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NEWS: Barlow speaks to 350 students at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington

Barlow speaks at PLU in Tacoma

Barlow speaks at PLU in Tacoma

National Public Radio’s KPLU 88.5 reports on Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow’s recent speech on water justice to about 350 students at Pacific Lutheran University’s Wang Center for Global Education in Tacoma, Washington.

Student journalist Ted Charles reports – “Water loss is imminent.” Maude Barlow’s opening statements stunned me. Barlow, water rights activist and Chairperson for the Council of Canadians opened this year’s Wang Symposium with a harrowing message: our abuse of fresh water is incalculable and possibly irreversible. Barlow revealed that catastrophes have seemingly passed unnoticed through the media. …”We are seeing the theft of rural water systems,” Barlow stated while emphasizing the need to maintain water access for everyone. Corporations have begun to channel water into a commodity rather than a right. I was disheartened to hear that the nefarious actions of a James Bond villain were actually a real occurrence. Barlow explained how, until recently, a company in Bolivia had gone so far as to claim ownership of rain. …“I love a good protest,” remarked Barlow as she fondly recanted how she fought against the implementation of a pipeline on the steps of Canadian Parliament. In a world that seems fraught with disaster through inaction, Barlow gives me hope. Her call to action resounded with me. It is not an option to fight for our access to clean water; it is our responsibility to make change now. …As I prepare to graduate in the next few months I will be reflecting on Barlow’s statement that, “Water is a common heritage.” I realized that everyone on the planet is interconnected, with roots and branches intertwining to form one massive family tree. We must be stewards to the environment around us, and without water, our tree cannot prosper.

Student journalist Annie Norling adds – “Water, water every where, nor any drop to drink.” As Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous line suggests, humans are soon to be surrounded by water that cannot quench their thirst. Maude Barlow, the keynote speaker for Pacific Lutheran University’s annual Wang Symposium, opened her address on issues of water rights around the world with Coleridge’s words. …At the beginning of the speech, Barlow recognized the students, faculty and staff of PLU live in a water-rich area — an area where rain is a common occurrence, if not a nuisance. It is difficult for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest to wrap our heads around the idea of a global water crisis. …“We are a planet running out of water… accessible, clean water,” Barlow said. …Barlow explained that in Detroit, Michigan, the city cut water access to 90,000 people because the cost of water rose to such extremes. In addition, the Great Lakes are not only being polluted by waste and invasive species, but the lakes are being depleted as well. Every day, people remove more water than nature and humans replace. “Demand in our world for water is going straight up and supply is going straight down,” Barlow explained. Of its many uses, water is used to produce commodities, such as cars and computers, corn and cotton. These “virtual water exports,” as Barlow described, take water from the source without replacing it. One-third of the United States’ water consumption leaves the country in the form of virtual water exports. …Barlow claimed that water is a basic human right. We must change our view from water as a commodity to water as a commons, a public heritage, and a common trust. However, as Barlow emphasized, the right to water does not mean the right to fill your swimming pool, to wash your car, or to tend golf courses. What Barlow fights for is the right to water for life. In closing her keynote address, Barlow quoted J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, “the rule of no realm is mine… But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care… For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”

Pacific Lutheran University is a liberal arts college – located on a 156-acre woodland campus in a Tacoma suburb – with approximately 3,400 students and 283 full-time professors.