Graduation year: 2021
Semester/year area of interest proposed: Spring 2020
Major status: ENVS single major
Other major (if applicable):
Minor(s) (if applicable):
Issues of water are some of the most important within the field of development and conversations surrounding the global south. Development discourse is a significant portion of the conversation surrounding access to clean water because most approaches to improved access are focused on industrialization which in the global south is largely initiated by development actors. Access to water is connected to domestic, agricultural and industrial aspects of life across the globe. (Crow 2001, Gadgil 1998). “More than one billion people are deprived of access to water of sufficient quantity and quality” which makes it difficult to meet needs in all of these sectors (Crow 2001). The comprehensive benefits–and lack of access to them–that surround water access are what make it such a critical topic international environmental and development discourses. In many countries water is not seen as a priority of or job for the state which has left room for outside actors to come in and solve it (United Nations 2014, Crow 2001). Three of the most significant actors in this field are the World Health Organization, the UN and the World Bank. The World Health Organization is a leader in advising health across the globe and has introduced guidelines for maximizing water related health in the Global South (Gadgil 1998). The World Bank and the UN are leading development actors in the global south. (Goldman 2007).
While these are three significant actors, discourse about water plays out between a multitude of different actors and a variety of different issues and policy proposals. Its focus varies significantly and it takes into account a variety of theories and fields of studies to promote every perspective (Solomon e.t. al. 2000). While water is important to many aspects of life, the focus of this area of interest is solely on access to and cleanliness of water in the Global South. One of the most prominent yet also controversial approaches to this problem is that of water privatization (Goldman 2005, Bakker 2007). This was an incredibly popular approach promoted by the World Bank and other large scale development actors as a way to increase access to clean water in the global south. (Goldman 2007). The popularity of this effort was met with significant backlash from a variety of actors including activist groups, NGOs, and many of the beneficiaries–as can be seen in examples like the Bolivian water wars (Barlow 2000, Solomon 2000, Kohl 2003). Those in favor of this approach advocate for its efficiency and ability to effectively manage resources while opponents argue that it makes clean water less accessible to those who need it the most, because their motives are less pure than the water they sell. Throughout all of these discourses efforts have been made to be more inclusive and participatory in their decision making processes, yet many critiques have been posed about the extent to which this inclusivity is actually implemented. (Goldman 2005). One crux of this debate is around whether or not water is a human need or a human right. If water is a human need, it can be supplied by corporations. It is hard to make a profit on a human right. (Barlow 2000). While water-privatization is a significant example of development in this sector, other approaches have been implemented. The United Nations has worked with actors like the World Bank and USAID on their water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiative (Salaam-Blyther 2012, UN 2014). Other actors like NGOs have attempted more decentralized community-based approaches (Isham & Kähkönen 2002). These attempts vary in scope and scale, but all work towards the same goal of improving quality of life for countries in the Global South by improving their access to clean water.
- Who are the major actors involved in international discourse about water?
- What development projects are being implemented related to increasing access to water?
- What determines who holds power within international discourse on access to water?
- Is the success/failure of a water-related development initiative more dependent on the country where it’s implemented or the initiative itself?
- Do policies/projects related to water impact the global north and south in different ways?
- Are water access projects implemented by NGOs more impactful than those of large-scale development actors like the World Bank?
- How can the global south become more influential in international discourse and decision making about water?
- How can water related development projects become more impactful for beneficiaries?
- SOAN 265 (Critical Perspectives on Development): Spring 2020
- This class has been critical to gaining an understanding of relationships between the global north and south and how these relationships interact with environmental issues, and more specifically those related to water.
- INT 3110 (International Political Thought): Fall 2018
- This was an introductory International Relations course that I took studying abroad in Norway at Bjørknes Høyskole. I wrote my final paper on the relationship between green theory and capitalism and whether the two can coexist. This course and my focus in it gave me a more in depth understanding of the way that economic and environmental issues interact on the global scale.
- POLS 350 (Geopolitics of the Arctic): Fall 2018
- I took this course studying abroad in Norway at Bjørknes Høyskole. This course covered the ways that politics, the environment, the economy, and other international issues are connected to and changing because of the melting ice in the Arctic.
- INT 6070 (War & Peace in the Middle East): Fall 2018
- I took this course studying abroad in Norway at Bjørknes Høyskole. This was a international history course that covered the relationship between western actors in the colonial and more modern era and the Middle East. There are a lot of similarities between this relationship and the relationship that western actors have with the global south.
Here are the required breadth courses I will include in my ENVS major/minor: CHEM 100, GEOL 150, ECON 260, IA 257, SOAN 265, HIST 261, PHIL 215. These are in addition to my ENVS core courses, and the area of interest courses I propose above.
Feedback to date
- Feb 18th: Meeting with Maryann helped me narrow the scope of my project to focus on water rather than just the relationship between the Global North and South. She also gave me helpful resources that I was able to use to help guide my research moving forward.
- March 7th: Maryann helped me refocus my questions so they were more related to development initiatives in the global south and less focused on the dynamics of discourse. Additionally she gave me useful feedback on my summary just by showing my how I could reword things and structure it.
- March 13th: Meeting with Jessica gave me a lot of important feedback. Changed my summary to not include anything explicitly about my project’s connection to the ENVS major. I also was told to avoid laundry lists and to fill in those gaps by effectively conveying my research. Also changed my related courses to be ones I have taken – not ones I will take.
- April 16th: Updated all of my content with the feedback I have received to date from Jessica and Maryann.
Revisions to date
- Bakker, Karen. 2007. “The ‘Commons’ Versus the ‘Commodity’: Alter-Globalization, Anti-Privatization and the Human Right to Water in the Global South.” Antipode 39 (3): 430–55. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2007.00534.x.
- Barlow, Maude. “COMMENTARY: WATER IS A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT.” Peace Research 32, no. 4 (2000): 98-100. www.jstor.org/stable/23608003.
- Blaikie, Piers. 1995. “Changing Environments or Changing Views? A Political Ecology for Developing Countries.” Geography 80 (3): 203–14.
- Crow, Ben. 2001. “Water: Gender and Material Inequalities in the Global South,” September. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0rq308jc.
- Gadgil, Ashok. 1998. “Drinking Water in Developing Countries.” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 23 (1): 253–86. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.energy.23.1.253.
- Goldman, Michael. 2007. “How ‘Water for All!’ Policy Became Hegemonic: The Power of the World Bank and Its Transnational Policy Networks.” Geoforum 38 (5): 786–800. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2005.10.008.
- Goldman, Michael. 2005. “Imperial Nature” Yale University.
- Isham, Jonathan, and Satu Kähkönen. 2002. “How Do Participation and Social Capital Affect Community-Based Water Projects? Evidence from Central Java, Indonesia.” In The Role of Social Capital in Development, by Robert Puttnam, edited by Christiaan Grootaert and Thierry van Bastelaer, 1st ed., 155–87. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511492600.007.
- Kohl, Benjamin. 2003. Privatization Bolivian Style: A Cautionary.
- Salaam-Blyther, Tiaji. 2012. “Global Access to Clean Drinking Water and Sanitation: U.S. and International Programs,” 40.
- Solomon, Edited Hussein, Anthony Turton, and Hussein Solomon. 2000. “Water Wars: Enduring Myth or Impending Reality.” The Soviet Union, 92.
- United Nations Glass Report. 2014. “Investing in Water and Sanitation: Increasing Access, Reducing Inequalities.” n.d. Koninklijke Brill NV. https://doi.org/10.1163/2210-7975_HRD-9841-2014003.