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Running dry

Maude Barlow issues plenty of warnings about the water crisis, but few practical solutions

NON-FICTION

PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHELLE VALBERG

Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis

Maude Barlow

ECW Press

WITH 2016 on track to shatter heat and drought records, the crises of climate change and declining freshwater supplies that have long afflicted the global south are increasingly appearing in Canada, where the seemingly unlimited flow of blue gold is under serious threat from a combination of corporate greed, lax government oversight, and a complacent “it can’t happen here” mindset.

That’s the well-made argument of Maude Barlow, a long-time advocate and national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, who has also worked as the United Nations’ senior adviser on water. A gadfly who continues to tilt at windmills – often successfully – she carries (like veteran Australian anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott) the unenviable mantle of doomsayer, recounting the ills of the world in the hope that someone will listen.

In this instance, things look pretty grim. Predictions that the Great Lakes could run dry by the end of the century accompany warnings that the country’s remaining lakes and rivers – many fighting oxygen depletion brought on by soaring algal blooms – could be drained in a bottled-water bonanza that will temporarily quench the parched American southwest while fattening the bottom lines of big business. Barlow also documents the decades-long crisis of boil-water advisories in First Nations communities while pointing out the dangers posed by everything from tar sands expansion and leaking oil pipelines to effluent runoff from factory farms and mining operations.

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About Quill & Quire

André Alexis, Defining success on his own terms; Writers' trust prize authors and editors on 20 years of award-winning books.