Perhaps the most exacerbating argument coming from the Government and others who support the implementation of water charges by Irish Water, is that the charges are to increase conservation of water for environmental purposes. This environmentally-based narrative has been one of the main argument for water charges since the debacle started. A quick look at the Irish Water website confirms how blatantly they use this angle for propaganda purposes.
Water charges will not do anything meaningful, if anything at all, for the conservation of water or the environment. Poorer people will continue to use it for the same everyday things they have always used it for, or perhaps sacrifice some sanitary or other necessities. Well-off people will continue to be liberal in their use of garden hoses on their lawns, as the expense on their income will be relatively low. Those of the elite 1% who do cut down on domestic waste of water can only make a negligible positive impact to the environment.
What makes the argument in favour of water charges that is based on water conservation so frustrating, is that apart from being false, it is insulting to the main groups and people who have tirelessly campaigned against pollution and the capitalist policies which worsen it. It has been the very groups which oppose water charges that have championed the call for real and purposeful action on climate change; typically, left-wing groups such as the Socialist Party, Right2Water, #WeWontPay, Anti Austerity Alliance and the SWP.
Where there exists an economic and social system based on profiteering by the few at the expense of the many, and inequality between rich and poor, there cannot be real environmental responsibility, sustainability or action on climate change. Real change would hurt profits, and “economic growth” based on those profits. That is why we need revolutionary action to change the system for the better. It has become more urgent than ever that we do so.
Take this point from Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything, about climate change, where she quotes Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research:
‘Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the “evolutionary change”… Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2oC budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony’.
The introduction of water charges is simply a method for, effectively, maintaining an economy whereby the ultra-wealthy get wealthier and ordinary people continue to suffer as a result, because the Government of the day needs to find money in place of the tax that massive corporations should otherwise be paying in corporation tax. They are turning, yet again, to ordinary working people as an “easy target” to do this.