The debilitating effects of climate change and global warming are unfolding in front of our very eyes. Not many realise that we are currently in the midst of a severe global water crisis. According to the UN World Meteorological Organisation, 3.6 billion people had inadequate access to water in 2018. The organisation now predicts that a staggering five billion people could have difficulty accessing water in 2050.
Water, the most essential of resources, is the reason why there is life on earth. The more the earth dehydrates, as a result of global warming, the more barren it will become — unable to sustain life. Scientists claim that the duration and frequency of drought events have intensified by 30% over the past 20 years. This is an existential threat to all living species on earth.
This apocalyptic nightmare becomes more dystopian when superimposed onto the current global capitalist system. Wealthy capitalists have absolute control over the 0.5% of useable water on Earth. It is relentlessly being pumped from the ground, packaged and delivered by multinational companies at exorbitant rates. The major chunk of commodified resources goes to First World countries and are consumed by the few rich and elite. Whatever little is left must be bought by poor countries in the highly competitive international market. This exacerbates inequality where the rich few have ample access to water while millions around the world continue to die of thirst.
The news has come just weeks before the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26. World leaders will continue with their diplomatic speeches and highlight the contributions they have made — but nothing substantial will come about. If we are to avert the crisis, a two-pronged approach is necessary through which we target both the capitalist mindset and global warming. In such an unprecedented situation, we must look to create a new type of ethics that dismantles the commercial structures and situates itself in the climate crisis. Such ethics will hold individuals and corporations accountable, and put life at the centre of meaning. In the meantime, we must make sure that resources are scarcely used and equally distributed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2021.