The Business of Corporate Freeloading.

In 2010, the United Nations confirmed there is a universal human right to adequate water for consumption. Unfortunately, this supposed entitlement is not distributed proportionately and some of the most marginalized areas in the world experience water stress. Cue a complex war on water with the interposition of both privatization and exploitation.

Water is not a limitless resource and its consumption should be treated carefully. While I fundamentally agree that water is a human necessity, I am not ignorant toward the politics of water as a privilege.

Water is a commodity by the very nature of its value; it is a source that will continue to be marketed, sold, and consumed.

In Canada, the government has proven to be overly lenient when it comes to this exchange; alarmingly, there’s a severe lack of regulation at both provincial and federal levels. In 2016, the government hoped to harness this commodification by regulating its consumption: charging large companies fees for their utilization and extraction of groundwater. This reform was unprecedented in provinces like British Columbia where the news of the impending regulated water techniques generated critique and triggered a discourse.

In 2015 when I drafted this article, to illustrate my concern I used Nestlé, the largest producer of bottled water in Canada today, as a point of reference. The National Post’s Dan Fumano explained that Nestlé will pay the Canadian government the rate of $2.25 per million litres. In fact, Fumano claimed “Nestlé will pay the government $596.25 a year for 265 million litres of water.” Confused?

You pay about three dollars for a litre of bottled water, but starting in January 2016, Nestlé paid less than that in regulatory fees for extracting one million litres of groundwater.

This privatization removes the resource from public hands and redirects ownership toward greedy corporations and governmental institutions that are not guaranteed to take every precaution necessary to establish a principled use of water. Corporations are concerned about how to capitalize with speed and abundance; unfortunately,  local communities and regions are likely to be neglected in this process. Water as a human right, and necessity, is being overlooked.

The CEO of Nestlé Canada, Shelley Martin, spearheads the notion that businesses are successful when the local community is tended to. The irony is palpable though: the CEO praising community consideration while simultaneously signing contracts to further the company’s exploitative approach to the sale of water, and preparing to purchase one million litres of water for the price of a large cup of coffee.

For me, the question has expanded: who owns water? What about small-scale businesses reliant on this resource, is this another classic capitalistic takeover as the extraction and sale of water becomes more accessible for behemoth corporations wielding money and power? What about broader community impacts at a local level; can regulation indicate local protection? Past this, what happens when the demand for water far exceeds the supply of it? Even before complications of resource extraction, how does the future of water hold up in the midst of climate change? What about hydropower initiatives, or food sustainability and agricultural irrigation processes dependent on water?

Though Nestlé is an incredibly lucrative brand, the company’s privatization of water coupled with Canada’s inability to structure fortified future regulations reveals the degenerate side of business. If privatization is the logical next step, sustainability should be a uniting goal.  Paying less than one month’s rent for 265 million litres of water is unacceptable, unsustainable, and obscures the UN’s prescription of water as a human right.

Let’s Have a Conversation:
UN: Economic & Social Council (Right to Water)
Kaveh Madani’s TEDx Talk on Water


Earlier version originally posted March 2015 in The Cord at Wilfrid Laurier University (student publication). 

The F-Word.

Years ago I wouldn’t have associated with feminism. I lacked the basic knowledge; I conceptualized the term as equality on one hand and what I referred to as “tits out extremists” on the other. In my early opinion, the latter had exploited this struggle for gender equality and diluted the objective. I didn’t feel a need to #freethenipple, burn my bra, or commit to growing body hair to earn the right to engage in a dialogue about why I earn less than men, why I am uncomfortable with catcalls, why I walk home with keys in my hand, why I am scared to acknowledge sexual harassment in an unjust system, and why I have had to publicly explain to thousands of students at my university why my body is not simply a reproductive machine.

This F-word is not dirty. There is not a misunderstanding about what general feminism entails; it demands equality and sameness. The misconception is that women are not out to get equal, we are out to get even. Unreservedly, we want it all: maximum outcome with minimum repercussion. While I don’t think we’re close to a stage of unification when it comes to feminism, I believe focusing on communication is paramount.  The topic itself is expansive. There are various types of feminism, distinct waves of feminist theory with diverging rhetoric and key players, simultaneous movements from POC, non-binary or genderqueer individuals, and the power-laden nature of feminism within global governance on an international scale. 

I so desperately want to immerse myself with information, participate in a dialogue, and to remain an ally as I recognize my own position of power and take full accountability to acknowledge my own problematic behaviours and missteps. And I get it – I understand that my impression of feminism is merely an idea. I understand that my opinion of feminism is viewed through a western lens; while this doesn’t imply it lacks total credibility, I can only speak assuredly for myself in the context that I know and then listen to learn from others who experience severe micro-aggressions. I am aware of the role that identity politics plays and of the intense stratification of this kyriarchy. I remain cognizant that my initial perception of feminism originated from the antiquated gendered dichotomy of male and female. I recognize that there are massive cohorts of people that remain unaccounted for under the umbrella that is feminism: that there is an intersectionality and a broadness to the term. Amid all of our opposing realities, individual experiences and associations, feminism represents our collective struggle toward a version of sameness, inclusivity, and liberation. 

I maintain that people are far too preoccupied arguing about what feminism isn’t based off our subjective experiences that we have failed to reach a permanent, justified understanding of what it is to each other, then how to support one another, and to validate or inform those who identify as an ally.

How hard can we push to have meaningful conversation?

What about our willingness to listen?