Tag: Maude Barlow

Maude Barlow Reflects: ‘The Goal of Our Movement Is Clean, Safe, Public Water for Everyone’

“The goal of our movement is clean, safe, public water for everyone. Water is a human right. Water is a public trust. Water is a public service. It mustn’t be put on the open market like oil and gas or running shoes,” said Maude Barlow—a Canadian author and activist and board chair of Food & Water Watch—in this testimonial about the impact we’ve had during the past decade. During 2021, our 10th anniversary year, FLOW staff, supporters and collaborators are sharing reflections on what our work together has meant to them and to the freshwaters of the Great Lakes Basin.

Watch Maude Barlow’s FLOW testimonial below.

“FLOW has stayed so clearly focused on the right issues, with the right language and the right values. FLOW has the answers. They’re also lovely people. They people at FLOW are professional, but they’re always nice. They’re kind. They don’t take credit. They give credit to others. They play nice with others. They want to work in networks and teams. They know that we can do better when we work together. I would say that FLOW has an impact and punches way higher than its weight.”

“Without FLOW the Line 5 issue would not be alive in Canada. With the help of Liz’s leadership we have been able to put together a coalition here in Canada to start speaking up and start saying ‘It is a pipeline, for heaven sake. We’re against all the other pipelines, why are we being so quiet on this one?’ And this one is triply dangerous because it goes under a portion of the Great Lakes.”

“We’ve been blessed, as Canada and the United States have, with an abundance of clean water, which we’re destroying as fast as we possibly can. We have a responsibility to care for it, because this is a planet running out of clean, accessible water. We’d better take care of it.”

“I started to realize that the water is dividing into people who have access to all the water they don’t even need but want, and those who don’t. The more I did on this issue of water, the more I realized that it’s very much a women’s issue in the global south. Women who walk kilometers or miles every day. They take their girl children out of school.”

Reality Check: Line 5 Threatens More Jobs Than It Sustains

By Maude Barlow and Jim Olson

Jim Olson

Maude Barlow

Editor’s note: This opinion piece appeared originally in Canada’s National Observer.

The United States and Canada are not only close friends and neighbours, but are also committed to resolving their differences with civility and common purpose. The 112-year-old International Joint Commission (IJC), which prevents and resolves disputes over boundary waters, is an example of this special relationship. So is the groundbreaking agreement among Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lakes states to ban water diversions from these shared and treasured waters.

The two nations, however, are clashing over energy policy and the effects of Line 5, the Canadian petroleum pipelines in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac, a major shipping lane and important whitefish spawning ground where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. If both Canada and the U.S. take a hard look at these issues together, they will swiftly realize that co-operation, not confrontation, is in the best interests of both — and, significantly, the interests of the planet.

The current discord between the two nations is over the decision in November by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to exercise her state’s sovereign constitutional authority to revoke the 68-year-old easement that Enbridge has relied upon to transport petroleum by pipeline from Alberta to Sarnia, Ont., across the public bottomlands of the straits separating Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.

The governor took this action in light of the clear and present danger from Enbridge’s appalling track record of easement violations in operating Line 5, including lake-bed erosion undermining support of the dual pipelines in the fierce currents where Lake Michigan meets with Lake Huron. Enbridge also lacks adequate liability insurance and has steadfastly refused to provide any of the financial assurances that Gov. Whitmer has demanded.

Enbridge knew at least 20 years ago that the original design of the Straits of Mackinac pipelines was failing. Year after year, the company quietly sought approval from the state of Michigan to shore up the pipeline, passed off as “repairs,” by installing supports — now 228 of them — in effect lifting about three miles of the dual pipelines into the water column. Government officials, however, never required Enbridge to get approval for such a radical change that poses a whole set of new and serious risks.

Then, as if fate were sounding a warning alarm, a 12,000-pound anchor from a passing vessel struck and dented the twin pipelines on April 1, 2018. Last summer, Enbridge disclosed two more strikes by anchors or cables. These foreseeable accidents could have opened a gash in the pipeline, exposing 700 hundred miles of the Great Lakes shoreline — potentially including those of Georgian Bay — to a catastrophic spill costing $6 billion in economic damages to tourism, drinking water and other interests. Even worse, such a spill could trigger a domino effect of damage disrupting Great Lakes commercial shipping and steel production, slashing jobs and shrinking the U.S.’s gross domestic product by $45 billion after just 15 days. Michigan will lose tens of thousands of jobs if Line 5 ruptures.

