if only we will let it. There is enormous potential for water conflict in a world of rising demand and diminishing supply. But just as water can be a source of disputes, conflict and violence, water can bring people, communities and nations together in the shared search for solutions. Water survival will necessitate more collaborative and sustainable ways of growing food, producing energy and trading across borders, and will require robust democratic governance. It is my deepest hope that water can become nature’s gift to humanity and teach us how to live more lightly on the earth and in peace and respect with one another.

Barlow’s new book, Blue Future, debuts this week.

Bayfield: A community full of inspiring stewards of the Great Lakes

By Guest Blogger and FLOW Board Member, Emma Lui, Council of Canadians Water Campaigner.
Read the original post here.

Maude Barlow and I arrived in Bayfield, Ontario, the 15th stop of the Great Lakes Need Great Friends tour, on Friday evening. It is a beautiful village and Main Street is full of quaint, cozy and independent restaurants, inns, café’s, art galleries and stores.

Maude speaking in Bayfield ON Sept 2013Maude was invited by the Bayfield River Valley Trail Association, a group of dedicated volunteers that establish and maintain trails in the area.

A reception was held Friday evening with fellow water activists, conservationists, environmentalists and people who simply love the Great Lakes. On Saturday, Roger and Pat Lewington of the Trail Association invited Maude, Environmental Defence’s Nancy Goucher and Alanna Scott and I for a boat ride on the beautiful waters of Lake Huron. In the afternoon, we joined others for an Urban Pole Walk on the Saw Mill Trail to raise funds for the Alexandra Marine and General Hospital Foundation. There was also an art show and silent auction showcasing the talent of local artists.

madue with lower water levels in Bayfield ON Sept 2013 It didn’t take long to see the strong sense of community that Bayfield has. Roger explained how the community members are always helping each other out. And volunteers of the Trail Association understand the connection between protecting the trails and local waters and Great Lakes issues.

Bayfield is smack in the middle of Chemical Valley in Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Sarnia and the proposed nuclear waste dumps in Saugeen Shores and Kincardine. Bayfield is also faced with agricultural run-off, E. coli and drastically low water levels that plague much of Lake Huron’s communities. See Maude in the picture to the right where the wall behind her marks the receding lake levels in Bayfield.

The Saturday evening event was sold out and the Town Hall where the event was held was jam packed. The Town Hall is a beautiful old building that was saved by locals years back from being destroyed.

Maude gave an inspiring speech to a fully engaged crowd. She warned the audience that “we are a world running out of water” and talked about the “vicious new threats” to the Great Lakes are fracking and pipelines carrying tar sands and fracked oil and gas. Maude stressed the need for a new water ethic where water is at the centre of all policy including trade, economics, the environment and health, which she outlines in her new book Blue Future released Saturday night.

Bayfield ON Audience for maude sept 2013
Some ways of protecting the Great Lakes include helping to stop Line 67 that would carry bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Lake Superior, urging Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop a pipeline project that would bring fracked gas from the Marcellus shale to Toronto, calling for a moratorium on fracking in Ontario and the Great Lakes and making Great Lakes communities Blue Communities.

 
Bayfield’s beaches and marina have their Blue Flag label. The Trail Association volunteers and others have been asking Mayor Bill Dowson for many years to ban bottled water as well as recognize the human right to water and promote public water services in order to become a Blue Community. After attending Maude’s talk on Saturday, we hope Mayor Dowson will consider making the town of Bluewater, which the village of Bayfield belongs to, a Blue Community.

Congratulations to Ray and Paula Letheren, Roger and Pat Lewington and the other volunteers of the Trail Association for organizing such an amazing event and for all the fantastic work they do to protect the Great Lakes. They are an inspiring example of what it means to be stewards of the Great Lakes.

Video: Jim Olson, Maude Barlow on Public Trust and the Commons at the Rochester, NY Sierra Club 15th Annual Forum

Click here to view the full video

FLOW President and Chair Jim Olson joins international water advocate Maude Barlow at the Rochester, NY Sierra Club’s 15th Annual Environmental Forum on March 25, 2013. To watch the video in full, click here.

Rochester groups are Protecting the Great Lakes Forever

Guest Blogger and FLOW Board Member Emma Lui is the Water Campaign Director for the Council of Canadians. She shared her recent blog post with us about Maude Barlow’s speaking engagement in Rochester, NY.

I just got home from an incredible event in Rochester, New York, the fourth Great Lakes tour stop. Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians, has been touring around the Great Lakes speaking out about threats to the Great Lakes and what we need to do to stop them once and for all. We began the Great Lakes tour last year where we visited eight cities and continued the tour this year with events already in Duluth, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids.

