Water is life. Without it, nothing grows. Fresh water is in jeopardy. What to do about this depends on who’s talking. Is it a sacred trust or a chemistry problem? Is it our patriotic right or a political pawn? Is it a human right or “blue gold,” the latest corporate frontier?
A range of verbal and visual cultural productions tell conflicting tales of water, promoting divergent values and beliefs with a variety of narratives from corporate to indigenous. These different kinds of “water talks” raise questions: who decides who deserves what? How do cultural assumptions about “deserving” play out as narratives about water? Are water rights human rights? Can we “own” nature?
Films on the subject set up an intriguing conversation:
Tapped. Edition addresses U.S. concerns, from personal health, to the environment, to local activism against corporate water takeovers. In typical american fashion, it rallies people through self-interest. Hey, this is “my” backyard and it’s my patriotic duty to defend it!
Blue Gold: World Water Wars examines political and corporate power dynamics. For example, did you know that the Bush family bought up thousands of water-rich acres in South America? Does that give you a chill?
Flow: for Love of Water addresses the global impact of water problems, and also investigates repressed solutions and alternative ways of thinking about water. Pretty strong race & class analysis here. The Special Feature interview with Vandana Shiva addresses the idea of water as cultural, as sacred.
Then, there’s the understanding that water is Earth’s Wisdom in perpetual circulation. Yes folks, that water you’re drinking is the same water that was
sucked up by dinosaurs
bottled in liquor stores
pissed out by drunks or
slithered through the thin lips of lizards
into chicken gizzards and
OUT the other end into the slurp slurp slurp thirsty earth and
UP again into the roots of something you ate or
Something someone you ate ate …
Sweet water creeks continue to run to the salt water sea, who continues to rock, her exuberance rising and floating as clouds who rain into sweet water creeks: that’s the natural cycle. Water makes it plain that ownership is not natural: it’s cultural. In Yoruba theology if anyone hoards or holds onto stuff, ibi (misfortune) commences. Too much communal ibi and life on Earth will cease. EuS cultural schemata, driven by the principle of domination, control, ownership, have inevitably led towards just such a crisis.
Shared experiences circulating around water have led to common cause, to resistance to dominance in Africa, India, South America, and even in the US. Cultural beliefs translate into actions, which translate into ecological effects, which arouse actions and reactions. We can no longer take water for granted: if we want to live, we need to understand where we stand in natural and cultural cycles. Translating epistemological difference has become a matter of life or death.
Something in the Water by Just Greg
Ok now I am not endorsing everything he says – like for example, not that gender bit around 3:20 – still he lays out a whole lot here.