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Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water Paperback – September 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The world's water supply is fast falling prey to corporate desire for the bottom line, the authors argue (Barlow chairs Council of Canadians, a public advocacy group; Clarke is the director of the Polaris Institute of Canada). Indeed, "the human race has taken water for granted and massively misjudged the capacity of the earth's water systems to recover from our carelessness," the authors write. Even if that's a hard statement to prove, the authors marshal an impressive amount of evidence that corporate profits are increasingly drinking up precious water resources. In some countries, water has already been privatized, leading to higher rates of consumption and depleted resources. And in other places, poorer residents actually pay more for water than their richer neighbors. In the meantime, Pepsi and Coke's sales of bottled water are taking water away from municipal supplies. The authors cogently argue that water a basic necessity should be treated differently from other commodities and not placed into private hands. In the end, their argument becomes a screed against the power that multinationals wield in our economically liberalizing world: in free trade treaties, they argue, governments effectively yield control over water rights to corporations, with harmful consequences for both economic parity and nature. The authors are vague about what the average person can do to help stave off this crisis, but those concerned about the environment and about the costs of economic globalization will find much to get riled up about in this book.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This well-researched book provides a sobering, in-depth look at the growing scarcity of fresh water and the increasing privatization and corporate control of this nonrenewable resource. Barlow, national volunteer chair of the Council of Canadians, and Clarke, director of the Polaris Institute of Canada and chair of the committee on corporations for the International Forum on Globalization, describe how transnational corporations (Bechtel, Vivendi, et al.) through their water subsidiaries are making water a growth industry for the 21st century. The authors criticize mandatory privatization of water services as a condition of debt rescheduling and proposed international trade agreements for negatively impacting public ownership of water, public-sector water services, and governmental authority to regulate. Although the investigative reporting is similar to that in Marq de Villiers's Water and Jeffrey Rothfeder's Every Drop for Sale, the authors' sophisticated economic analysis of water as a scarce commodity distinguishes this book from the other two. The concluding chapters set forth goals, principles for safeguarding the world's water, and steps for water security in more detail than de Villiers's water strategies. The proposals for corrective legislation, lobbying, and citizen environmental action make this book a highly recommended purchase for public and academic libraries. Margaret Aycock, Gulf Coast Environmental Lib., Beaumont, TX
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848136
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848139
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on August 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There are not many surprises in BLUE GOLD. The primary message of Maud Barlow and Tony Clarke's book echoes the Blue Planet Project, a global campaign to assert the universal right to water, of which Barlow is one of the international leaders. It is the 'battle against the corporate world' - here in particular the 'theft of the world's water'. Of course, it is not so much a 'theft' of water - the world's water supply has been more or less stable since the beginning of time - rather the increasing control by a small group of multinationals over the water's allocation to the peoples of this planet.
Consequently, the strength of the book is in its coverage of the multi-national corporations, the 'Global Water Lords', and the exposure of their expanding power over water delivery and processing systems around the globe. Initiatives to privatize water delivery at a national level probably started with Napoleon III in France in the middle of the 19th century. At that time, governments were usually in charge of water management. Since then privatization has spread from France to the rest of the world. Today, Barlow and Clarke maintain, some 10 corporate players dominate the global water industry. Two French companies hold the lion's share. Most of these major players are multi-utility providers, which increase their hold on the water resources of countries and regions. Once a government opens a door to privatization of any of the water related services, such as water delivery or waste management, it abandons its right to take back control at any stage even if water user groups complain about bad or no service or the company does not live up to the contract. The rules and regulations of the WTO see to that, the authors claim.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on May 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Blue Gold succeeds at correlating the issue of dwindling fresh water supplies with the increasing power of multinational corporations. The book also suggests what needs to be done to secure a water-rich future for the world.
Barlow and Clarke begin their analysis by discussing the shortcomings of many publicly-owned water systems, where the use of science and technology have overwhelmed the carrying capacity of the earth. The author's description of Mexico City literally sinking into the ground as underground water supplies are pumped to exhaustion is frightening.
But private ownership of water will not rectify the situation. If the corporations' purpose is to serve shareholder interests, the authors argue, how can anyone suppose that water resources will be managed sustainably or equitably by them? Indeed, the book provides many examples of corporate projects that threaten to deplete local fresh water supplies in order to provide (short-lived) profits for investors.
Yet, Barlow and Clarke show that schemes to transfer control to corporations are often promoted by the World Bank and other institutions that champion multinational capital investments. This should not be too surprising, as water infrastructures are not unlike other publicly-held assets that have become favorite targets of the investment community (disguised under the banner of "deregulation") in recent years.
While making a compelling case that growing corporate influence can only make a bad situation worse, the authors spend several chapters discussing how people can begin to constructively address the situation and turn it around for the better. These sections in particular are thoughtful and are obviously written by persons who have spent a great amount of time on this issue.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Karl Langdon on May 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While the growing scarcity of fresh water on the earth is an important topic for all peoples, "Blue Gold" does a poor job of elevating the reader's knowledge of the facts surrounding this crisis. This book offers few hard, cited facts and is riddled with common errors that undermine the authors' credibility. The multitude of miscalculations, editing errors, and sweeping generalizations reduce the strength of the book, and more importantly (and perhaps tragically) the perceived validity of the overall premise.
Admittedly, I read only half of this book. As an environmentalist and avid reader of scientific texts, I could not tolerate filling my frame of reference with facts that appear to be based on conjecture. Statements similar to, "someday the earth will not have enough water for everyone" are simply too vague and serve only to provide a platform for criticism and eventual debunking of theories that may actually be valid and essential.
I also had difficulty reading through the constant conversions between miles and kilometers, liters and gallons, etc. The authors would have been wise to select a standard for measurements to be used throughout rather than provide vice-versa conversions by the truckload.
I hesitate to criticize this book, as there are few available that address critical environmental topics at all. But to prepare such a poor assemblage of "facts" and what reads more like hype than anything else is a disservice to the reader and to the cause of water conservation. If I can't use the material I read in an intelligent conversation or debate, then what use is it? "Blue Gold" is a huge disappointment and borders on irresponsible with its mediocre treatment of this important issue.
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