Book Review: Blue Future By Maude Barlow

From The Catalyst Summer 2014

Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever
By Maude Barlow
House of Anansi Press, 2013

Reviewed by Sheila McKinley OSU

Maude Barlow’s Blue Future is global in scope, incisive in analysis, and challenging at every turn. The third book in her series on water (preceded by Blue Gold and Blue Covenant) stands well on its own. Barlow alerts us to the devastating effects of the bottled water industry, industrial farming, mining operations, power generation, and a water-intensive consumer lifestyle, all of which seriously threaten what we once thought of as a limitless resource.

Each of the four sections of the book expands on a basic principle: water is a human right; water is a common heritage; water has rights too; and water can teach us how to live together. In the opening pages, she notes that “a majority of the world’s people live within 50 kilometres of an impaired water source – one that is running dry or polluted.” With great specificity she outlines the challenges we face and the changes we must make so that clean water and sanitation are accessible to all.

Interspersed with her accounts of ecological destruction, Barlow weaves the stories of real heroes: individuals, grassroots movements, not-for-profit organizations, and even countries and companies that are working passionately to reverse and avert disasters.

In the end, Barlow makes it clear that we must choose between protecting the commons or commodifying them; between cooperation or persistent, life-threatening conflicts and the resulting devastation. Faced with the enormity of the issues, she still aligns herself (and hopes we will too) with the mindset of Oscar Olivero, leader of the Cochabamba water revolution, who states, “I trust the people’s capacity for reflection, rage and rebellion.”

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