Volume 21, Number 6
Mississippi’s SB 2988
Bruce k. Gagnon
A War on Communities
Z magazine Readers
Sean Bell Verdict
Damming the Flood
Triumph of Lunacy
Dr. Wall Street
Colombia Trade Deal
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
World Water Crisis
Water is the new oil. While western politicians and consumers fret over the declining economy and increasing oil prices, the news from East Africa is that with a growing majority of the world living on less than a dollar a day, the liquid that fuels bodies is becoming even more contentious than the liquid that fuels cars.
I've spent the last four months reporting stories about water from Ethiopia and Kenya, two countries at the forefront of the world's coming water crisis. The director of a local water NGO told me a few days after I arrived in Ethiopia in January 2008, "As you may know, Alex, the coming World War III will be fought over water, not oil." Variations on that refrain were echoed by aid workers and researchers across the region over the next several months. Women walk for miles each day to collect drinking water; farmers are pushed into deadly conflict by dwindling river flows, and city water supplies are drained by overzealous irrigation. The bigger picture that the smaller stories hint at is one of ecological disaster and conflict over resources that will affect millions and have repercussions around the world.
Carrying water in Dillo, Ethiopia—photo by Alex Stonehill
Carrying water in Dillo, Ethiopia—photo by Alex Stonehill
These people lost all their livestock, as well as many of their family members, to the conflict, and they now survive on cactus and occasional handouts from the locals. In recent months that hospitality has begun to wear thin as well. To get water to drink and wash they dig into the sandy bottom of the dry riverbed until they've scratched deep enough to reveal the muddy water that flows beneath.
The elders of the village earnestly described their situation to me, asking hopefully if I knew anyone who could help, but I suspected that their story would never find its way into the media. After all, the scale of their tragedy can't compare to other African conflicts that are making the news and there isn't any element of geopolitical intrigue here—just poor people fighting over water.
I later realized that, in fact, the scale of this story was massive. Refugees from similar conflicts over access to shrinking water and pasture- land are scattered across southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.
Pastoralists are especially vulnerable to climate change because they already live so close to the margins, dependant on grazing their cattle and camels in areas where agriculture is barely viable. A small decrease in rainfall can be a death sentence for animals if sparse watering holes go dry. Most herders are armed against predators and would sooner clash with other groups to get access to water than stand by and watch their animals die.
The two main insurgencies currently beleaguering the Ethiopian government are devoted to the independence of Oromia and the Ogaden, both long-neglected lowland areas with large pastoralist populations. Neighboring Somalia, which for over 15 years has been dominated by inter-clan conflicts like the one that displaced the refugees in Ethiopia, is an extension of the same arid lowland and is almost entirely populated by pastoralists as well. Even the genocides in Darfur and Rwanda were born from the cultural collisions between pastoralists and farmers.
There's no denying that these are politically motivated conflicts, but the role water scarcity plays in creating the preconditions of desperation and discontent is equally undeniable.
"Water is life" is a phrase repeated over and over again by East African aid workers. But a more revealing variation might be "water symbolizes wealth." Even in highland urban capitals like Addis Ababa and Nairobi, where temperatures are cool and rains are plentiful, access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities tops the list of problems cited by slum dwellers, who make up half the population of some cities. Deaths from waterborne disease usually receive less attention, although they typically exceed deaths from AIDS.
Damaged water pipe in Kibera—photo by Alex Stonehill
Damaged water pipe in Kibera—photo by Alex Stonehill
Slum residents are angry about this kind of government neglect. Tensions increase further when such neglect appears to exist along ethnic lines. When slum residents riot, as they did following last December's elections in Kenya, it is usually presented in the media as violence in a vacuum or as ethnic strife. But it's no coincidence that this kind of violence often breaks out in places where people lack access to basic services like water and don‘t have many other options for getting the attention of their political leaders. When chaos erupted in Kibera in January, some of the first targets for vandalism were tanks owned by water vendors who had been price gouging for years.
A Ugandan environmentalist told me about the nightmare prospect of the world's second largest lake drying up completely. Lake Victoria's levels have receded by several meters in recent years, destroying the breeding grounds for fish, and endangering the 30 million East Africans who live around the lake. Kenyans chasing fish into deeper Ugandan waters have been arrested and allegedly tortured by Ugandan military.
In addition to rising temperatures, decreased rainfall, and watershed deforestation, scientists and fisher- people alike blame new hydroelectric projects at the source of the River Nile in Uganda from draining too much water out of the shrinking lake.
Without international cooperation on conservation, this sort of tit for tat race to exploit resources faster than a neighbor may ensure that Lake Victoria ends up like other devastated bodies of water, such as the Aral Sea and Lake Chad.
Conflicts over the water resources of the Lake Victoria/Nile River system seem almost inevitable. The nine countries that share the system (Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) are some of the world's poorest nations and their populations are exploding, increasing stress on endangered water resources.
Just as Kenyan farmers are decreasing inflows into Lake Victoria by cutting forests in its watersheds, the Ugandan government is increasing outflows by running more water through its new dams into the Nile. Just as Ethiopians are pushing to industrialize their agricultural sector for export, putting new land under irrigation, hundreds of miles down- river Egypt is channeling millions of gallons of water out of the river to "reclaim" vast swaths of desert.
With the current regional population of 387 million on course to double in the next 30 years, the equation of available gallons of water from this system just doesn't add up. Movements for international cooperation, such as the Nile Basin Initiative, have yielded some promising results, but in a corner of the world already fraught with tense rivalries, control over the most basic human resource is almost certain to be a cause for violent conflict.
For Americans, environmentalism has traditionally been concerned with preserving natural beauty for its own sake and protecting nature from the advances of civilization. But in East Africa, home to an impressive environmental movement, environmentalism is inseparable from humanitarianism. Here, when ecosystems are destroyed, people are almost always directly harmed as well, even if they are the ones doing the destroying.
The experiences of Africans struggling to find fish in Lake Victoria or fighting over dwindling pastureland for their livestock in Ethiopia might not seem like particularly important stories for U.S. news audiences. But these small stories are relevant for what they tell us about the story of the planet as an ecological whole. When violence over access to basic resources like water erupts among people who depend directly on the earth for their survival, it is an important reminder. Despite the distinctions we've imagined between the survival of the natural environment and our own prosperity, the health of the earth and the health of humans are one and the same.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.