ABOUT WATER |
CLIMATE CHANGE & THE GLOBAL WATER CRISIS
Since the Paris Climate Summit of 2015, the world and the general public have finally focused more directly on the realities of Climate Change.
However, water experts agree that even if our dependence on fossil fuels is reduced and we do begin to reverse greenhouse gas emissions, if we continue to abuse our planet's fresh water and its water systems, we will not be able to stop climate change.
It is for this reason that we believe that now is also the time for the global conversation about Water.
At first glance, climate change seems like just an environmental issue, but in fact it concerns so many things. It is a resource issue, namely of water, but it equally affects issues from food security, socio-economic conditions, population movements, to gender and human rights. Climate change, just as the global water crisis, can impact everything from human health, livestock mortality, crop failure, urban employment, resulting in everything from environmental refugee crises, economic instability and social conflict - all of which can lead to the destabilization of countries.
And just as climate change has finally come to be understood and be increasingly accepted by the general public as a pressing issue, the urgency of the world’s water crises are also increasingly reaching the headlines around the globe in the past few years. Moreover, the multiple perspectives of water have begun to be considered on the many complex levels that extend beyond the environmental angle.
Through this growing visibility of the world’s water issues, the direct connection between Earth's natural water cycle, the human need for water, and hydropolitics have become increasingly apparent.
POLITICS & THE GLOBAL WATER CRISIS
It is foreseen that extreme weather circumstances that are intensifying due to climate change, will play a role in the growing threat of widespread water shortages. Today, water crises around the world have been rated as the greatest risk facing the world in terms of global instability and potential geo-political impact on international peace and security.
As water is central to the environmental politics of the moment, in order to fully understand the global water crisis and the struggles of all types of water activists around the world, it is important to have the full picture of water
as a political subject.
There are countless global water issues have been increasingly brought to the forefront of public conscience by water activists worldwide that are linked to international and local politics, such as: actions in favor of the return to public and community control of water and sanitation services; actions against mega-water projects that displace populations and endanger cultural heritage sites; actions carried out against the contamination of watersheds, against water grabs and so on.
Global crises interlinked with the politics surrounding water issues are many, and can range from geopolitical conflict, national boundary definition, the exploitation by multi-national companies of water supply systems, the concept of water as a ‘commons’, to the widespread violation of the human right to clean water and sanitation.
DIFFERENT WATER-RELATED ISSUES & CONCEPTS
Public demonstrations over the human right to clean water and sanitation (water democracy); evident inequities and discrimination of access between the rich and poor, both in developed and in ‘developing’ countries (water inequality); the ethical link between water resources, protecting life, fighting global inequality and preserving the environment within the Papal ‘eco-encyclical’ policy report (water and climate justice); the growing need for action regarding the allocation of water resources to ensure sustainability both for people and for the environment (water management); groundwater extraction regulation and water useage restrictions (water legislation); non-traditional water scarcity solutions such as seawater desalinization, treatment of brackish water and wastewater etc (water technology); current dangers faced by the increasing connection between water, energy use and food production (water, food, energy nexus); drought-driven or sea level rise dislocation of populations (water refugees); recognition for the need of international action and policy responses to address water security challenges worldwide (water security agreements); absence of comprehensive international water-sharing treaties (water competition vs water cooperation); need for coordinated nation-state policies and international rules to cover water trade, pollution, pumping, abuse etc. (international water ethics).
Water-system privatization schemes (water capitalism); corporate action in the Global South (water imperialism), exploitation through ownership by multinationals (water colonialism); water supplies polluted by corporate development projects (watershed contamination); manipulation of riparian cross-border flows and exploitation of transboundary basin resources (water appropriation); increased indication of future conflicts between nations due to growing shortage of water for drinking and irrigation (water security threat); ensuing national competition for rivers, lakes, shorelines, and glaciers (water wars); effect of degrading water supply conditions on the health and well-being of humans, ecosystems, and resulting social economic impacts (water quality);
the extraction of groundwater supplies at a rate greater than natural recharge and during drought conditions (water depletion); human, industrial and agricultural useage of water exceeding the available amount (water stress), causing deterioration of fresh water resources in terms of quantity and quality (water degradation); militant and terror groups pursuit of territory with water resources as a means to gain control and/or chemical/biological threat to sabotage water supplies (water terrorism); retail price of bottled water being higher than the international spot price of crude oil (water industry); the soaring market-value of water as an international commodity (water as ‘blue gold’).
CURRENT GLOBAL WATER NEWS
The world’s expanding water crisis is finally being understood on its multiple and complex levels. There are many stories and reports in the news cycle that show the range of water issues around the world, from bottled water contamination, to extreme weather events, to water used as a weapon of war. For current examples from 2014 to today read more here →
ROLE OF ARTISTS WITHIN THE WATER-AWARENESS MOVEMENT
Recent studies have shown that there is a growing need for new models of communication in the context of conveying the most pressing issues of our time. Over the past few years, the vital role of culture and creative production within this objective has become increasingly visible. Today, the closing space between art, democracy and political action is becoming one of the most impactful of ways to sensitize and hence effectively mobilize public opinion, and to inspire in people from both the art and non-art worlds a personal conviction to a cause, through initiatives that combine reflection, analysis and action. It has been shown that the role of ‘artist as messenger’ in contemporary art practice can be a compelling vehicle to pass on scientific or complex information - through the combined expression of both intellectual and emotional aspects of the narrative.
While water justice activists around the world engage with global water issues, socially and politically-engaged artists who expose water-related issues and address real life situations are also contributing to the safeguarding and preservation of the Earth’s most critical and irreplaceable natural resource. The multidisciplinary approach of the activist-artist can demonstrate from multiple angles the ways in which water connects to larger social, environmental and political issues. Herein lies the potential impact of the artist’s voice to inform and activate other artists, the public, and decision-makers alike.
Leaders of the charge on climate and water issues have already recognized the strength of art as a tactical approach and as an entry point to drive processes of change and sustainable action. By engaging all levels of society, there is a greater impact on policy makers - who must define objectives and boost policy ambitions based on their potential electoral impact. By making climate change and water concerns into voting issues, we help build the social and the political impetus behind the critical need for immediate action. Indeed, increased citizen involvement has helped drive governments to make difficult choices and adopt necessary reforms to protect and preserve the Earth’s most critical and irreplaceable natural resource: our water.
For each of its international audiences and moreover for the general public, the Water Projects contribute another voice to the many global discussions to raise water awareness, and to help mobilize civil society to request results from the world’s leaders. In an effort to be a counterpart to the diplomatic and political objectives launched at the COP21’s Paris Agreement, and the global goals that have been agreed upon for the future, this ongoing water initiative hopes to enable positive change through art and people.
Banner image: from Ravi Agarwal's 'After The Flood' series (2011)