Blue Covenant

by Maude Barlow

Reviewed by Olivia Sanderfoot, age 17

On winter Sundays, I love to curl up with a good book and lose myself in a fictional story. This past Sunday, I decided to try a new genre: non-fiction. I picked up a copy of Blue Covenant by Maude Barlow and after just a few pages, I was engrossed in a tale just as exciting as a fictional novel.

In this stunning depiction of the global water crisis, Maude Barlow paints a terrifying picture of a future polluted world whose access to clean freshwater is completely corporate-controlled, and she rallies readers to support a United Nations covenant declaring water a human right. Barlow’s passion for the global water justice movement drives the story she spins of the fight between private and public control of water. With a well-researched, articulate tone, Barlow lays out the causes of the global water crisis and uses clear evidence to prove that the best solution is a blue covenant.

Barlow explains that the merging of three global developments—the world’s loss of freshwater, the daily struggles of Third World countries for access to clean freshwater, and corporate control of the entire water industry—is at the heart of the global water crisis. If the roots of this crisis are not addressed, Barlow warns of certain catastrophe.

Right off the bat, readers are enlightened. Readers soon learn how and why the world is “running out” of freshwater. As the human population skyrockets, urbanization and pollution cause climate change, poor agricultural practices, water exploitation, and, ultimately, a loss of clean freshwater. Despite the development of high technology solutions, these inventions often do more harm than good.

To make matters worse, Barlow illustrates how a “water cartel” of private interests, backed by many transnational water and food corporations, First World governments, and major international institutions including the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund, are founding a “new form of colonial conquest” in the global South.

By maintaining control of all aspects of the water industry, from the sale of bulk water and water rights to the business of water distribution and wastewater cleanup, this private sector system has the power to decide who receives clean freshwater and sanitation services—usually the highest bidder. In many Third World countries, governments have no choice but to sell land to these corporations to pay off national debt, and because most local freshwater sources in these countries are polluted, citizens must pay the water cartel for bottled water and sanitation services.

Barlow travels across the world in her writing, presenting examples of these global developments in North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. She takes readers right into the conflicts associated with the water crisis, from family violence and struggles within countries to international arguments over access to waterways, and to the successes of “water warriors.”

The sound evidence detailed in the pages of Blue Covenant makes it impossible for readers not to be swept up in the belief that access to clean freshwater is a human right. In the last twenty pages of Barlow’s exposé, she describes the paramount solution to the global water crisis: a UN treaty more powerful than any international law declaring access to clean freshwater a human right.

This incredible book served as a fabulous introduction to the world of non-fiction books. It was fascinating and refreshing to uncover the mysteries of the world I live in, rather than discover the secrets of a world of fantasy. I plan to spend many future Sundays enjoying this wonderful genre, and I encourage all readers of the Simpson Street Free Press to give non-fiction a chance.

This book review was very well done. I will be sure to check out this book the next time I'm at the library; it sounds very cogent and informative! – Aarushi , Madison (2011-02-03 21:24)