Marcela Olivera: After the Water Wars

by bicyclemark 1 Comment
Marcela Olivera: After the Water Wars
Photo by Kris Krug / Flickr

Photo by Kris Krug / Flickr

The year was 2000 and on the streets of Cochabamba, Bolivia, people marched and demonstrated against the privatization of their water.  In what became known as the water wars, the people on the streets emerged victorious, kicking out private water companies and re-instating the municipal system.

It was a huge moment in the war for who controls public resources, but as Marcela Olivera explains on the program today, it was only one battle is a very long process that is complicated and incomplete.  But the core question remains as it did in 2000, who has the right to claim and control resources that are essential for human existence?

Food and Water Watch

Ask Your EU Doctors About

by bicyclemark 5 Comments

No this is not a spam post.

While in the United States I usually watch a bit of television and I definitely spend time listening to the radio.? One thing you’ll have no problem encountering on both of these mediums: ads that include the phrase “ASk Your Doctor About…” and then some perscription drug to help some ailment.? Apparently the public should then go to their doctors and tell THEM what drugs they want.

In the European Union this practice has long been banned. No ads with senior citizens strolling on the beach recommending that you ask your doctor about some brilliant new drug.

However, this October the EU will roll out new pharmaceutical policies that are intended to, in their words, “Modernize” the rules for the pharma industry.? One of the provisions they’re putting forward will allow the pharma industry to provide “additional information” to the public via the media.? Which of course would make it possible for some sort of television ad within Europe that presents viewers with what the industry seems additional info, whatever that means in the end.

Various medical organizations throughout Europe as well as Ministries of Health, are sounding the alarms, concerned that this is one step towards the US style onsluaght of ads suggestion you need to ask your doctor about this and that drug in order to happily walk through the forest.? The industry, meanwhile, insists that they would have no interest in that type of information campaign, and would instead want this to free them up for internet based info that people can request, rather than have it pushed on them.? Meanwhile, advocates of the changes insist that there are many other useful policies included in the package, and that there would be some oversight as to what would be deemed suitable additional information.

This change sounds like the first of many on the road towards a US style system where pharmaceutical companies treat people more like customers than patients. Beyond that, makes medicine ever more like a business than a service. Is it too late to stop them? I will try to find out.

Crazy New Jersey Beaches

by bicyclemark 6 Comments

Having been born and raised in New Jersey, I often take time to read through the Asbury Park Press feed, to have a look at what is goiong on in my homestate in the US.? And if you’re reading the Asbury Park Press, you’ll surely run into stories about the beaches of New Jersey, the subject of many a pop-culture reference, the “Jersey Shore”.

Among the things that fascinates me about the Jersey Shore in relation to the rest of the world, the issue of paying to use beaches – why should we and why shouldn’t we?

In some countries highways do not have tolls, they are paid for solely by your tax money, and that is how it is.? In many more countries, beaches are smiliar… kept clean and surpervised with the help of your tax dollars. Just as the street lights outside, the garbage collectors, the street sweepers, it is all publicly funded and accessible.

Yet the Jersey shore, being both a very free market American phenomenon, and also having strong roots in very extremist christian religious values (many beaches were founded by religious communities who wanted to create perfect little oasis communities following their interpretation of a book or a god), you either get communities that value free beaches and all the benefits they provide. Or you get those who believe strongly in the tradition of paying for using the beach, seeing beaches as an extra cost, a special circumstance, not to be compared with roads or garbage collection or other municipal services.? They also see beach fee’s as a way to raise money for cities and towns that are only able to make real profits a few months out of the year.

And so it goes that as you drive (and of course you have to drive in that culture) the Jersey coast, you will encounter all of this. Besides the free beaches, the cheap pay beaches and slightly more costly beaches. On all sides there are town leaders and citizens both complaining and praising.

Stepping back from that region of the world, you consider the other beaches of the US and the world. I’ve seen a decent number of places, well off and poor, and in either case you rarely hear talk of a beach as being somehow seperate from other public resources. Sure there could be private beaches belonging to hotels or clubs, I’ve seen some examples of that.? But otherwise it is a very interesting and perhaps concerning tradition in that part of the US – where people are raised to see a beach not as a public place, but as something more private or simply an extra that one must pay for.? While politicians and citizens look at access to the beach as something they can control and profit directly from.

And that is just one piece of the tattered and beloved Jersey shore puzzle.? I think I’ll go give it a visit next week.? My flight leaves in a few hours.

Water Waste

by bicyclemark

I drink tap water. Constantly.

Yet somehow, much of the first world.. doesn’t anymore. Are you one of them?

This is world water week… and one of my many issues of concern in today’s world is the privatization, commodification, and destruction of the world’s water.

Everywhere I look I see bottled water. People carry them like a fashion statement. They put them in their kitchens for drinking water and act as if using the tap for drinking water is some kind of unthinkable punishment. This despite the fact that in most European cities and many North American cities, the municipal water systems ensure an extremely high quality of drinking water from the tap.

Meanwhile, large corporations mobilize to convince people and governments of how great things will be once they sell off their water system. They hope you won’t notice the disasters they oversaw in South America during the great privatization spree of the late 90’s.

And all the while you’re carrying that plastic bottle with you and cocacola has bought that poland spring or whichever your favorite allegedly spring water you like to drink. Oh and most of that water doesn’t come from a spring either, but the photo of a waterfall on the bottle somehow manages to make people forget that fact.

As it is world water week, Ill be doing more research into who is pushing for more water privatization and looking into who is currently making big bucks off of it. Meanwhile I can only hope that a new trend will emerge, one where people turn back to tap water.. carry a water bottle with h20 from the tap.. if only that would become the new cool.