Despite their sovereign powers, many nations will have great difficulty keeping the promises they made at the first Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In the name of sustainable development, the aim was to align economies with ecology. At that time, the philosopher’s stone was being sought: economic growth without growth in the consumption of fossil fuels or an increase in the consumption of non-renewable resources.
In the context of natural resources – not to mention the problems of global warming – this difficulty of bringing together economic, social, governance and ecological needs is highlighted by a fundamental problem today: the management, public or private, of water. In December 2021 the magazine Promotio Iustitiae (a publication of the Society of Jesus for social justice) alerted its readers with the heading: “The Cry of Water and the Cry of the Poor.” We should rather express it as : the cry of water “is” the cry of the poor, the excluded and the marginalized.
Three quarters of our planet is covered by water. The salt water of the seas, in addition to the salt water of some underground aquifers, accounts for 97.2 percent. Fresh water (2.8 percent of the total) is mainly found in the ice of the North and South Poles (2.1 percent of the total water of the globe). Therefore, only 0.7 percent of the total, estimated at between 900,000 and 1,800,000 cubic kilometers, remains as usable water on land, with which to supply all the inhabitants of the Earth, their agricultural crops (70 percent of the fresh water used, industry (20 percent) and domestic use (10 percent).