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Books II

Gender, Water, and Development: An Abstract

By Jennifer Young

“There is a need to delve deeper into the gendered nature of water, and into the historical reality that gender has shaped water management over centuries, in order to understand what is required to successfully turn existing gender commitments into good practice and sure that water systems meet the aspiration of ‘water for all’” (Coles and Wallace, 2005, p. 2).

This one sentence epitomizes the views of the twelve research studies compiled in this collection. The book begins with an introduction by the two editors, Anne Coles and Tina Wallace. They argue that water is a gendered issue and that women and water are inextricably tied issues. Their overall findings from the eleven other researchers whose studies they analyze show several themes. First, water policies have failed to take women into account for decades. Second, water scarcity most severely affects those in rural areas and those who have the least voice in society, in most cases, women. They claim that this is backwards because women are not just passive users of water but most often are the main providers and managers of water within their communities. The most glaring conclusion is that community roles are accepted, making progress in gender development difficult. This is the main issue that all of the researchers come to conclude, despite religious, cultural, economic and political differences between geographic locations.

The first article, by Veronica Strang, is about how the appropriation of water changes over time as the environment changes. The second article, written by Deepa Joshi and Ben Fawcett, is about the role of religion and myth on water use and how they affect women in communities in India. Ben Page, the researcher of the third article included, sets out to prove that women are not purely consumers of water but actually actors in community access to water. He argues when women’s proactive role in water production throughout history is not taken into account; they are more likely to become disenfranchised in the present. The fourth study, by Anne Cole, is set in Cameroon and centers on the role of nature’s physical limits on providing water for humans and how this continues to be underestimated. Regmi, the fifth researcher, argues that cultural stereotypes in Nepal have kept women from being treated equally as men and that feudal and patriarchal norms have kept women from fully engaging in society.

Tina Wallace and Pauline Wilson are responsible for the sixth case study on a large international NGO, WaterAid. Their message is that promotion of community participation is most important factor for improving women’s social status. Joshi, the writer of the seventh study, uses gender theory to critique the World Bank’s and Indian gov’s SWAJAL initiative. Chancellor, the seventh researcher, gave a detailed analysis of the social, economic, and technical aspects of smallholder irrigation projects in Africa and presses for more investigation into culture and the dynamics of demographic and social changes. The second to last study, by Hutching and Buji, focuses on the importance of women’s role in water provision for the terminally ill, specifically those with AIDS. The only chapter to discuss water sanitation specifically is that by the final researchers, Pandey and Moffat. They evaluate the Gender and Poverty (GAP) approach and its success in Nepal. Despite the differences in location between the eleven studies, their common message is that “the commitment (of development initiatives) is to provide water for all, yet it is shown here that how the needs of women and the poorest are to be met remains unclear” (Coles and Wallace, 2005, p.10).

Earth Democracy: An Abstract

by Jennifer Young

Earth Democracy is the title and term coined by Vandana Shiva referring to the movement of people fighting to protect the global commons and defend sustainability, biodiversity and peace. She defines “Earth Democracy” as a set of principles which include inclusion, non-violence, reclaiming the commons, and freely and fairing sharing natural resources. Earth Democracy is the antithesis to corporate globalization, a movement that is based on the belief that the Earth can be owned and that profit is the most important goal. Corporate globalization’s effects can be broken into social and ecological. Its main effects are exclusion, dispossession, and scarcity. To be specific, the effects on the earth include reduction of biodiversity, scarcity of natural resources, destruction of species, and ultimately planetary death. Its effects on people include a rising tide of fundamentalist views, extremism, terrorism, violence against women, ethnic cleansing, and religious intolerance.

Corporate globalization is based on enclosure of the commons. The commons are shared and free ecological, cultural, economic and political space that humans and other species are entitled to enjoy as part of the earth’s bounty. Enclosure of the commons has created a climate of disenfranchisement and scarcity for the majority, so that the few can benefit from “growth”. The first example of enclosure of the commons happened in Britain in the 16 century with the privatization of communal property. Economic and social stratification has occurred due to enclosure of the commons, dividing the world into the “haves” and the “have-nots”. The ownership of the rich has resulted in the dispossession of the poor. The divisions that have taken place are responsible for the eruption of violence around the world.

Proponents of corporate globalization operate on a double-standard. They claim that privatization will bring equality and prosperity but in reality destroys diversity, robs the planet of its natural resources, and robs people of their economic and cultural security. The struggle between corporate globalization and earth democracy is a fundamental fight between exclusion and inclusion, between violence and nonviolence, between reclaiming the global commons, not enclosing them, on free sharing of the Earth’s resources, not owning and privatizing them. In other words, corporate globalization could be defined as “’ownership society’” (Shiva, 2005, p. 3).

Shiva explains that there have been two levels of reactions to corporate globalization: First, people are resisting the push to own and patent biodiversity by contacting their governments and global organizations that are responsible for trying to own, patent, and privatize life. They are protesting neoliberal privatization and enclosure of the commons. The other main way people are reacting is by defending biodiversity. They are protesting genetic food engineering and patenting of crop species, and other activities of the Global North. This call for a return to sustainability and earth respect is what Shiva defines and titles Earth Democracy.

Shiva, V. (2005). Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis

By Jason Zheng

Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis by Cynthia Barnett argues that no conservation program will truly succeed unless they are embraced by the public as part of a universally adopted “water ethic”—a belief that our water is precious and invaluable and should be used assensibly as possible. Barnett took her research across the United States and the Netherlands, Singapore and Australia, to provide diverse cultural perception of water and water policies. Barnett concludes that the water ethic can be reintroduced to place only if a primal sense of the importance and beauty of water is restored.

Barnett opens up the book in a garden setting, standing in front of a lawn and looking at a pool and artificial water. This approach by Barnett highlights how the state of California is considered to be “one of the most water-wasting places on the planet”. However, Barnett also strikes a statement by providing statistical evidence. She states that the technologies in NASA found a land in the United States that covers 63,420 square miles, which is bigger than Georgia, Illinois or New York. This land feeds on the America’s water source annually more than the feeding grain crops in the country.

Barnett examines the Americans’ attitudes toward water and discover that many of us believe that our supply of freshwater is abundant, perhaps never-ending. Blue Revolution also points out that the in some country, water users do not face penalties for using too much water, so that the tape and showers can be left running with little to no consequences for the user. However, this leads to a sense of false security. In America, local government and corporations strongly influence how water is used and hwo controls its use.

By the bigger picture, Barnett provides a depressive stance on the issue of water consumption. This stance is not to give the readers the idea that people are choosing their lawns over wetlands, rather it advocates and reaches out to the community to resolve this issue. She also examines the idea that people have lost respect for water and gives the ideas that if people are purchasing hybrid cars and recycling their trash, then the conservation of water should be simple enough.

Blue Revolution is much more than just a science book, it provides a deeper sensibility of how water should be conserved and rationed.

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