Toward a Global Water Ethic: Learning from Indigenous Communities

| June 2018
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Abstract: This review essay examines three important new contributions to the water governance literature, which provide important overviews of the changing water governance structures over time, and advance the call for a new water ethic. Furthering this work, I suggest that the need for a water ethic is globally important, but it is particularly urgent for indigenous communities. Settler expansion, fixed political boundaries, and subsequent colonial framings of land and water ownership have affected indigenous communities throughout the world and have led to severe environmental and social justice disparities. Although the books under consideration provide examples of indigenous rights associated with water protection, the theme is largely underdeveloped. Thus, I suggest that insights from indigenous communities’ more holistic and long-term relationship with water could help define and move forward the adoption of a new global water ethic. These insights are gleaned from work with indigenous communities throughout North America, particularly those in the Salish Sea and the Great Lakes regions. A new water ethic could incorporate three precepts: (1) treat water as sacred; (2) consider rights and responsibilities together; and (3) practice hydrophilia (love and know your waterways).

Keywords: water governance, global water ethics, environmental ethics, indigenous communities, social justice

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Category: Issue 32.2, Review Essays

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