Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wealth I - Water

To recapitulate: I am being charged $350 dollars a month for the right to use Minneapolis city water. That does not include charges for the water I actually use. Why am I paying this much? Because the city replaced a broken stop box on the boulevard, this past fall, the stop box serving no other purpose than to turn the water on or off, from the main line under the street. If I do not pay, the city will condemn my house. Never mind that I am unemployed, or that my property taxes will increase 16.2% ($400) this year, or that the county is valuing my house approximately $50,000 dollars more than it is worth.

I am paying my bill. Though my sewer is still plugged with tree roots, and I have used approximately 100 gallons this past month. Which is slightly more than the median household use in America for a single day. My intention is to use as little city water as possible for the duration of the payment plan. Already, my attitude toward water has changed fundamentally.

If there is anything sacred in this world, it is water. Without it, there is no life. We are offspring of sunlight and water, in a cradle that is the Earth. But that does not prevent us from manufacturing more than 100,000 different kinds of chemicals that are not otherwise found in nature, and releasing them into the biosphere more or less indiscriminately. Many of these chemicals persist throughout the water cycle, from groundwater to surface water to rivers and streams and the ocean, evaporating into the sky and returning to the land as rain or snow, and eventually, through us. Homo sapien sapien is 70% water. Our treatment of the water is quite literally changing the chemistry of our bodies. Which is one reason the Health Care industry is growing even in the midst of economic contraction.

Any chemical not otherwise found in nature is poison. Which means, we are poisoning ourselves and the Earth. This is immoral, but in this Age, this is business. Follow blindly the most central creed of the Market, which is growth, and this poisoning will continue to get worse. They will say Market forces will make the environment healthier. But the number of poisons, the amount and the scale of their use, continues to grow, world wide. If the Gaia Hypothesis is right, and the Earth is one giant living system, it will someday suffer a kind of toxic shock, as any human body would, or its immune system will kill the species that poisons it.

Approximately 1.5 billion Homo sapien sapien do not have regular access to fresh drinking water. Forty percent of the world's people do not have sufficient water to maintain basic hygiene. How can these people rise up out of poverty without fresh water? They cannot. And though we have the technology to provide adequate fresh water for as little as $2 per person, per year, less than 1% of the worlds people who need it most have access to that technology, because there is not any monetary profit to be made from it, for the people who have the means to provide it.

It's not just that we are selfish (that great virtue of the Market) about providing fresh water, and we introduce industrial poisons into the water. Industrial agriculture (crops and trees) muddies the water with soil. Aquifers are emptied. Big dams turn comparatively clean rivers into methane producing cesspools, compounding the greenhouse problem. We alter the flow of major rivers, such that an increasing number of them do not replenish the sea. We treat fresh water as if it is infinite, but fresh water is a finite resource and we are exceeding the Earth's capacity to provide it.

There is and continues to be an attempt to privatize water. We have literally swallowed the idea of bottled water, though bottled water is not really regulated at all, oftentimes less healthy than tap water. It often is tap water, though we pay more for it than we pay for gasoline. Municipal Water Works are being privatized. How do you provide water to people and meet Wall Street expectations of not less than 12% growth annually? You can't, without disenfranchising an increasing number of people. How do you turn water into a commodity without eventually making wars over it? You don't.

It is all quite insane. To know this is to ask, what can one do? How insurmountable it seems. How inevitable. How unstoppable.

How do we repair an aging infrastructure without doing things like charging $350 a month for a stop box replacement on threat of condemnation? I can assure you, that $3100 dollars the city charged me would have gone a long way to getting my house off city water completely. I could build a very fine cache system with $3100 dollars. Which is the future. Every house should have a cache system - rain barrels, filters, cisterns - sufficient to provide water for the household, for the entire year. Centralized water suppliers, public or private, are an invitation to abuse. A self sustaining water supply is about security, as well as a realignment of our perception of water. Currently, water just comes out of the tap or the bottle and we don't really think about it at all. Which is the source of abuse.

Such a change is a radical departure from the life we have grown accustomed to. The life we have grown accustomed to is terribly detrimental to the water supply, which is terribly detrimental to Life, which is terribly detrimental to people.

If I change, I change the world around me. If I heal myself I heal the waters. How do I treat the water I use? How do I treat the water inside me? What would I do, for myself and my family, if the water ceased to flow?

Water is Life. There can be no life worth living, without access to fresh water.

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