Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, critic of the corporate power exercised in the worldwide net of free trade agreements, author and an expert on the perilous condition of the world’s water.
For Canadian environmental activist and author Maude Barlow, water is the next oil. As the scrappy chair of the Council of Canadians, Barlow led a public fight against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 1980s. And for over a decade, she has focussed her boundless energy on a crisis of global proportions: the looming world-wide water shortage, which is accelerated by free-trade deals that privatize water.
As the United Nations’ Senior Adviser on Water in 2008/2009, the Ottawa-based activist successfully campaigned to have water recognized as a human right. Barlow now travels the world, mobilizing citizens to protect their water. In the autumn of 2013, she released her 17th book, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, an urgent but hopeful call to save this vital resource. In Blue Future Barlow argues that water is not a commodity, but a basic right. She also predicts that water shortages will ultimately cause citizens to rally to fight the corporate greed that is devastating the natural environment.
Barlow has a long, rich history as a political and environmental activist. In the 1980s, she was Senior Adviser on Women’s Issues to the Prime Minister of Canada and director of the City of Ottawa’s Equal Opportunity Office. In 1988, she became national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, an organization through which she has led several high-profile national projects, including a successful campaign to stop the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). She co-chairs the Washington-based Food and Water Watch. Barlow has received roughly a dozen honorary doctorates and numerous awards, including the Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship Award in 2004, the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award, and a 2009 Planet in Focus Eco Hero Award.
Barlow is heavily involved in both national and international environmental issues. As part of her work with the Blue Planet Project, an organization she co-founded to stop the commodification of the world’s water, Barlow recently worked on water rights in Mexico City. She is at the forefront of the fight against hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” She is also opposed to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Barlow says the deal, which is meant to secure Europe’s access to Canada’s oil, minerals and forests, is a lose-lose for all but the big corporations on all sides, particularly First Nations communities.