Monday, March 20, 2006
I'm 95% water, 5% tacos
Maybe you don't know it but the World Water Forum or something like that is coming to DF this week. Mexico City is dry and often hot and the water has almost disappeared. One thing I learned recently is that Mexico City isn't just sinking because it was built over a lake. It's sinking because we're literally drinking the lake. Water is already being pumped from nearby states in enormous amounts and at enormous cost and still apparently over a million people here have to have it trucked into their houses by private companies and their taps start hissing before noon. And just because I said they "have to have it trucked in", doesn't mean they do. Seriously, how many dishes would you wash and how many showers would you take a day if you had to pay by the cup? I remember David Suzuki's smiling face on CBC pleasantly talking about how millions of people are probably going to die from water crisis and it kind of being this far away abstract idea. I mean, there's so much water around in Canada, there's no way that's ever going to effect me or anyone I know, just some poor people in the Sudan or wherever and their probably used to it, but I can now unfortunately relate a little better. Here I am in this modern city with malls and cineplexes and if I'm thirsty there's scarce public fountains. One week we ran out of water and it sucked. I boiled water just so I could get a glass in the morning. A secretary at one of the companies I teach at told me she wakes up at 7am on weekends and I asked why? "That's the only time they turn on the water in my neighborhood." she said. There are over 20 million thirsty people living here. World Water Forum? How about a World Water Tank? I guess the moral to this story is, uh, enjoy the hose games while you can, or store it away for a rainy day, cause as David Suzuki so calmly warned, we'll all be paying 25 cents a litre for recycled urine before we're 80. Some of us already are. I don't think he actually said that, but he was probably thinking it.
There is a man who brings the water to my house. He charges about 2.50 for a big jug and he carries 2 at a time up 5 flights of stairs, and If you've ever loaded one of those water coolers, I don't need to tell you this is what we call "hard work". He rides a commonly seen type of delivery bicycle in Mexico which has a welded basket on the front for holding things- bread, tacos, tamales, water, newspapers, whatever... In his case it's maybe 6 or 7 big plastic jugs of filtered water. This is his business. He claims it's "Electropura!" which he shouts at the top of his lungs in the street every morning, but he and I and everyone knows it's a "Just as good as Electropura knock-off water." Clean water is big biz in Mexico. You can find small bottles, medium, and the large 25 gallon water cooler sizes for sale in any store. Coca Cola has it's fingers in the pie as well as most of the other major bottlers and 100 pesos says that's the kind of thing they were talking about in the Forum as opposed to how we're going to get through the next 100 years with everyone having a clean running tap. "FORUM" - even the name has a suspicious, purring Mercedes limo convoys outside the W hotel, ring to it.
And in case you thought this guy was working too hard there is another guy who comes around every other day and shleps those four foot steel bottles of propane to the roofs of every building in the hood. I can barely lift one of these things, and while I'm no strong man by any standards, jolts of pain shoot up my back in sympathy seeing these guys. There are a lot of hard livings to be had in DF.
In case anyone's actually interested in what happened over the few days of the Forum, there were some big protests. G Bush and some other big names from around the globe were in town. They shut down the entire downtown core; busses of cops, riot gear, helicopters, blast walls, the whole shebang. Anti globalization groups clashed with police and many of the cities populace came out to walk and make their voices heard about being thirsty and tired of it. Yeah, it was actually fairly depressing. BBC has a link HERE I still haven't heard anything about what was accomplished. My mouth gets dry just thinking about it.