Monday, March 14, 2011

Don’t Cry Me a River—Coke Might Buy It

In 2006, I had the honor of speaking at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela. I spoke on corporate animal factories and the devastation they were having on animals, workers and the environment and how many of these factories were coming from the U.S. In attendance were activists from Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, the U.S., Venezuela and a number of other countries. Afterwards, we all ate at a vegetarian restaurant nearby.

As some of you know, this experience is what inspired me to create the Food Empowerment Project. So many the issues close to my heart were discussed—environment, labor, water, immigration—and I was there to help bring up the animals. Another incredible part of the conference was that we were able to take tours to see some of the progress that was being made in Caracas.

One of the speakers I was privileged to hear when I was there was Oscar Olivera, the coordinator of the Defensa del Agua y de la Vida (“The Coalition in Defense of Water and Life”). I had already seen him in the movie The Corporation and was familiar with the famous story of how he and others in his community of Cochabamba, Bolivia, eventually stopped the billion-dollar U.S. corporation Bechtel from privatizing their water.

This was the first I had heard of a corporation literally buying the rights to water. You can read more about this issue on a new section of our website: Water Usage & Privatization.

Even after I started to pay attention to the issue, I truly thought that this injustice was only taking place overseas, that somehow corporations were exploiting developing countries – and charging them for water. I knew Coke was privatizing water in India (and mostly recently I learned they are also doing this in Chiapas, Mexico). Luckily, in both Bolivia and India, activists have been successful in stopping it.

But did you know it was happening in the U.S. as well? Yes, even our water supply is being bought up. How short-sighted is this?

This is when I wish Alan Shore were real
! (Okay, I just started watching Boston Legal and wish he could take on some of these corporations that I vent about.)

A corporation owning water? I don’t mean they have water on their property and they own it; I mean they want to own rivers, and they want the water in our aquifers. We already lose so much of our water to animal agriculture, but now we are losing it to the likes of corporations like Nestlé and Coca Cola? How dare they. And how dare any government allow this to happen.

How did it come to this? How can we get out of it?

We have all been hearing for the past decade that water is going to be the precious fluid that wars are fought over in the future – not oil. And I guess these companies are getting a head start?

One might think that nothing can be done living in a community not currently affected by water privatization. But everyone should be on the lookout for these corporations seeking to privatize our water, and remember that we can all boycott companies such as Nestlé and Coca-Cola for their participation in depriving people of water. Water is a natural resource that we all need to live, and yet they've turned it into a commodity from which they make a huge profit.

Furthermore, we can avoid buying bottled water. Yes, I know, this is not the solution, but it is a small step that each of us can take to not support this form of exploitation. You can buy stainless steel reusable bottles—like those from our friends at Food Fight! or Herbivore (please do not buy Nalgene as they make equipment used in animal experiments).

Thanks to Mat Thomas for his research and work on the following sections: Water Usage & Privatization and Pollution.

And if you haven’t yet had a chance to check our other new section on our website about Farmers’ Markets, please do! Thanks goes out to Katie Cantrell for volunteering her time to write this section!

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