In this age of endless easy petitions and staged town halls, surely we've reached the tipping point for public consultation and policy input. Rule makers want our opinion about stopping bottled water, burying nuclear waste, tar sands pipelines, micro-plastics, water shut offs, boil water advisories, nutrient overload, and the list goes on. But rather than being consulted by the rule makers, what if we organized better ways to set the rules ourselves?
Water justice is not just about changing the distribution of water access and benefits, but access to the water governing rules too. The human right to water is a challenge globally and even here in the Great Lakes too. In recent years, the struggle for clean and affordable water has risen in Flint, Detroit, and in over 100 First Nations across Canada. This post presents 2 examples of how Indigenous nations are taking back some control over how the waters are governed.
The 2008 financial crisis was ripe for a meltdown since those most literate with the world’s financial laws and limits were accomplices in the damage. An obscure and unquestioned governance system was the ideal setting for public negligence and private greed. 2008 proved that banks are not “too big to fail.” The regulators and traders skirted responsibility and hit a windfall, while about 10 trillion dollars was taken from people’s financial assets. The system crashed, the banks failed their customers, and yet in 2017 it is still business as usual. In 2017 we should be wondering about the Great Lakes: will they crash as well?
On June 21, eight American states that border the Great Lakes agreed to let the City of Waukesha (in Wisconsin) to withdraw water from Lake Michigan. This decision has generated a lot of conversation and concern about the Great Lakes, but what has been missing when we include questions about sewage, bottled water, trade, and the current water agreements responsible for governance?
In 2015 Ontario passed the Great Lakes Protection Act. One key difference to this Act was the establishment of Guardians Council. The Great Lakes Commons community is encouraged by this difference because the focus on 'Guardianship' aligns well with many of our principles. But how might a Guardian protect the waters differently than a typical stakeholder? What can a Great Lakes Commons offer this new Council?