I’ve known this intellectually for at least 10 years, if not longer – what this earth is going to run out of first, and what will limit life on this planet first, is water. Drinkable water.
I read “Price of Fire” recently, and went to a talk by the author, Ben Dangl, last week. We watched a short documentary on one of the issues the poor people of Bolivia have fought – the right of access to potable water. This particular documentary featured the fight against Suez. A few years back the people fought against Bechtel.
Here’s how it works – the people have a certain amount of access to water, often from wells they dug themselves, and pipes they laid themselves. The IMF comes in and tells the government “privatize the water, or you’ll get no more money from us.” So the Bolivian government does. Actually, this kind of thing has happened all over Latin America. Neoliberalism experimenting with the lives of people. Real people who really are dying of water-related health issues now that the private companies have come in, claimed that they own the access to all water sources, including the wells that were built by the people themselves. The cost to access the water is so high that, for people who make an average of only $2/day to support their whole family, many can’t afford to hook up to the now-expensive water from the private company that doesn’t care about the people dying right outside their plants.
Nice show of humanity, that.
I devote the majority of my time to Animal Rights, and when I learn about these social issues, it is hard to not feel like limiting myself to animal rights is perhaps a concern that only people in privileged situations have the luxury of spending their time on. That thought didn’t come from me, however. It is a relatively common critique of animal rights movements. How can we focus on what humans are doing to animals when what humans are doing to humans is just as big of an issue? But then I think about it a bit more, and I realize that not only is it all connected, veganism is the key on many levels to getting a handle on changing the world so that these survival issues are given the proper attention. I can’t directly affect what happens to the people in Bolivia, but I can directly impact my own water usage. Veganism is an obvious and drastic water savings. That isn’t all i should do, but it is a great starting point. Taking it further, advocating for animal rights has an inherent human rights element. Humans are animals, after all, but that is only one part of the issue. Veganism is all-encompassing, or should be.
Water will be the next oil, the next resource that wars are fought over. If we go vegan, we’re lightening up that demand, and that is no small thing. If the IMF is driving the privatization of water resources in Latin America and pure profit is driving the privatization of water in the U.S. (Detroit is fighting this right now), lessening the demand will help the people of Bolivia, indirectly. It will help the environment directly and immediately. There is more we can do, but considering the huge difference it makes in water consumption to produce plants as opposed to exploit animals, having a water-saving toilet is meaningless if you aren’t also vegan.
Something that humans have a tendency to forget, also – if we’re ruining the water supply for ourselves, we’re ruining it for everyone. The non-human animals have as much of a right to that water as the humans do, and when access to water is limited for the humans, it is limited for the non-humans. We do not have the right to do this to others, pure and simple. Water is necessary for survival, and we do not have the right to limit the ability of others to live, to survive. It doesn’t matter if they’re human or not, rich or poor, every being that has an interest its own survival, that is sentient, should have the right to live its life. Polluting the water, limiting the access to water, making water a privilege instead of a right goes against animal rights and human rights.
In addition, when we pollute the water, we hasten the extinction of our own species. The pollutants are in the animals, the plants, the water, the air, the earth. Most likely the earth will survive the human species. The question is whether humans can survive the human species.