|Standing Rock Protest|
The Standing Rock Sioux and representatives from 280 North American Indian tribes, joined by Natives from Ecuador and Hawaii, have taken a stand in the Dakotas against oil companies and for water. Water, I imagine, will be increasingly in the news, and Indians will be the ones bringing it to our attention.
In the New York Times this week we learn that a small tribe in northern California, the Winnemem Wintu, are telling the residents of Weed, California, the officials of Roseburg Forest Products, and Ronan Papillaud, the president of CG Roxane, which owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring together with a Japanese pharmaceutical company, that the waters of Mt. Shasta are not limitless, that it is time to listen to the Mountain. According to tribal members, the spring on Mt. Shasta from which animals and humankind first emerged, and which oral tradition says has never failed, dried up six years ago.
For over 100 years, the city of Weed, which sits in the foothills of the Mountain, has got its water from Beaughan Spring. For the past 50 years, it has been charged $1 a year by Roseburg Forest Products and its predecessor, International Paper. Roseburg, an Oregon-based company that owns the pine forest where the spring sits, is charging the city $97,500 this year! And, according to Ellen Porter, the director of environmental affairs for Roseburg: “The city needs to actively look for another source of water.”
|Weed water protest|
The people of Weed, who have been dependent on the timber company for jobs and sustenance for all
that time, and who are still rebuilding after a major wildfire two years ago, say they have a document showing that previous owner International Paper handed over water rights to the city in 1982. Roseburg, having upped the ante to $97,000 and not flinching, has offered Weed another well-site on company ground. The catch: the site is a few hundred yards from a former wood treatment plant that is now a Superfund site.
The good neighbor policy is apparently at an end, overtaken by the short-term profit motive. Roseburg has recently been selling some of the water from Weed’s spring to Crystal Geyser, and Japan apparently wants more of its bottled water. Papillaud came to town to tell them that he needs more water, and in the course of his visit erupted in a tirade that caused his son to come back later with apologies. But he still wants the water.
“We do not belong in this story,” Mr. Papillaud said. “We are not depriving anyone of anything.” Mr. Papillaud described his deal with Roseburg as a simple relationship between a buyer and seller. “Is this blood water? Are they involved in child labor?… We are clients, end of story.”
Sacramento has an eye on Nestle, and other nearby cities and county governments are dealing with bottled water companies are watching carefully. Is water a commodity to be bought and sold? Or is water, as tribal people remind us continually, a fundamental principle of all life, one to be nurtured, watched out for, and shared by all?
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