Water justice struggles as a process of commoning

The discourse of the human right to water has been critiqued for being overly individualistic, technical, compatible with the commodification of water (Bakker, 2007; Roithmayr, 2010; Bond, 2012), and as running the risk of overly centring the state (Dwinell and Olivera, 2014; Haiven, 2015; Angel and Loftus, 2017). These concerns have also been borne out to varying degrees in the institutional recognition and articulation of the right at both the United Nations and national levels (Clark, 2017). Due to the consensus-driven, ‘post-political’ nature of these forums (Rancière, 2004), Sultana and Loftus (2012: 9) acknowledge that this institutional engagement risks stripping the right to water of its conceptual weight – rendering it ‘a floating signifier devoid of any political content’. But they also signal a note of caution against overemphasizing the significance of these largely theoretical debates at the expense of empirical realities (Sultana and Loftus, 2012, 2015).

I have argued elsewhere that community-level water justice campaigns that elect to employ the discourse of the human right to water often successfully resist the deradicalizing risks of engaging with both the state and rights discourse (Clark, 2017). Building on this thesis, this paper will emphasize the everyday empirical realities water justice campaigns to explore whether the process of articulating and, particularly, of claiming the right to water can itself be described as a practice of commoning.

— Read more over at the Community Development Journal

The inequity of this silent killer

When our kids were little, our family moved to Hanoi for my partner’s job. After we’d settled in to our new neighbourhood of Tay Ho (Westlake), we enjoyed walking the streets and admiring the beauty of the city. Hanoi is set around a number of lakes and filled with historic buildings and old winding laneways that are too narrow for cars. It is also surprisingly green. Plants grow on every available square inch, crammed into tiny pockets of dirt and pots.

But we hadn’t been there long until we begun bemoaning the frequency of foggy days and waiting hopefully for the rare clear days when Westlake would shine blue and we could see clearly over the rooftops from our sixth-story terrace.

I can’t remember exactly when I admitted to myself that it wasn’t fog that was obscuring visibility. But once I had fully acknowledged the extent of the airborne pollution, I felt a lot less keen on living in Hanoi with young children.

— Read more over at Eureka Street

Climate change is here, now we need to adapt

Wentworth voters sent a strong message to the Coalition that it needs to start taking serious action on climate change or risk seeing its vote continue to fall.

The ALP should also sit up and take notice of exit polling from the Australia Institute, which found an overwhelming majority of voters (79 per cent) were influenced by climate change (and the need to replace coal with renewable energy), while almost half (47 per cent) indicated that this issue had a lot of influence on their vote, and a full third (33 per cent) named it as the most important issue.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the Hague Court of Appeal has upheld the historic decision in Urgenda Foundation v. The State of the Netherlands (2015), which ‘determined the Dutch government must reduce CO2 emissions by a minimum of 25 per cent (compared to 1990) by 2020 to fulfil its obligation to protect and improve the living environment against the imminent danger caused by climate change’.

— Read more over at Eureka Street

Ideology and idiocy in national energy policy

The Australian Greens have called for the establishment of a government-owned energy retailer, Power Australia, in order to bring down energy prices and drive emissions reduction ‘by providing a guaranteed buyer for clean energy’ to ‘contract the next wave of renewable energy projects’.

Of course, you’d expect such a call from the Greens, but calls for investor certainty in the clean energy market have also been coming from industry, as the government struggles to develop a coherent, bipartisan energy policy (as has just happened in New Zealand).

In the wake of the recent ousting of Malcolm Turnbull over the emissions reduction components of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), new Prime Minister Scott Morrison decided to decouple carbon emissions from government energy policy.

— Read more over at Eureka Street

Christian PM should have a heart for climate

Australia has always been a land of bushfires, but usually not in winter. This past month, however, the NSW Rural Fire Service was faced with over 80 significant bushfires. Scientists were reportedly shocked by the scale of the fires and environmental change academics have, unsurprisingly, blamed global warming.

And what did our government do in response to these fires (and related widespread drought)? It decided to continue to play Survivor: The Musical Chairs Edition and knock off another leader — on the basis of his desire to introduce emissions reductions, no less. Good times.

