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.”

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

Water ethics and First Nations

A couple of recently published pieces examining issues of water, justice, policy and First Nations in Canada. In addition, here is a 2003 article from Glenn C. Reynolds that is not specific to the Canadian case, it was free to download on the web so here is the  PDF.

(1) The first is by Kenichi Matsui, who also authored Native Peoples and Water Rights in 2009 through McGill-Queens Press.  It is published by the International Indigenous Policy Journal and is available under a Creative Commons License so here is the pdf of: Water Ethics for First Nations and Biodiversity in Western Canada, and here is the abstract:


The increasing division of academic disciplines and bureaucracy has led to the compartmentalization of knowledge on water security, biodiversity, Indigenous rights, and traditional ecological knowledge policy. The attempt to re-establish links among these issues in academic studies can shed light on integrated water governance and the establishment of water ethics. In order to facilitate this effort, this paper discusses three propositions: (1) the establishment of strong legal and ethical frameworks is needed; (2) policymakers and scientists alike need to recognize links between biodiversity and water security; and (3) they need to improve cross-cultural understanding and communication in using the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local people. This article examines these issues in Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) because this region has invited cross-cultural and inter-jurisdictional conflicts since the twentieth century.

(2) The second is a book that came out this past summer by Michael Mascarenhas titled: Where the water’s divide: neoliberalism, white privilege, and environmental racism in Canada.

Here is the blurb from the publishers website:

This timely and important scholarship advances an empirical understanding of Canada’s contemporary “Indian” problem. Where the Waters Divide is one of the few book monographs that analyze how contemporary neoliberal reforms (in the manner of de-regulation, austerity measures, common sense policies, privatization, etc.) are woven through and shape contemporary racial inequality in Canadian society.Using recent controversies in drinking water contamination and solid waste and sewage pollution, Where the Waters Divide illustrates in concrete ways how cherished notions of liberalism and common sense reform — neoliberalism — also constitute a particular form of racial oppression and white privilege.
Where the Waters Divide brings together theories and concepts from four disciplines — sociology, geography, Aboriginal studies, and environmental studies — to build critical insights into the race relational aspects of neoliberal reform. In particular, the book argues that neoliberalism represents a key moment in time for the racial formation in Canada, one that functions not through overt forms of state sanctioned racism, as in the past, but via the morality of the marketplace and the primacy of individual solutions to modern environmental and social problems. Furthermore, Mascarenhas argues, because most Canadians are not aware of this pattern of laissez faire racism, and because racism continues to be associated with intentional and hostile acts, Canadians can dissociate themselves from this form of economic racism, all the while ignoring their investment in white privilege.
Where the Waters Divide stands at a provocative crossroads. Disciplinarily, it is where the social construction of water, an emerging theme within Cultural Studies and Environmental Sociology, meets the social construction of expertise — one of the most contentious areas within the social sciences. It is also where the political economy of natural resources, an emerging theme in Development and Globalization Studies, meets the Politics of Race Relations — an often-understudied area within Environmental Studies. Conceptually, the book stands where the racial formation associated with natural resources reform is made and re-made, and where the dominant form of white privilege is contrasted with anti-neoliberal social movements in Canada and across the globe.