Wayne Howard, Linda Isaacson Fedele, Kate Kremer and Peter Debes of Rochester Sierra Club, Eric and Jim Olson from FLOW for water along with the support of Cool Rochester, Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology, did an incredible job organizing an thought-provoking and inspiring event.

On Thursday night Maude gave a riveting talk to a captivated audience of 300 about the serious threats plaguing the Great Lakes including fracking, pollution, low water levels and inequitable extraction. Recognizing the amazing work that groups have been doing to protect the lakes for decades, she outlined a needed shift in decision and policy making around the Great Lakes and outlined a framework on how to effectively address the threats to Great Lakes, so we’re not simply fighting one fight after another.

maude barlow photo from Rochester, NY

Barlow addresses the audience in Rochester, NY

Maude put forward a vision of the Great Lakes that protects a community’s right to say ‘no’ to projects harmful to water sources, incorporates community input into decision making and prioritize communities’ rights to water over private interests. These ideas form the basis of the notion that the Great Lakes are a commons and public trust. The notion of the commons, a very old concept, states that certain resources – such and air and water – are shared resources which people within a community have the collective obligation to protect. The public trust doctrine outlines governments’ obligations to protect these shared resources for community use from private exploitation.

After Maude’s talk, she was joined by Jim Olson from FLOW, Roger Downs from Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and David Klein from the Nature Conservancy for an engaging panel discussion and to answer the audience’s questions. Jim Olson, an expert in the public trust doctrine, stressed that private rights cannot subordinate public rights.

Rochester was an important community to host a tour stop because of the water issues they’re facing. There are plans to ship fresh water by train from the region for fracking projects in Pennsylvania. Mountain Glacier, a subsidary of Nestle, is bottling water from Lake Hemlock as well as the municipality’s water. Similar to what happened in Niagara Falls, there is talk about the possibility of Monroe County, which Rochester is a part of, treating fracking wastewater.

Activists share knowledge and ideas

New York anti-fracking activists share knowledge and ideas at the NY forum

Communities in New York state are incredibly active in the fight to protect water sources, public health and the environment against fracking. With approximately 200 municipal resolutions, New York state has by far the most resolutions on fracking in the US. Community groups and fracking coalitions have been successful in keeping a moratorium on fracking in New York state where delays in a health study are stalling Governor Cuomo’s already delayed decision on whether to lift or continue the moratorium. There have been recent calls for the environmental impact assessment to be scrapped because of Ecology and Environment and other consultations links to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York.

Yesterday morning Maude and Jim outlined the principles of the commons and public trust respectively and set the context for the day-long workshop where 50 engaged participants applied them to local issues. I gave short presentation of examples of our work on the commons and public trust. An ongoing case with Nestle, of which we’re parties to, is an exciting opportunity for the public trust doctrine to be recognized by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal. I also talked about two municipal resolutions in Burnaby and Niagara-on-the-Lake that respectively recognize water as a commons and the Great Lakes are a shared commons and public trust.

I am heartened and inspired by the enthusiasm and openness of the people we met in Rochester to embrace the needed shift in the framework governing the Great Lakes, one that will rightfully prioritize the protection of the lakes above all else. With many governments failing to protect community watersheds, the commons and public trust principles are crucial to changing people’s relationships to water to one of responsibility and stewardship and holding our governments to account so they protect water sources for today’s and future generations. People within communities like Rochester are the catalysts for this change and it is them that I place my faith and hope that we will save the Great Lakes.

March 18 – Webinar on Commons and Public Trust Solutions for the Great Lakes: Discussion with FLOW’s Jim Olson and Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow

Date: March 18

Time: 12pm – 1pm EST

Location: Online webinar, details TBA

Tickets: Space is limited! Contact elui@canadians.org to register.

Check this Facebook Event link for more up-to-date information

Or check out more info at the Council of Canadians’ site here

Join Alexa Bradley (Program Director for On the Commons), Sue Chiblow (Environmental Consultant for the Mississauga First Nation) and Jim Olson (Founder and Chair of FLOW) for an interactive discussion on creating a bold new vision for the Great Lakes. Moderated by Emma Lui (Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians).

This is the first in the series of webinars. The theme is “Framing the discussion: How commons and public trust principles can help protect the Great Lakes”

What would happen if water was managed based on principles and practices that empower communities to become stewards and what if decision making was local and collective? These principles inform a commons and public trust approach that water must be carefully managed and protected while prioritizing the basic needs of communities, the rights of indigenous peoples and the sustainability of the land. The lens of the commons can act as a political framework for many Great Lakes issues including extreme energy projects, bottled water extraction, invasive species and pollution.