The Water Resources Group wants to help manage your water

There is a new website up for The Water Resources Group. Those who have been following this group, which is part World Economic Forum, part IFC, part expert community may recall the report from 2009 about achieving Water Security by 2030 (pdf). That report was followed up by the book Water Security published by Island Press in 2011.

Given this history, it is interesting that on the new website (and on various pages) the WRG describes itself as “neutral.”

The word “neutral” is an odd choice, since it doesn’t say what it is neutral with respect to. And nothing is neutral with respect to everything. It will be interesting to see how this neutrality plays out given the explicit statement that WRG targets a change to the “political economy” of water in the passage lifted from the “about” section below.

“The Water Resources Group (WRG)

The Water Resources Group (WRG) is a neutral platform that provides a partnership to help government water officials and other water sector specialists accelerate reforms that will ensure sustainable water resource management for the long-term development and economic growth of their country. It does so by helping to change the “political economy” for water reform in the country by convening new actors and providing water resource data in ways that are manageable for politicians and business leaders. WRG acts as an independent entity and offers no political, partisan or national nuance to the advice proposed. It works closely with in-country water professionals and engages with its government clients in a rapid, time-bound manner, by invitation only.

WRG’s initial phase had been financed and nurtured during 2008-2011 through an informal collaboration between IFC, World Economic Forum (WEF) and some bilateral aid agencies, private sector companies and other organizations and was hosted at WEF.  WRG works solely at the invitation of governments to undertake its in-country activities. To date WRG has responded to invitations from the Governments of Karnataka (India), Jordan, South Africa and Mexico.  Following the Davos 2011 decision to transition the current WRG program into a scalable operation, IFC and various participants in the WRG have agreed to develop a more formal structure for WRG, to be hosted initially within IFC.  After the period of transfer between WEF and IFC, WRG started its second phase in July 2012.”

More Big Dam controversy: the Environmental Assessment of British Columbia’s Site C Dam

There has been quite a bit of controversy over the proposed Site C Dam in North Eastern British Columbia.


Yesterday the environmental assessment was released. Lots of responses from the media (see here or here) for and against for this mega-dam (a mega-dam is anything over 15m high; Site C will be 60m).

There is already a mega-dam on the Peace River upstream of the proposed Site C Dam – the Bennett Dam is 180m high and, since 1968 has held back B.C.’s largest reservoir. Below the Bennett Dam, and also upstream of Site C, is the Peace Canyon dam.

Not long ago the journal Water Alternatives had a free special issue on Big Dams. In it, some of the world’s foremost authorities weighed in on the Big Dam controversy.

All of Water Alternatives articles are free, I should mention, and just require you to make a user name and password.

New book on Wittgenstein and Heidegger

I might be a little late to the party on this one, but this book by Lee Braver does look interesting. And there is an interview about it here (which is also where the information below comes from).

Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger


Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are both considered among the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. Both were born in 1889 in German-speaking countries; both studied under leading philosophers of their day – Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl, respectively – and were considered their philosophical heirs; and both ended up critiquing their mentors and thereby influencing the direction of thought in both the Analytic and Continental traditions. In Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (MIT Press, 2012), Lee Braver, associate professor of philosophy at Hiram College attempts to build what he calls a “load-bearing bridge” between these often polarized traditions. He argues that both thinkers have similar arguments for similar conclusions on similar fundamental issues. Both blame the disengaged contemplation of traditional philosophy for confusion about the nature of language, thought and ontology, and that attention to normal, ongoing human activity in context presents alternative fundamental insights into their nature. The groundless grounds of the title is the idea that finite human nature gives us everything we need to understand meaning, mind and being, and that to insist that this ground requires justification itself betrays confusion.

Keeping the Promise Conference on First Nations Treaty and Land Claims in Gatineau, Feb 26-28th

One of the things that has struck me about the increased attention to Canada’s relationship(s) to First Nations  has been the rise of what I would term “instant expertise.” Not everybody is thrilled with it. For instance, Tobold Rollo’s recent blog post takes the arguments of Tom Flanagan (and others) to task regarding the historical standing and consequent legitimacy of First Nations political and legal claims.

