Life as we know it can emerge in unusual conditions, even in places where no oxygen or sunlight can reach, but nowhere can life exist without at least a little water. It is no accident that in many cultures water represents the maternal figure, she who nourishes, shelters and comforts, but also a raging force of destruction. For years we believed that immersing ourselves in water cleansed our bodies and souls of all impurities. In Vietnamese, the word rain also describes the homeland or the home. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, water began to be used in a rapacious and extractivist way. Entrepreneurs co-opted springs and rivers, not only for the production of all sorts of objects, but also to dispose of enormous quantities of chemical pollutants, leaving nearby populations with no safe water to drink. Those of us who can rely on regular access to drinking water tend to forget what it means for a family to endure shortages. Water scarcity almost always translates into a lack of hygiene, and it puts lives at risk. People spend several hours a day travelling to collect water from their nearest source. Women and children are generally responsible for water supply, and often this domestic task prevents them from going to school. As if this were not enough, on those long treks, which often take place during the night or at sunrise, they are targets for abuse and violence. That is why in 2010, in a resolution signed by many governments (including ours), the UN General Assembly recognized access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right. Alexandra Haas and Areli Sandoval write about this. One of the most Dantean scenarios of imminent climate change predicts great floods. At this point, it is practically a certainty that following the thinning of the polar ice caps, peninsulas such as Yucatán, Florida, and part of Scandinavia will one day be under the sea. Nathalie Seguin, to whom this issue owes a great deal, explains the relationship between water and climate change. In order to mitigate the consequences of the latter, the author says, it is imperative that the water cycles we have so recklessly altered be reestablished. In her text “Water with an A for Ayutla” [“Agua con A de Ayutla”] Yásnaya Aguilar speaks of the great injustice perpetrated against her community in the Sierra Mixe of Oaxaca, that has been deprived of water for almost three years by organized crime acting in collusion with the state government. For farming communities, rain determines the success or the failure of harvests. For this reason, their inhabitants confer water with a ritual value upon which the balance of life depends. “The Owners of Water,” the essay written by Anahí Luna, explains just what these rites and worldviews consist of. Many lies are told around the subject of water. Among them, the idea that it is running out and that there will come a time when only those with enough purchasing power to pay for it will have access to it. In this edition, experts tell us that the volume of water contained within our planet has remained the same throughout human history and will not decrease. But they also point out that polluting it to the point where the damage becomes irreversible, privatizing it, or making poor use of it, is tantamount to making it disappear. In relation to this, Alejandro Calvillo shows us how after a plateau in their sales, large soda companies decided to begin selling bottled water. In order to increase their profits, they spread an unjustified fear of running water. This proved to be a very successful marketing strategy, the consequences of which we are still suffering today. It takes 70 liters of water to produce one liter of soda, Calvillo reveals, thus promoting the practice of theoretically converting every product we consume into water, a method that Mir Rodríguez Lombardo develops in his eloquent infographic on virtual water. Just like gold, petroleum, or any other precious substance, water has sparked many a war. In order to offer our readers a clearer overview of these historical conflicts, we have placed some of them on a timeline. Water currently constitutes one of the major causes of the injustice that afflicts our societies. While the very few tend to huge golf courses, pastures, and swimming pools, entire towns are entirely deprived of it. Those who monopolize water, monopolize life. And they sentence the rest of us to death.
Imagen de portada: Delta del Okavango, Botsuana. Fotografía de Lion Mountain