Monday, March 28, 2016

Clean Water and Human Rights

By Melanie Schuck

The panel on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan at Ramapo College on February 25 was an excellent event to attend. The five panelists each spoke on a different topic connected to the main panel theme. The consensus of the panel was that the government had failed in the situation in Flint. Connected to this consensus is why the government failed in protecting and informing its citizens. Michigan Governor Snyder’s philosophy of government was to cut costs in any way possible. Therefore, his government created the situation and did little to resolve it. In fact, the government of Michigan ignored complaints from residents and overrode decisions to assist the situation.              

An interesting note that I made at the panel was that water is not by law considered a basic human right. The basic human rights, by law, are food, shelter and clothing. The reason this occurred was because water is such a fundamental right it was left out of the legal definition of a human right. Because of this, water was made private in many places in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We see the result of this in the private companies that supply our homes with water and the companies such as Poland Spring and Nestle that sell bottled water. On the topic of bottled water, that has been proposed as a possible solution to the tainted water in Flint. However, as pointed out at the panel discussion, bottled water would be a temporary solution to a major problem.          

The situation in Flint is an example of environmental turbulence. Environmental turbulence can be natural or human caused. In this case, the turbulence is caused by humans but there were instances of natural causes in the situation. The main problem with Flint is that the pipes that are carrying the water into homes are made of lead or have lead in them. However, there were issues with the water that was being brought through the pipes when the original water source was switched to the contaminated Flint River. The second water source had certain elements in it that corroded lead in the pipes and caused the water to be even more unsafe than the original water source which provided a substance that coated the lead.
It seems to me that the environmental crisis in Flint, Michigan is a case of the government failing to do its job, which is something that many governments have done.

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