I too have difficulty’s with Flanagan’s arguments, although for some different reasons. I think the historical claims misconstrue, and at least mislead.  This leads to conclusions that are sound (the logic is right) but invalid (the premises are mistaken). My critiques are interested in Flanagan’s co-authored book, Beyond the Indian Act, which sets out an argument for moving towards fee-simple title (i.e. private tenure) for First Nations land.

I will not post the full argument here, but the abstract below will provide some background to how I approach the issue. I have a paper that I’ve been working on, and will be revising in preparation for Keeping the Promise: The Path Ahead to Full Modern Treaty Implementation. At that conference I will present these arguments in full. Until then, here is the summary:

Land, water, territory: what does the privatization of First Nations land imply for other resource rights?

ABSTRACT:  In late 2011 the Canadian Government began studying private property, or fee-simple title options for First Nations land. It began changing rules regarding leased land in 2012 as part of its budget, Bill C45. These types of changes, however, are not only legal. They can have broader social and ecological implications because definitions of “land” and property may affect other resource rights, such as those to water. This paper begins by examining the idea of territory, which has at its roots the notions both of land (Latin: terra) and social power, or terrere (from the Latin: ‘to frighten’). Recent work in political geography has identified the ways in which western states exercise cultural violence through standardized forms of measurement to develop private property systems. The contribution of this paper is its consideration of how cultural definitions of “land” are also part of state territorial claims. Historically, several Canadian jurisdictions have supposed a legal division between land and water. This division, as several First Nations legal scholars point out, is neither cultural appropriate nor ecologically defensible as a basis for the recognition of First Nations water rights. Using this example, this paper suggests ways in which the definitions of “land” required for the privatization of First Nations territory may continue, and possibly exacerbate, struggles for a full suite of resource rights. The argument of the paper is that any redefinition of “land” that is designed to fit private property, or fee-simple title systems, requires addressing a broader suite of resource concerns in order to ensure that no further cultural violence is accomplished through the potential privatization of First Nations land.

The invitation of the Anthropocene: to receive it or not? (w/Dipesh Chakrabarty)

Alongside the rise of discourse regarding the Anthropocene, there are several voices cautioning us to consider precisely what kinds of work space the term impels across the social and natural sciences. I referenced Clive Hamilton’s latest article here, in which he states that the social sciences (I presume he means the social sciences as he particularly defines them) are not going to make the transition to the working days that lie ahead for research in the Anthropocene.

Others have also been adding their take on the matter. For instance, Franklin Ginn argues that this is not the Anthropocene. Ginn’s point is not just that the Anthropocene has not technically been adopted by the scientific community that determines the different epochs, eras and so on used to delineate the geologic record. Rather, his is based on a critique of both the cache and the content of the idea of the Anthropocene itself.

On this point, the video below from Dipesh Chakrabarty is an interesting framing of what the Anthropocene invites us to consider, and what this invitation itself implies.

Earthmasters: Clive Hamilton’s latest on “Playing God with the Climate”

resized_9781743312933_224_297_FitSquareClive Hamilton’s latest book is going to be coming out soon. Clive also has this article out on climate change and the end of the social sciences.

Here’s the info from the publisher’s website:

Earth Masters: Playing God with the Climate

What if there were a magic bullet to fix our ailing planet? What if it meant seizing control of Earth’s climate? Clive Hamilton investigates the huge risks of reaching for desperate measures to save the planet, explains the science accessibly and uncovers the worrying motives of those promoting them.


