Bond Fights Evil Corporate Water Company

The other day, I watched the latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. While the action/thriller had more in common with the recent Borne series than the Bond films of my youth, one of the subplots particularly intrigued me. After losing a dogfight over the Bolivian desert, Bond and his companion parachute into a sinkhole where they discover that Quantum (the evil criminal organization) has blockaded Bolivia’s fresh water supply which, apparently, in the movie, flows through the desert in subterranean rivers). Piecing together information from some of the prior scenes, you also learn that Quantum’s agent (Dominic Green) is in the process of buying that desert from a Bolivia general planning to overthrow his government.

Although private ownership of fresh water resources is not new, this film seems to take the concept to the “logical” extreme opposed by the likes of Maude Barlow and others. Certainly, there is much left unanswered in this subplot, but the film suggests that once evil Quantum obtains the desert from the would-be Bolivian ruler, it would have full possessory rights in and to the underlying water – a “rule of capture” approach to water rights. Why would a company (evil or not) want to have such rights? That becomes apparent in a later scene where the general is coerced into signing a contract granting Quantum’s agent an exclusive and overpriced water provision contract for the country. In other words, Barlow’s worst nightmare comes true.

I cannot say that such possibilities do not concern me or that all corporations working in the water sector have evil intent. Yet, unregulated private ownership of one of the most important components of life is quite troubling. Moreover, as I stated before, there is “a fundamental human notion that water is so elemental to life that it deserves a unique status in our societal system.” Nonetheless, I do think that there is a viable middle ground and having blogged about it previously, I will not rehash the issue.

Nonetheless, I wonder whether this film is a harbinger of what’s to come? Are there already any lakes, rivers, or aquifers that are wholly owned by a private company? Note that by “owned,” I do not mean a mere right to use or access the water for a defined period of time. Rather, I mean full-blown, unrestricted ownership – where the company has complete legal title to each and every molecule of water in the water body. None come immediately to mind, but I suspect that some of you may be able to point out examples.

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