Is clean water a right?
Unfortunately that actually has to be legislated. Thankfully Senator Warren and Representative Khanna are defending what should be an obvious human right.
Perhaps a tweet alone is all any would want to know about the Future of Water Act, but the utter absurdity of the need for such legislation is mind boggling.
I did a double-take when I first read about it. I was instantly reminded of that scene in 1990’s Total Recall.. no not that scene. Or the other one you are thinking of. Context for the scene I am talking about - the movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and much of the movie takes place on a Mars mining colony, in which air is regulated (quantity and quality). At one point, Arnold is ejected from the colony onto the planet surface, and he immediately starts losing oxygen. His face starts to expand to absurd levels with his eyes bulging out to the point they should have popped out of his head.
A violent yet visually engaging sci-fi movie, in true American action movie style, saved the most wicked, villainous act till the end - depriving human beings, many already deformed from poor living standards, of air.
More than 30 years ago, robbing human beings of that which is plentiful and utterly necessary for existence was known to be evil. A higher law prevailed.
Tuesday, March 22 was World Water Day. I heard of Flag Day before. It was only upon this legislation being introduced this week did I learn about World Water Day.
How water makes life possible is fairly obvious. The importance of safeguarding water was described by the U.S. State Department on World Water Day as:
In today’s interconnected world, water challenges in one part of the world have far-reaching ripple effects. Food security, critical supply chains, health security, regional stability—all of these depend on the sound management of water resources. We know this because we see people migrating from severely drought-stricken areas of the world—like right now in parts of Africa and even in Spain and Portugal. The opposite problem is also challenging parts of the world where too much rainfall is drowning communities in countries like Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, where two recent strong cyclones have displaced millions from their homes. One of my top priorities is to conserve nature for the people and communities that depend on it for their livelihoods. To achieve this goal, we need to build a water-secure world, where people and ecosystems have sustainable, reliable, clean, and climate-resilient access to the water they need and protection from storms and flooding when they need it. This is the future of water we want and strive for.
On the same day, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ro Khanna introduced legislation to prohibit futures trading of water or water rights. More specifically, the bill will:
Prohibit the trading of water and water rights from commodity futures contracts. The proposed bill would add “water and water rights” to the current list of prohibitions in the Commodity Exchange Act.
Protect American families, farmers, and ranchers from water price spikes. Wall Street’s interest in financial derivatives based on water and water rights could lead to severe real-world water price spikes due to market manipulation and/or excessive speculation. Prohibition of water and water rights futures trading stops this dangerous speculation and protects Americans.
You may recall in the epilogue of 2016’s The Big Short, Michael Burry (played by Christian Bale in the movie), made $100 million in personal profit from shorting the housing market and attempted to contact the government several times to inform them how he knew the system would collapse. The government did not interview him and since the 2008 financial crisis, the movie claims he only invests in one commodity: water.
Six years later after that film was released, Senator Warren has to actually say:
Water is a human right and Wall Street shouldn't be allowed to use this vital resource to make profits at the expense of hardworking Americans. My bill with Rep. Ro Khanna would protect water from Wall Street speculation and ensure one of our most essential resources isn't auctioned off to the highest bidder.
When the original Total Recall came out, that statement would have been laughable. Before climate change led to historically devastating droughts, a U.S. Congressperson having to say Wall Street should not trade an essential human need like water (or air) was not imaginable. Arguably Hollywood only got away with air deprivation as a result of corporate inhumanity because it was a science fiction movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Unfortunately, as the bill states, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange certified last year the world’s first water futures contract that allows investors to trade “water rights” prices in California. As water becomes scarcer in parts of the country due to climate change, increasing industry demands and population growth, investors can trade water as if it were the same as gold or silver. To add insult to injury, the Environmental Integrity Project reports that a quarter of bays, estuaries and harbors, half of all American waterways and more than half of all lakes, ponds and reservoirs are impaired and not suitable for public use. And of course, global water consumption continues to rise.
At the same time the World Economic Forum talks about how the water sector could be the fastest to decarbonize and lead other sectors towards net-zero, members of the U.S. Congress are fighting to ensure Americans can continue to rely on the unpolluted water we still have. Already in El Salvador, protestors are clamoring against a water law they claim allows corporations to control their nation’s water resources.
In closing, the original Total Recall was great as is and should not have been remade; if it were remade (again) with a modern feel, whoever plays the title character should get to say, “Give these people water!” And maybe with Michelle Rodriguez in the title role.
..to learn more about the Future of Water Act:
..to see a very entertaining Sci-Fi film: