Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered to debate whether water is a human right or a corporate commodity at a Cougs Vote Public Square event on Thursday as part of Civic Engagement Week.
Francene Watson, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Education, mediated the discussion. She began by talking about Flint, Michigan, and how residents there have not had access to a clean, lead-free public water supply for about a year.
“The nature of today is really thinking about that tension around the effort to privatize water,” Watson said.
Members of the audience split up into groups and talked discussed what can be learned from Flint and how it affects this community.
“Sometimes we aren’t aware of basic things like where does our water come from, and how is it managed,” Watson said. “These are important things to know.”
One aspect of the Flint disaster she pointed out was the formation of a strong participatory democracy and people in the community engaging with each other to address the issues and actively help each other.
Watson passed out copies of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and pointed to article 25 which states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself.”
However, she also addressed the fact that out of the 122 countries which consider water a fundamental human right, the United States is not one.
Watson concluded her talk by reminding the audience that each person is their own body of water, and everyone must be aware each time they turn on the tap.
Reporting by Dana Jensen