While doing research for NOT A DROP TO DRINK I read quite a bit about water, and learned a lot. I also ended up stacking more than a few non-fic titles onto the pile to read when I got the chance. One of those was WATER ETHICS: FOUNDATIONAL READINGS FOR STUDENTS & PROFESSIONALS edited by Peter G. Brown. Yes, I know, you probably think I'm the biggest nerd ever for even picking this up, but as a writer who wants to make sure there is a real basis for her book - and also something of a big fat nerd who just likes to read stuff - I thought I'd give it a shot.
I'm really glad I did. Sure, it's not for everyone. There are some very technical essays here that were a little harder to follow than others, but I slogged through them anyway, and learned something new from every one. The essays cover questions as varied as cultural assumptions and religious connotations of water to the market value of water and water policy around the globe.
There are some wonderful questions raised here, some of which I'll highlight briefly in this post:
- Do environmental concerns outweigh religious values? For example, is the ritual cleansing of Hindus in the Ganges River something that should be stopped because of pollution?
- Water is recognized as a community resource, something that everyone should have access and rights to. However, if anyone can have it, there is no value attached to it, which leads to waste.
- If we do go about assigning a value to water, how is that accomplished? If we can assign a value to the amount of water pumping through pipes in an American home to bill them for, how do we assess the value of one jar of water an African mother balances on her head and walks miles everyday to gather?
- Are humans the only living creatures with a right to water? Do animals or even trees have a right to water? Or are humans granted dominion over the earth to the point that they have the right to deny water to others?
- How do we determine who gets water? Do people in environmentally wetter places have more right to their water than people who live in dry areas and need it to be imported to them?
- Does water belong to the people who own the land it runs through? What about water below the land they own? Who does that belong to?
These questions, and the various answers from differing viewpoints are highly interesting and of the utmost importance to anyone who wants to begin to understand the complex problems facing our planet as we address the growing global water crisis.