by Megan Connolly*
“If you think you have problems with oil, wait until multinationals own all the water in the world. They are already buying in South America, Europe and in the United States. Once they get a hold of the water, be prepared to pay gas prices for water.” This is a statement from Dean Cofer of the Operating Engineers Union in Stockton, California, a city affected by the privatization of water by global water corporations.
Thirst, a film by Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow, examines the little-known global struggle for the future of humanity’s most essential natural resource, water. The World Bank is accelerating the privatization (changing of public ownership or control to private enterprise) of water in most of the developing world by requiring countries to sell public water systems as a precondition to get loans. The loss of public water systems means the loss of a city or village’s infrastructure and jobs. In turn, water is becoming the oil of the 21st century.
Thirst takes a piercing look into three different sections of the world: California, Bolivia and India. Residents of Stockton, California, fight for the people’s right to vote as their mayor decides that they should sell their public water system to a corporation without the public’s consent. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, we are taken to the streets in which riots resulting in deaths occurred after Bechtel took over the public water system. In India, the viewer sees how communities use ingenious plans to harvest their rainwater, creating sufficient and efficient water systems even in a desert landscape. However, many people are losing the water they work so hard for because of corporations such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi (creators of Aquafina) taking and selling their water. They bottle community water and sell the bottles for more than the price of milk, which makes it unaffordable to most people in India.
Thirst introduces a topic that concerns each and every one of us. The future of water is at stake, privatization is happening to water in the United States, not just in other “far-away” countries. Thirst will leave the viewer informed about the world’s current water crisis which could quite possibly hit home within the next few years as it did in Stockton, California. Thirst will also leave the viewer concerned about where that water in their bottles from the vending machine really came from.
Rajendra Singh, the mastermind behind the harvesting of rainwater in Rajasthan, India, states, “Let me tell you one thing. Small local action can change global thinking in a second. It influences global thinking in no time. Starting from such a small spot, it spreads in the village, in the country, and the world.”
*Megan Connolly is a Moraine Valley student, who writes a regular column, “In the LRC,” for the student newspaper The Glacier. In this column, Ms. Connolly reviews and highlights new additions to the library’s collection. This article has been reprinted with permission.