Remembering Earth Day 1970. The energy, excitement, determination. How have we done?
Every day women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water for their families. While they walk, private ownership of water, excessive use of water for vast mono-cultural agribusinesses, deforestation/desertification practices, and climate change go unchecked, creating and worsening this situation. Their paths are not romantic, safe or easy. They can walk for hours then trip, fall and lose their days work. Their backs, internal organs break down from the incessant, cumbersome weights they carry, sometimes three times/day at all hours. Surely, this is something that must be attended to.
When I was a kid, my friends and I could hop on our bikes, pedal a mile or so and cup our hands to fetch and drink delicious, clean, ice-cold, fresh spring water. We knew the water was safe and never dreamed that it would disappear or that others could not have what we did. When I hear of the phenomenal numbers of people in the world without access to clean water, I am stunned. When I find myself not trusting the water flowing out of my tap or hear about impending and already occurring scarcity, I am stunned. Water and humans go together. There should be no assigning of privilege with access to this basic elemental right. Nor should there be corporate practices that hoard, misuse, or defile our water. If you’d like some facts on water, check out this United Nations fact sheet. Staggering.
Here’s another poster on the private control of seeds. Such a heavy cost on farmers, and consequently on us all. If you’d like to see a short video on this topic, check out Seed: The Untold Story. It’s a quick, eloquent overview of our situation with a particularly important moment as a woman describes the impact forced dependence on corporate seeds has on her ability to provide for her family.
Water. Fundamental. Lavished on large-scale, costly, inefficient, mono-cultural, corporate agribusinesses. Squandered on, denigrated by fossil fuel extractions. Poisoned by careless industrial practices. Sent into hiding, disappeared by the rough treatment of fragile ecologies. Siphoned off for preferential living arrangements. Hoarded by private businesses for profit. Water. Clean water. 1.7 billion without access to clean water. 2.3 billion people suffer from water-borne illnesses each year. How we handle water is a democratic, human rights issue.
For thousands of years farmers/peasants have worked the soil with nature’s gift. Seeds. Every harvest people of the land gathered the seed of previous crops to continue this vital cycle. Now, corporations, with a mind-boggling bundle of tricks, claim to hold a more fundamental right —the patent! This forces struggling farmers/peasants to buy expensive and troublesome terminator seeds — seeds which cannot bring on the next generation of crop. Massive farmer suicides around the world attest to the damage done by this private, selfish ownership of seed. To see work aiming to put seeds back into people’s hands, check out NAVDANYA, a project of Vandana Shiva and others in India.
Every 30 minutes a farmer in India commits suicide. That means in the 2 decades since large seed corporations have planted themselves in India, almost a quarter million farmers have killed themselves, leaving behind families in impossible debt, loss and despair. Export focused, non-food mono-cultural crops, forced use of terminator seeds, pesticides and fertilizers requiring recurring loans create staggering financial burdens, rob people of their capacity to provide for their families. But don’t think this is India’s problem alone. The rate of farmer suicide in the U.S. is more than double that of any other occupation.