By Riccardo Petrella*
Public water. Starting from the universal public security of water, the first world common good for life.
It’s evening. Today more than 21,000 children under the age of five have died in the world (7.9 million every year). Among the main causes are diseases due to lack of drinking water and inadequate sanitation, or for drinking unhealthy, polluted water. For many years now, the health emergency related to water has been under the eyes of everyone, but the dominant groups, those who have the power to decide, do not seem to have considered it essential and urgent to take measures to change the situation.
They certainly seem to be aware, according to what they say, that the problem is serious and that in 2030 the availability of good water for human use will be 40% less than the needs of the world, as the UN predicts. And yet, they give the impression they are waiting for the water shortage to reach even more dramatic levels, at the limit of irreversibility, in order to intervene, though in panic and each “country” on its own, in failing improvisation. In fact, the deaths of children due to the lack of water and sanitation are of little importance to the dominant social groups, apart from the rhetorical declarations of circumstance. If it really mattered, they would have solved the problem decades ago. We are experiencing a twofold act of expropriation and mystification of water security by the three “world powers” that have colonized life on Earth, especially in the last 70 years.
I refer, first of all, to the global power of the groups and institutions that decide in the name of the principles of the capitalist society. So, today it seems quite normal that the biggest water profiteers, consumers and predators in the world, such as Nestlé, CocaCola, PepsiCola, Danone, Unilever, Buitoni, Syngenta, Bayer, Monsanto, Bouygues, Suez, Veolia, Seven Trent, Agua de Barcelona, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, Total, Shell, Exxon, Rio Tinto, Glencore, General Electric, Boeing, CityCorp, BNP, and others have proclaimed themselves the main defenders and protectors of water and key players in the definition and management of measures to promote water security. Water security means for them the economic security of the world capital, that is the creation of favourable conditions (rules, funding, markets) to ensure that the water needed, in due quantity and quality, is mainly accessible and used to sustain their activities. Otherwise, they claim, there would be no more economic growth, wealth, well-being, quality of life.
Inculcating the fear of a falling GDP and consumption (can you imagine, they say, a world without Nestllé and CocaCola, Toyota and BMW, Amazon and Microsoft?) has so far been the main lever by which the powers of global capitalism have expropriated the value of water security and life. This has happened and is happening not so much because their leaders are evil by nature but rather because doing so is within the logic of the capitalist society. This is proven by all the failed attempts to “humanize” capitalism or give it “a more human face” or “a red, green, blue color”.
Secondly, I think of the groups and institutions that speak and act in the name of the world military order, a power that is more and more tied to technological “advances” and to artificial intelligence. This power does not need any external legitimation or “constitutional pacts” among its members. All it needs to act is the power of “science for security”. In fact, it is capable of carrying on deciding to spend trillions of dollars a year for the purpose of destroying to secure its existence, and this without raising world popular revolts.
The old Roman adage “if you want peace, prepare for war” has been internalized and turned into “if you want peace, make war”! In its bosom, the US military industry, simplified by its owner and main beneficiary, the US Army, is the most powerful subject. It spends almost 4 times as much as China, 10 times as much as Russia, 25 times as much as Italy. For decades, the US Army has been the only institution which has given itself the capacity to analyze and report all countries and resources in the world as a function of the degree of impact on the risks (their nature and probability) of conflicts with the United States and threats to their security. It is also the only institution able to base the measure of the US military security on its water security. See the 2012 special report Global Water Security, compiled by the Intelligence Community upon request of the Department of State/USA.
If water shortages worsen and globalise, who is ready to bet that the US military will not worry about how to guarantee the United States access to the world’s still not dried-up and uncontaminated aquifers? The US world military order has redefined water security as the basis for the US economic security. This is the expression of the supreme security which is the US military security. At present, it is the most violent and explicit expropriation of water security to which the Earth’s global living community is subjected with the full consent of the public state authorities.
Thirdly, I refer to the expropriation and mystification of security carried out in each country by the public and private “local” yet closely connected oligarchies in the world. They have colonized and sacrificed the security of peoples and citizens, and not just the water security, in the name of “national security”. This is nothing but the security of the interests and powers of these oligarchies. The adjective “national” is a mask used by them with great effectiveness and opportunism because in recent centuries the “national” identity has become a strong feeling of collective belonging cynically abused by strong corporate groups to legitimize their power. Just think of the powerful driving force behind the imperative of “national competitiveness” which, since the 70s, has made hundreds of millions of the Earth’s inhabitants swallow up pain, misery and disaster while it was only a mere device to defend the interests of the strongest “local” capitalist and military oligarchies.
It is time to turn the situation around and mobilise humanity to the urgent need to build a universal citizens’ security, released from the destructive power of the global capitalism, the world military order and the national-corporative oligarchies. To this end, it is essential to start, in conjunction with the fight for the world’ s health, from the universal public security of water as the first common global public good for life. Hence the proposal to set up a Citizens’ Water Security Council which is currently being examined in Italy, Belgium, France, Brazil and Argentina. We will discuss it at the first meeting without borders in Belgrade on 18 and 19 June.
*Riccardo Petrella (La Spezia, Italy, August 5, 1941) – Founder of the International Committee for the World Water Contract, Prof. Emeritus of Globalisation at the Catholic University of Louvain and member of The WPFâ€™s Scientific Committee, Italy. Article sent to Other News by the author on March 24, 2020.