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The Forum to open with social justice advocate Maude Barlow

RELEASED: Sept. 27, 2010

Maude Barlow
Maude Barlow

EAU CLAIRE — The 69th season of The Forum at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will open with an Oct. 5 address by social justice advocate and author Maude Barlow, called "Canada's best-known voice of dissent" by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. An internationally renowned campaigner against corporate control of the world's dwindling freshwater supplies, Barlow will outline the issues facing the world today — scarcity, pollution and privatization — and solutions to meet these challenges. Her presentation, titled "Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water," will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Zorn Arena.

Water sustains life, but water has also become a commodity — a $425 billion-a-year business, the third largest industry after electricity and oil. Is water a profit-generating good, like gold or oil? Or, is water a human right, like air?

"Here is the issue that we're dealing with," Barlow told CNN in January. "We are a world running out of freshwater. It's something we learned in grade school that couldn't happen, but we are, in fact, a world running out. If there were all the water in the world, it wouldn't matter if some people made a lot of money in it. The reality is that there is more demand than supply, and that increase in demand and the decrease in supply is growing. So it makes a big difference how we're going to decide who's going to allocate water.

"Those who believe in privatization believe that it should be based on the market, like Coca-Cola or running shoes, and should go to those who can pay," Barlow continued. "We believe very deeply that it's a public trust. Water must be declared something that belongs to all of us."

Barlow is a founder and the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Canada's largest public advocacy organization. The group's Blue Planet Project works with grassroots groups around the world to stop the commodification of the world's freshwater resources. Barlow also chairs the board of Food and Water Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes environmentally friendly policies for natural resource management — including the creation of a federal trust fund to help communities improve and maintain their public water systems.

Her internationally bestselling books include "Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of World's Water" (2003), which describes the real and worsening global water crisis and reveals the plans of transnational corporations to profit from it; and "Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water" (2007).

In 2008-2009 Barlow served as the first senior adviser on water issues at the United Nations General Assembly. A new feature-length documentary by Liz Marshall, "Water On the Table," follows Barlow in her successful quest to have the United Nations pass a historic resolution recognizing the basic human right to water. The film has been nominated for a 2010 Gemini Award.

Barlow was one of the "1000 Women for Peace" nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. In the same year she received the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize," for "exemplary and longstanding worldwide work for trade justice and the recognition of the fundamental human right to water." Her other awards include the Citation of Lifetime Achievement at the 2008 Canadian Environment Awards — Canada's highest environmental honor — and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award.

Crediting "Blue Covenant" as a major inspiration, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur ("Elizabeth," "The Four Feathers") asked Barlow to serve as an adviser on his next film, "Paani," a major motion picture dealing directly with the issue of water justice. Set in 2040 in a mythical mega-city divided into conflicting halves, the film asks the same question Barlow has asked for years: What happens when the water runs out? The $30 million independent film is in preproduction.

"We're hoping to reach a whole new audience with 'Paani,' people who think water comes from a tap or a plastic bottle," Barlow told the Ottawa Citizen. "Lots of people are blissfully unaware of this as an issue. So getting a movie made by the best of the best is really exciting for us."

Established in 1942, The Forum presents the world's greatest minds and imaginations. A typical Forum includes a 60-minute lecture, a 30-minute question-and-answer session and an open reception. The program will be signed for the deaf and hard of hearing. Assisted listening devices and large print programs are also available upon request.

Tickets are $8 for the public, $6 for those 62 and older and UW System or Chippewa Valley Technical College faculty and staff, and $4 for those 17 and younger and UW System or CVTC students. Student tickets are half price, $2, until the day of the event. On the day of the event, students must pay the full student ticket price.

Patrons also may charge their tickets to Discover, MasterCard or Visa when ordering by phone. Call 715-836-3727 or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free 800-949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.

Wisconsin Public Radio and Community Television have contributed generous promotional support for The Forum. The Forum is also funded in part by Visit Eau Claire ... The Unexpected Wisconsin. Best Western Trail Lodge Hotel & Suites (715-838-9989), 3340 Mondovi Road, is The Forum's exclusive accommodations partner.

Funded by the students of UW-Eau Claire, The Forum is administered by the Activities and Programs office of the University Centers.

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JS/DW

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