Blue Gold: World Waters Wars is a very scary film. It takes a probing look into the world of water privatization . . . and the results aren’t pretty. People are literally dying in parts of the world due to the privatization of their water supply. One particularly heartbreaking scene describes the story of two young girls in Kenya whose shack caught fire one day while they were home alone. There was no way for the girls to access water, and their neighbors, who were able to access corporate-controlled water only for an obscenely high price, literally could not afford to put the fire out. Both girls died.
Suffice it to say, this movie is disturbing. It is also chocked full of valuable information, to the point where it can sometimes feel like information overload. Teachers who want to use Blue Gold as a teaching tool would probably find it most beneficial to show in excerpts in order to give students time to digest and reflect upon all of the complicated information that is presented in the film.
While Blue Gold contains some seriously disturbing facts and images, it is not all gloom and doom. The story that resonated most with me personally was that of Ryan Hreljac, a young Canadian boy who heard about the lack of water access in the developing world and decided to do something about it. Told by his teacher that a well would cost $70 to build, first grader Ryan approached his parents for the money. His parents gave him an opportunity to earn the money by doing household chores, figuring he would never follow through. About four months later, Ryan took his $70 to a well-building foundation, only to find that wells actually cost something more along the lines of $2,000.
Little Ryan was not deterred. He kept raising money and ended up establishing Ryan’s Well Foundation, which has since raised millions of dollars for clean water solutions in the developing world. It is stories like these that make me so proud of the work we do at TTF. We can only hope that for every greedy corporation, every polluter, every person who has given up on clean water issues altogether, there is someone like Ryan dedicated to creating positive solutions. In fact, from now on, every time I go into a first grade classroom, I’m going to think about Ryan and all the difference he has made. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Ryan Hreljac is sitting right here in the TTF watershed!
Watch the Blue Gold trailer below!
Buy it here:Blue Gold: World Water Wars
Julie Slavet is TTF's Executive Director. She has over 20 years of experience in community affairs, program development, and personnel management. Julie earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Smith College and an M.S. in Public Affairs from the University of Massachusetts. Julie has served as an Advisor to the Jenkintown Community Alliance and a Director of the Montgomery County Democratic Women’s Leadership Initiative. Contact Julie at 215.844.8100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Blue Gold: World Water Wars, 2009
Directed by Sam Bozzo
The film, Blue Gold: World Water Wars, addresses a very pressing topic: our use of water.
It is only from liquid water that all known life exists. Search for life? Search for water. As is evident through ancient civilisations, such as the Egyptians and the Mayans, when the water dries up, so does the civilisation. No water. No people.
Water is the source of life. Yet, only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water. With much of that now being polluted, where does that leave us?
Once the water is polluted it continues within the water cycle leading to health problems. There are currently more deaths cause by polluted water than wars.
With 60% of wetlands gone, ground water pumping causing sinkholes and threatening the stability of surrounding areas, deforestation leading to soil erosion and desertification, and excess urbanisation and urban populations water demands exceeding the local water supplies, how are we to recover? As a species, as a planet? We have ‘adapted’ water to us, rather than the other way around.
The privatisation and commodification of water, has turned water from a right into a good and has led to a new type of colonisation. Largely as a result of the introduction of water on the stock market at the beginning of the century, a water cartel of transnational companies has formed with no centre of power.
There are not enough laws in place to protect the resource, corporations are given the same rights as citizens. And, as contracts with governments are not reliable enough for these transnational companies, they see a future that lies in desalination. Not, however, to clean up the water supply, but in order that they should better be able to control and profit from it.
The water many of these companies sell is much the same as tap water, just with a much higher price tag. They attempt to exert their authoritarian position by threatening citizen activists with legal action, if only to make people then have to pay for speaking out and hoping to deter others from doing the same.
Around the globe, groundwater continues to be pumped at an alarming rate and bottled water is shipped far away from its source. This all serves to disrupt the eco-system and leads to desertification. Countries export their own water supply. Water from one area gets taken and moved around the world through food.
In particular, China and Australia are two largely exporting countries, Australia being the driest continent on earth. Sydney, Mexico City, Beijing and Melbourne are some of the driest cities in the world.
Related: Plastic Waste: Environmental Effects of Plastic Pollution
The world political-economic system and the influence of The World Bank make farmers and people desperate, causing “water wars.” In some areas governments have the power, and have been known to shut off the water supply to certain areas, leaving people without water for days. Chemical seeds are promoted for farming because they require less watering, but they in fact require more intensive irrigation.
In India, in particular, disputes over water are often passed off as ‘religious conflicts’ rather than a right of access to fresh water. Frequently, corporations exert their power to acquire local resources. Military might is often imposed, such as in Paraguay, known as the “middle east of water,” where a US military base has been set up near the world’s largest dam. This goes further than capitalism, it’s about power. And greed.
Aqueducts redirect water, putting farmers out of business, and many areas like south California do not want a water limit, and have lived and used water without restraint. But, can we continue like this? Is there a way to live more in-line with the supply available?
The system needs to change. In the film, a number of options working towards a solution are posed, including: limiting population size and living within the local water supply, such as has been done by the city of Bolinas, California; creating local food systems using local water, soil and appropriate crops; the Blue Alternative – a method of capturing the water system near the coast and making small water catchments, or “little dams;” people power, linking those in need, in order to fight for the future – as demonstrated in Uruguay with the establishment of a law in their constitution so that water cannot be privatised.
As stated in the film, a new water culture is needed. We must entertain the idea that our water management influences climate change not vice versa. This is an idea that motivated the Blue Alternative.
And fighting against the system that has re-introduced the class structure, is essential. Commodification only steals, it does not create. It is not a solution.
Related: Watermark Documentary
Watch the Blue Gold: World Water Wars Trailer
Here are a few powerful quotes about water from the film to leave you with:
“Water is more precious than gold.”
Water has become a commodity, where “the price never goes down.”
“You can’t make peace with thirsty people.”
Over the next 10 to 15 years the situation surrounding water will likely change dramatically. What are we going to do about it?
The most important thing is to just start asking questions. Because water is a right. And you have a right to know.
Unlike many documentaries, this one actually comes with an ‘action plan,’ with one underlying motive: that knowledge is power. There is hope, there are things you can do.
Find the film on Amazon.
Important links and resources:
To start, be sure to visit the film’s website and check out “The Action Plan” page where you can learn how to find out the name of your watershed, where your water comes from and goes to, and possibly who owns your water (now that’s a disturbing concept).
To find your local watershed:
International Countries: http://www.wri.org/our-work/project/earthtrends-environmental-informationmaps_spatial/watersheds/index.php
If you’re in the USA you can also get involved through Adopt Your Watershed.
Check out this map. “Launch the Maps”, then click the “Projected Change” tab to see the effect water shortage may have.
What is a watershed?
Learn more and teach your children about the importance of water with these interactive activities.
Let’s ask questions. Get informed. Act. And make a difference!
(If you find other useful resources you think should be listed here, please let us know.)
Learn About Other Films:
* Forks Over Knives
* Chasing Ice
* 13 Must See Vegan Documentaries
* Vegan-Related Books & Films