Where’s the Department of Homeland Security when we really need it?
I suppose that Homeland czar Tom Ridge is too busy with his color codes and his TIPS snitch patrols to notice or care that dozens of American communities presently find themselves under assault by foreign powers with names like RWE, Suez, Vivendi and Perrier. These global corporate raiders are grabbing for our most essential public resource: water. In just the past few years, such transnational conglomerates (along with such US players as Bechtel, T. Boone Pickens, Monsanto and, until recently, Enron) have quietly privatized all or part of the water delivery systems in Atlanta, Berlin, Bolivia, Buenos Aires, Casablanca, Chattanooga, Houston, Jacksonville, Jersey City, Lexington, Ky., Peoria, San Francisco and many other places (some of which have reverted to public ownership), plus laid claim to whole bodies of water, including the Midwestern Ogallala Aquifer, Blue Lake in Alaska and Canada’s huge James Bay.
The water profiteers are seizing control by using weaselly politicians, campaign contributions, outright bribery, hordes of lobbyists, multimillion-dollar propaganda campaigns, NAFTA, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. An example of their reach can be found in the Water Investment Act moving through Congress, a generally worthy bill to provide funds for local cities to upgrade or expand their water systems. But industry lobbyists have tucked two little bombs into it, which remain in the House version: (1) a city cannot get federal financing unless it “has considered” privatizing its water system; and (2) private water corporations could get public subsidies for their water schemes.
The Grassroots Rebellion
While politicians–from Congress to city halls–have been bamboozled by privatization hucksters, who promise to bring “market efficiency” to the distribution of scarce water, ordinary folks have shown themselves to be way warier of surrendering public control. They know instinctively that the corporations are simply trying to grab a monopoly over a substance no one can live without, then squeeze maximum profits from it by firing experienced city workers, slashing wages, raising consumer rates, cutting service and ignoring repairs.
The great story here, untold by the establishment media, is of courageous rebels who are daring to step in front of the Great Corporate Water Rush. Meet two of these.
Hiroshi Kanno, 64, works a small farm in central Wisconsin. He stands only 5’6″ tall, but–with his family and neighbors–he became a giant killer, beginning two years ago when the multibillion-dollar Perrier Group arrived in the towns of Newport and New Haven. It informed startled locals that it had a wondrous plan to begin continuous pumping of 500 gallons per minute of the area’s pure spring water into its assorted bottles (Perrier’s labels include Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Oasis, Ozarka, Poland Spring and Utopia).