‘As we collectively contemplate upping the ante on the same arrogant logic that created the climate crisis, we could ask for no wiser nor more trustworthy guide than Clive Hamilton. A dazzling, multilayered exploration of the strange and terrifying world of geoengineering.’ – Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
While Washington, London and Canberra fiddle, the planet burns. It has become painfully clear that the big democracies won’t take the hard decisions to halt climate change. Climate scientists now expect the worst, and they’re considering a response which sounds like science fiction: climate engineering.
This means large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s climate using grand technological interventions, like spraying sulphur compounds into the upper atmosphere to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the planet, or transforming the chemistry of the world’s oceans so they soak up more carbon. The potential risks are enormous: disrupting the food chain, damaging the ozone layer, the loss of monsoon rains in Asia – the list goes on. It is messing with nature on a scale we’ve never before seen, and it’s attracting a flood of interest from scientists, venture capitalists and oil companies.
We have reached the end of the epoch of climate stability that allowed human civilisation to flourish, and the end of the era of ‘progress’. Like an angry beast woken from a long slumber, climate instability is dangerous and resists efforts to control it. In his characteristically lucid and passionate style, Clive Hamilton spells out the implications for all of us.
‘I am in awe of what Clive Hamilton has done in Earthmasters.’ – James Gustave Speth, author of Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment

Country, native title, and ecology: a new (free!) e-book

Australian National University Press has published Jessica K. Weir’s

edited collection: Country, native title and ecology.Country, title and ecology

It is freely available as a download e-pub document here or, if you don’t have an e-reader (or software to convert the file for your PC) then you can read it online at the same link.

Here is the opening paragraph, followed by the table of contents, it looks quite interesting:

“The overtly technical process of making a native title application has obscured one of the central reasons why Indigenous people engage with the native title system – to affirm and promote their relationships with country. This publication focuses on Indigenous peoples’ relationships with country, and seeks to discuss native title in terms that are more directly related to those relationships. In doing so, we also describe ways of living on country that inform and critique mainstream land and water management. This volume also includes case studies that are not classified as part of the native title system, so as to broaden native title issues into the frame of traditional ownership. Limitations with common and statutory native title law have meant that native title is not a land justice system accessible to all traditional owners of country. Profound connection to country frequently exists where native title cannot be successfully applied for, or where traditional owners choose not to make native title applications.”

Title page

Imprint and copyright information

List of Figures and Tables


List of Shortened Forms


1. Country, Native Title and Ecology

2. Connections of Spirit: Kuninjku Attachments to Country

3. The Kalpurtu Water Cycle: Bringing Life to the Desert of the South West Kimberley

4. ‘Two Ways’: Bringing Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledges Together

5. Water Planning and Native Title: A Karajarri and Government Engagement in the West Kimberley

6. Native Title and Ecology: Agreement-making in an Era of Market Environmentalism

7. Towards a Carbon Constrained Future: Climate Change, Emissions Trading and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Australia

Shale oil, fracking and mining: Australia

These are just some interesting links that happened to cross my path yesterday:

There is a new $20 trillion shale oil play in Australia.

Also down-under, there are industry concerns about protests against LNG (Liquified Natural Gas), largely extracted through fracking.

Deloitte’s mining trends for 2013 predictions.

And the top 10 energy projects in the world, by price. There are some massive things going on these days.

Degrowth Montreal: interviews with keynotes/participants

Last May there was a degrowth conference in Montreal. I was only able to attend part of the conference, which had some very innovative presentations on how to rethink and reground economics in terms compatible with our growing understanding of complex systems. These took a variety of approaches from physics, biology, religion, ethics and so forth. A set of interviews with participants has recently been made available here. And I have embedded the interviews below. After trying unsuccessfully to embed the file they are best listened to on the site, or go straight to them through this link. They are all in one large file, so there is an index below if you wish to skip ahead or otherwise listen selectively.

Peter Brown on degrowth – 6m
Michael M’Gonigle on education – 17m
Josh Farley on money and alternatives to GDP  – 26m
David Suzuki on localism – 43m
Bill Rees on denial – 53m
Mary Evelyn Tucker on a new narrative – 1h06m
Janice Harvey on culture change  – 1h12m
Charlie Hall on energy return – 1h27m
Gail Tverberg on peak oil  – 1h43m
Juliet Schor on working less  – 1h5om
Joan Martinez-Alier on ecological economics – 2h6m
Erik Assadourian on degrowth – 2h15m
Gregor Macdonald on the IEA, claims about US oil production and Jeremy Grantham – 2h38m

Will Steffen’s Keynote from The Anthropocene Project