The Council of Canadians organized a small demo for International Water Day today.
It was a bit odd standing on frozen water looking out over frozen Lake Ramsey, (the largest lake entirely within city limits in the world unless you count Wanapitei) to worry about water. You would think that a water day demonstration should be on a hot day with liquid water. In fact International Water day is primarily about the billions in warmer places with less water. That’s why, for example, the cover of one UN report on water shows three African women in traditional dress – the developing world is where the crises is expected to bite hardest. And in many places in the developing world women are responsible for getting water and transporting it. The burden of growing scarcity is expected to fall especially heavily on women.
There are three main reasons why water for human use is getting scarce in so many parts of the world.
First, population is rising. That is not something we can have much influence over. Canada’s population would be falling except that we have a fairly high immigration rate. The number of immigrants is tiny in terms of world population growth, so we are not significantly relieving the pressure on water supplies on other continents through the population channel.
Second, as development occurs water consumption per person increases. We can’t do much about that for the rest of the world either. Canadian water intensity is actually dropping slightly, and besides even if we conserve the water here in Northern Ontario it doesn’t help anyone Australia or Africa. We can’t really send Lake Ramsey to the barrios of Rio de Janeiro.
The third reason water supply is becoming a problem is because of climate change. This we can help with. If Ontario implements a carbon tax, Canada and the world move a little closer to slowing climate change.
A carbon tax for Ontario is the biggest and most strategic move that we here in Sudbury have. We can’t affect world wide water shortages alone, but as a Province, we in Ontario can swing the country. BC has a carbon tax already. Add the 38% of Canadians in Ontario and we have 51% of Canada. This is the tipping point! This one political decision we make changes the world.
I was actually asked to speak about the economic advantages of moving the main rail line away from the community’s main water source, and I did. I’ll put the main argument in another note soon.
The demonstration was held by the railroad tracks along Ramsey Lake. It was a beautiful sunny day with railroad police making sure we didn’t trespass on the tracks. Not having access to part of the lake because of a railroad is not a world-shattering problem, of course. Even the fact that the line carries oil and other hazardous cargoes that are a threat to our water supply seems small compared to climate change, but these are important local issues, and we can make progress on them too.