As others have noted, climate change policy has played a key role in the political instability of Australian politics over the last decade. And it has mostly been due to the recalcitrance of our political class in resisting any action that might jeopardise its cosy relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

 

Laying waste to waste

This week Coles announced it will give away its reusable plastic bags, after having received a barrage of abuse from a minority of shoppers who were disgruntled with having to bring their own or pay 15 cents to purchase a plastic one.

While Coles has announced this is an interim measure (until 29 August) to allow customers ‘more time to make the make the transition to reusable bags‘, others argue that in the meantime it effectively removes all incentive for customers to bring their own. Worse still, these new reusable bags take even longer than the old single-use ones to break down once they are discarded, and this is often after just one use.

The extreme resistance of a minority of shoppers is one issue, but what interests me is that while 80 per cent of us support a plastic bag ban most of us still accept and use them regularly while out shopping. The fact is that it is all too easy to make daily choices that negatively affect the environment, and there are many incentives for us to do so — cost, time, social norms. This is where policies like plastic bag bans come in — they change the incentives and not only help us to do the right thing but also to normalise it within our culture.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

Us and them: reconceiving trees

Charlie stood frozen in the doorway, tears streaming down his little cheeks. ‘What’s wrong, hon?’ I asked. ‘The tree,’ he said, pointing at the huge Poinciana that lived in our front garden.

A week earlier, a large branch had fallen during a storm and the arborist had arrived that morning to check on the tree. To our dismay, he discovered that it was rotten to the core and would have to go. He just couldn’t save it.

The kids cried all the way to the school bus. ‘I’m going to cry all day,’ said Charlie. ‘I loved that tree,’ my daughter, Lily, added.

It was dusk when I returned home, but through the dying light I could make out a large scar on the landscape of our garden. The empty space seemed to reproach me.

When I spoke to friends and colleagues about our tree, they all seemed to relate. One colleague spoke of the death of a large Jacaranda in her childhood garden. Another, of his and his wife’s valiant efforts to save an old tree in their garden and their delight when it recovered. Other friends spoke of their deep sadness when neighbours sold up, and the new buyers cleared away beloved trees for new development.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

 

Will veganism save the planet?

Last Tuesday 5 June was World Environment Day. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to find out what most people do to try to limit their impact on the environment.

I’m happy to report that, according to my highly rigorous and scientifically valid survey (okay, twitter), we are all making significant changes to our lives — both in terms of daily habits and big lifestyle choices — in order to try to protect our planet.

To give you a feel for the responses, I’ll group them into a number of key themes. The first is consumption. People are consciously reducing their consumption, avoiding ‘fast fashion’ and meat, and trying to buy locally or only second-hand. Right on theme for this year’s World Environment Day, people are also focused on eliminating their use of single use plastics by avoiding excess packaging, and bringing their own containers, water bottles, keep cups, and shopping bags.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

 

Rewriting the story: The power of feminist narrative

As the daughter of a staunch feminist, I genuinely expected to grow up into a culture where gender equality had been achieved – or, at least, that it would be a lot closer. Instead, in 2018, women in Australia are still likely to be paid 15.3% less than their male colleagues, to be discriminated against at work (especially after pregnancy), to suffer from sexual harassment, to be the victims of violence, and to end their lives in poverty.

And, as Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has noted, ‘women who experience intersectional inequality often experience higher rates of [discrimination and] violence, and face additional barriers to seeking help and support’.

Given all this, it would be reasonable to ask why I spend my spare time running a feminist writers festival? Aren’t books and writing somewhat trivial concerns when compared to Australia’s shocking rates of domestic violence or coming ‘tsunami of homeless older women’? It’s a fair point, but I’d argue just the opposite. Both are actually central to shaping the narratives that we tell ourselves about our culture, our heroes, and ourselves.

… Read the rest over at Broad Agenda.

The fight to make water a human right

[Excerpt from article over at Eureka Street.]

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council recognised the existence of a human right to water, guaranteeing access for everyone to ‘sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses’.

Eight years on, it is past time that Australia incorporated this right into domestic law. Nonetheless, any push to do so will face an uphill battle, due to the awkward position occupied by human rights within our culture.

Surveys of the Australian population have found a significant gap between those who believe our human rights are sufficiently well protected, and those more disadvantaged groups who experience a very different reality. Our political class also has a history of ambivalence, or even hostility, to providing more comprehensive protection for human rights, and has been especially reluctant to legally recognise socioeconomic rights.

–Read more over at Eureka Street.–