Freshwater : An Essential Human Right - How Nestle’s Freshwater Withdrawals from the Great Lakes Region Set a Dangerous Global Precedent
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This paper focuses on how Nestle's freshwater withdrawal operations in the Great Lakes Region are setting a dangerous global precedent by allowing corporate control of water - a survival resource that is deemed a human right by the United Nations. Through corporate lobbying and accommodating legislation written by the state and provincial governments that surround the Great Lakes, Nestle has moved into the region to set up bottling facilities and pumping stations that intrude on local properties and have negative impacts on the surrounding environment. Documents such as The Great Lakes Compact, which had the potential to end Nestle’s ability to bottle water from the Great Lakes Basin and then distribute it elsewhere, have proven disappointingly inconsequential. In response, activists from around the region have taken it upon themselves to build grassroots organizations and movements to fight entities like Nestle, and the results have gained traction in the global freshwater discussion. By focusing on the stories of Wisconsin Dells, WI and Mecosta County, MI, it’s illustrated how small towns across the region are standing up for their freshwater rights and pushing back. In addition, the paper focuses on how Indigenous activists have played an essential role in the struggle for water conservation, sharing knowledge and traditions to fight the dangers of corporate power and the destruction of the natural world. Finally, the dangers of climate change and the threat of water shortages worldwide lead to the analyzation of events in the Aral Sea and in Cape Town, South Africa, where water crises have led to panic and hardship for local residents. As the planet’s average temperature rises, weather cycles that have evolved for millenia will change, and with it, cycles of precipitation and evaporation, leading to more consistent extreme weather events. After all this, we must ask - can we as a species truly afford the commodification of freshwater by corporations seeking profit, or must we now begin the process of revamping water policy infrastructure to create equitable, environmentally conscious systems that we can rely on for decades to come?
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