Many families, communities, tribes and businesses understandably are skeptical of Enbridge’s safety assurances. Enbridge calls Line 5 “as good as new” and says it can last “forever,” even though Line 5 has failed at least 33 times since 1968, spilling more than 1.1 million gallons of oil in Michigan and Wisconsin. In 2010, the company was the culprit in one of the largest petroleum spills in U.S. history. A leak in an Enbridge pipeline in southwest Michigan dumped 1.2 million gallons of heavy tarsands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed, harming human health and damaging fish and wildlife habitat. The spill cost Enbridge over $1 billion to clean up to the extent possible. The U.S. agency that investigated the spill likened the Enbridge response to the spill to the “Keystone Kops” and cited “pervasive organizational failures at Enbridge.”

Many Canadians are concerned about the possible distortion of their energy supply. They shouldn’t be. Available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American energy pipeline system operated by Enbridge and its competitors without threatening our public waters and the economy, according to experts from the Great Lakes protection group FLOW. They argue that when Line 5 shuts down, regional domestic energy needs and supplies for refineries will still be able to be met. The estimated increased cost to consumers would be a fraction of a cent per gallon of gasoline, according to a study commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.

The threat to the Great Lakes, both U.S. and Canadian waters, is clear. Equally clear is the risk to the planet of another 99 years of transporting carbon-rich petroleum from the Prairies to Sarnia for refining and ultimately releasing massive carbon dioxide emissions. Government promises of a new commitment to action on climate change are hollow if Line 5 continues operation indefinitely.

The law in the U.S. and Canada recognizes the waters of the Great Lakes are held in trust to be managed by the governments as guardians for navigation, fishing and other paramount needs of citizens. Unfortunately, the Canadian and Ontario governments have joined forces with Enbridge to forsake this guardianship by pressuring Gov. Whitmer. As the company spends resources on a slick public relations campaign exaggerating the benefits of Line 5 to the U.S. while neglecting to mention its history of environmental negligence, the governments dispute Michigan’s concerns about a Great Lakes spill.

In 2016, the IJC urged governments in the Great Lakes region to adopt the public trust doctrine as a legal backstop to assure the majesty of the lakes and bottomlands is not impaired. The IJC recommendation makes sense for present and future generations. If Canada and the U.S. do so, they will inevitably support decommissioning of Line 5.

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About the Authors: Maude Barlow is an activist who served as an adviser on water to the United Nations and is Chancellor of Brescia University College. Her latest book is, “Whose Water Is It Anyway? Taking Water Protection Into Public Hands.” Jim Olson is founder and president of FLOW (For Love of Water) in Traverse City, Mich.

Safeguarding and Reclaiming the Public Water Commons and a Human Right to Water and Health

Jim Olson is FLOW’s Founder, President, and Legal Advisor

Maude Barlow’s latest, “Whose Water Is It Anyway” is hot off the press

Photo courtesy Council of Canadians

By Jim Olson

It took me just a few hours to finish reading Maude Barlow’s incisive, inspiring new book, Whose Water Is It Anyway?: Taking Water Protection into Public Hands (ECW Press, 2019). This is not new territory for Maude.  She’s a world water policy guru and activist for the protection of the human right to water, the war against the schemes by the corporate elite to privatize and control water, and the fight to sustain water’s integrity in the watersheds where it flows. In 2002, she published Blue Gold with Tony Clark to go after global corporate thefts of water by taking over public water supplies or selling off public water in bottles. In 2007, she released Blue Covenant, enshrining the inherent obligation to assure the human right to water for people’s access to affordable safe water for all; and in 2015, she wrote Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, in which she not only championed the human right to water, but called on governments and people to recognize the duty to care for the water on which the right to water and all life depends.

Her new book, Whose Water Is It Anyway, a convenient pocket-sized paperback, tells the story behind her life’s work. It was ignited when in the 1980s she glimpsed the under-the table hand of a widespread corporate scheme to parade as champions of the free market that would provide water to meet the needs of people everywhere. The scheme was actually to control the world’s sources and delivery systems of water. Her new book combines her story and the stories of many others facing blows from the corporate world order that cut off drinking water, metered the wells of peasants, or robbed residents and watersheds of the flow of freshwater to convert water into bottles at publicly subsidized massive private gain.

She hits the highs and lows—the death of a young man in Bolivia over a corporate takeover of the water of the peasants of Cochabamba, the conversion by Nestlé and other bottled water companies of the right to use water into the right to sell water on the private market at exorbitant profits. Then she traces the global awareness and growing movement that in the past 30 years has spread throughout the world, and raised a shield against the private ownership and ironfisted clench on the world’s water taps. Her story could have ended in 2010, when her life’s work, and the work of water warriors around the world—including the Blue Planet Project, Council of Canadians, Food and Water Watch, and Uruguay’s National Commission for the Defense of Water—culminated a decade of dedicated work to finally see the United Nations enact resolutions in 2010 declaring the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.

