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UPDATE: Maude Barlow speaks on glaciers and the right to water

This morning we are at Biblioteca Piso 3 for a workshop on ‘climate change, glaciers and human rights’ (Cambio climatico, glaciares y derechos humanos, economicos sociales y culturales) organized by Agua Sustenable, Fundacion Solon, IHH-UMSA, and AMPM.

The panel of prominent speakers includes Sara Larrain of Programa Chile Sustentable, Elyzabeth Peredo of Fundacion Solon, Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, and others.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has observed that, “Water supplies stored in glaciers and snow cover are projected to decline, reducing water availability in regions supplied by meltwater.”

In Bolivia, as explained by the New Internationalist and highlighted by the panellists here, “Rising temperatures have caused severe glacial melt (376 glaciers lost almost half their surface between 1975 and 2006) which is causing acute water shortage.”
This morning, Elyzabeth hightlighted that, “Water is life. That inspires our struggle, our networks. This is now reflected in the Bolivian constitution, there are 20 articles about water in the constitution including protection of the glaciers. Water is a human right. We have to find a balance with nature.”

She stated that, “70 million people could lack adequate access to water in this region in the coming years because of the melting of the Andean glaciers. Glacial melt is the most visible impact of climate change.”

Sara stated that, “Glaciers are important for Chile. They feed our springs and rivers. Without the glaciers we will be left without recharge for the rivers. Our vulnerability will increase for the cities and the rural areas.”

She added, “90 percent of the glaciers in Chile are receeding. The trend is clear. The same happens in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and other parts of the world. But these countries are not causing climate change.”

And she noted that, “The Canadian company Barrick Gold wanted to destroy a glacier for the Pascua Lama mining project. Mining covers the glaciers with dust which makes them melt faster, but also mining companies destroy glaciers directly. Mining is taking away the future of water. They are climate criminals. They must be sued, taken to the Climate Justice Tribunal.”

Maude stated that, “What we heard today is happening around the world. It is happening in Canada. The issue of glacier melt is where climate justice and water justice come together. Water abuse is hurting the climate, and climate injustice is hurting water.”

“What Canadian mining companies do here and our refusal to lower our climate impact are a crime against humanity. And I intend to fight very hard to tell the story of what this crime is doing to the people of the Andes and to expose what Canadian mining companies are doing here.”

“Water is a human right, but we have to look at the rights of Mother Earth. We cannot separate the two. If we had protected Mother Earth, we would not see the human rights abuses we are seeing now.”

“The most important thing to remember is that water governs us. It is our lifeblood. It is not a resource for our proift and pleasure, but the most important element of the ecoystem which we depend on for life.”

“We must build solidarity between the water and climate justice movements, between the global north and south, and among those who care fo the future. We must vow to be one faimly and be brave because we are up against terrible forces.”

“My own country is terrible. It is the only country to sign the Kyoto Accord and then not follow it. This is because of the terrible tar sands.”

“Our governments put profits before life and we need to build the most powerful movement the planet has ever known!”

Natural Resources Canada has stated that in Canada there will be “decreases in water availability resulting from increased intensity and frequency of drought, declining snowpack and glacier dimunition.”

NRC says, “Canada’s glaciers hold water resources equivalent to all of the water contained by our lakes and rivers. As a Nordic country, much of Canada’s freshwater is derived from seasonal and perennial snow and ice, which exerts important controls on the timing and magnitude of water fluxes.”

And they note, “Glaciers play a role in recharging groundwater aquifers. This aspect of our hydrology is critical to understanding the variability of water supply under a changing climate…”

In British Columbia, the Suzuki Foundation has noted that, “the health of this region is threatened by climate change. Warmer, drier winters mean lighter snowpacks in the mountains. Less snow means less runoff to the rivers that depend on melting mountain snow. Warmer streams with less water affect the spawning and migration of salmon. Warmer temperatures also mean forests are drying out, becoming more vulnerable to fires and disease outbreaks.”

Additionally, the Edmonton Journal reported back in 2007 that, “The Athabasca glacier, where the (Athabasca) river originates, has shrunk significantly in the last 70 to 80 years.”

That article says, “Research shows that some tributaries to the Athabasca River could dry up if Alberta warms up six degrees (which is expected to occur over time.”

And the article highlights that, “(Water expert David) Schindler said the government hasn’t taken into account the full potential impact of climate change on the river before deciding how much water oilsands companies can take from the river at different times of the year.”

The 8-minute video of Maude’s presentation at the workshop this morning will be posted to www.canadians.org/cochabamba shortly.