International “Blue Covenant” Would Protect Earth’s Waters

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"We humans have seen the Earth and its water resources as something that exists for our benefit and economic advancement, rather than as a living ecological system that needs to be safeguarded if it is to survive.”

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These wise words come from Maude Barlow, senior advisor on water to the president of the UN General Assembly and national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

“We have polluted, diverted and displaced so much water from where it is needed for a healthy hydrologic cycle to function that whole parts of the planet are drying up,” Barlow said Wednesday in her first address to the UN General Assembly. “We are just beginning to understand the devastation of this drying to the ecosystem and other species as we humans continue to rob the Earth of the water it needs for survival. The human water footprint surpasses all others and endangers life on Earth itself.”

Barlow supports a UN “blue covenant,” which would legally regard our world’s water supply as a public resource that belongs to humans and all other species, ensure equal access to all and make environmental restoration a top priority. She also supports Bolivia’s proposal for an annual International Mother Earth Day.

Water “must be preserved, for all time and practice in law, as a public trust and a human right,” Barlow told the General Assembly. “Clean water must be delivered as a public service, not a profitable commodity. We must efficiently manage our water for the common good, encourage social control mechanisms that put decision-making back in the hands of communities and always remain vigilant against persistent power inequities.”

A covenant would formally establish “the right to clean, affordable water for all, regardless of income” so that “no one anywhere should be allowed to die, or forced to watch a beloved child die, from dirty water simply because they are poor.”

Barlow’s third goal is watershed protection to “revitalize wounded water systems.” Preserving our ecosystems, she said, “must take precedence over commercial demands on these waters.

“Nature must be seen as having inherent rights beyond its use to us,” she concluded. “Most Western law has viewed natural resources as the property of humans. We need new laws to regulate human behavior in order to protect the integrity of the Earth and all species on it from our wanton exploitation. As Martin Luther King said, ‘The law may not change the heart, but it will restrain the heartless.’ Rivers have rights to flow to the sea. None of us can live on a dry planet.”

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