It would have been enough for Maude to tell this story, in a digestible, accessible paperback, but that wasn’t enough. Everything she writes is about her life, the conflicts over water, and the many unsung heroes on the front lines, which highlight the water crisis we face through privatization and waste of our most precious commons. The work is not done, the awareness and movement should be as much a part of quality of life, health, and dignity, and life itself. No, it wasn’t enough to stop with the success, but to chart the next steps she sees as essential, ones that are already taking root across the world—Blue Communities.

The Blue Communities movement is a citizen, grassroots, local movement that shifts the understanding of the sustainability of a community, its quality of life and economy on three basic principles: 1. Water is a commons in which everyone has a human right for drinking, health, and safety; 2. Water, including local public water infrastructure, is public, and must forever remain a commons, preserved for present and generations to come—a commons held in public trust, as FLOW has envisioned and worked for over the past 10 years; and 3. that natural water sources—our streams and lakes and groundwater—shall not be privatized by ownership or control, and public water should not be taken for free as bottled water, or the private takeover and control of access to public water supplies and infrastructure. Each local city or local rural government in the Blue Communities program adopts a resolution centering itself and its future on sustaining water for life, water that is public, a commons, safe, and accessible, common and secure for all. Already, cities in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Great Britain, and the United States have turned to resolutions and specific actions to commit to the Blue Community principles. The World Council of Churches, representing 590 million Christians, has declared itself a Blue Community.

Maude’s book is a combination of big picture world water crisis, personal story, water policy, conflicts, and solution. Here is a short readable book, a book you can slip into your purse, backpack, or even suit coat pocket, to take with you into the city hall, the boardroom, the classroom, or statehouse. It’s a story that should be read by everyone who cares about liberty, dignity, harmony, and the common good of people and planet. Here’s an author who walks the walk and helps show us the way forward. For further information on Blue Communities, water commons, privatization, and the public trust doctrine, visit The Council of Canadians or FLOW’s OUR20 Communities page.

Hot Off the Presses: Keeping Water Public and the World from Burning

Jim Olson is FLOW’s Founder, President, and Legal Advisor

By Jim Olson

I just finished immersing myself in global public-water activist Maude Barlow’s incisive new book, Whose Water Is It Anyway?: Taking Water Protection into Public Hands (ECW Press, 2019).  Thanks to Maude and the publisher, I received an advance copy a few weeks ago on the promise of a book review, which remains a work-in-progress for next week.

But first, I couldn’t wait to share this article about the Vancouver Writers Fest and its feted authors Barlow, Canada’s leading world water leader, activist, and author of 19 books, and, then, Naomi Klein, equally visionary environmental, climate change, and green activist and writer.

Why my urgency to spread this coverage? Because the Vancouver Writers Fest has captured  the urgency of the moment due to the changing climate and its implications for the future control of, and human right to, water.

It is notable that the famed fiction writers’ conference has elevated these two nonfiction writers, whose works herald the citizens of the world to leave the past, become fearlessly engaged in life, not accumulation and consumerism, and halt the privatization of the world’s water.

Those of you who follow FLOW’s Facebook page understand that water is public and held in trust for the benefit of citizens, that privatization is not only morally wrong, but also that when it comes to our public water, schemes to privatize water are, and should be declared, legally and constitutionally prohibited.

Thanks to Maude Barlow, Meera Karunananthan, Emma Lui at the Council of Canadians, the Blue Planet Project, the World Social Forum, and the dedication of so many other individuals and organizations, the United Nations in 2010 declared in successive resolutions that water is a human right. Barlow tells this quiet, heroic story in her new, Whose Water Is It Anyway? It’s a story that should be read by everyone who cares about liberty, dignity, harmony, and the common good of people and planet.

But the deeper, highly readable story she tells is of her own personal journey, and those of others, in a fierce dedication against private control of water on the planet—privatization—everywhere in now in ways both commonplace (for example, Nestlé’s extraction of public groundwater and spring water for billions of dollars in bottled water profit) and extraordinary (e.g. Bechtel’s attempted takeover of Bolivia’s water).

Then there is Naomi Klein’s new book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (Simon and Schuster, 2019), a book that calls on all of us to step into the future now, by giving up rampant material consumerism that is killing the planet, and lighting the fire of a movement that turns on-end our gorging ourselves on the planet and each other—a movement in which we turn to each other and what is good for the planet. 

Preachy? Not really. I’d call it a practical, common sense call to action for all of us to join in the creation by FLOW and the Council of Canadians of “Blue Communities”  that put water first as if our lives depended on it: Good for all of us, especially children and grandchildren everywhere who will be facing the turmoil and dangers of an over-heating planet in 30 years from now.

So, read the article, and, yes, pick up a copy of these two books! Then take action, because these two authors help show the way. And dive into FLOW’s website for further insight and guidance on how to keep public water in public hands, and steep yourself in FLOW’s mission to defeat privatization and protect water as a commons through the public trust doctrine.

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.

 

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.

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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

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.