On World Water Day, we present the reflections of Pablo Solón, a water warrior and long-time activist as well as former representative to the United Nations of Bolivia. As United Nations Representative, he shepherded through the UN General Assembly Resolution on the right to water and sanitation. Without him, it would not have happened.


Look at life from the viewpoint of water. Assume that human beings are essentially water. Realize that three-quarters of our brain is made up of water. Feel the water in the blood running through our veins. Discover that more than to dust we will return to water at our hour of parting. Imagine the journey of those little molecules that will leave our body to travel through the three states of water. Our being is made up of water that evaporates into the sky, becomes snow, settles on a glacier, and flows towards the ocean until it feels the rays of the sun. To be part of the whole in the water cycle again.

On World Water Day we emphasize the importance of water for human beings. We stress that the human right to water was not recognized until 62 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed in 1948. We remember that the Cochabamba water war and the Bolivians played an important role in the recognition of this human right by the United Nations in 2010 [1]. We are determined that water not become the blue gold of the future, and we reaffirm that this vital element for life cannot be privatized or commercialized. These are true and noble expressions of our commitment, but still, are we really thinking from the point of view of water?

What about the rights of water, rivers, glaciers, lakes, oceans and watersheds? Do we remember that rivers have the right to flow freely without being obstructed by mega dams or contaminated by mining activities that poison the biodiversity that runs through their veins? Do we remember that the fire that devastates the forests also melts the glaciers when its dark soot falls on their snowy surface? How moved are we by the death of a glacier that is one of the greatest sources of memory on planet Earth? Could it be that we do not remember that glaciers are archives of history that store information from millions of years?

Humanity has become extremely anthropocentric. The calendar is marked with hundreds of international days to remember nature. Wetlands, snow, wildlife, forests, oceans, birds, bees, condors, the weather . . . all have their international day. However, when reminders to remember appear, lost in the back pages of a newspaper, almost always the main argument is that they serve humans. Very few are the speeches that emphasize the needs of other beings. Hardly anyone in power proposes a minute of silence for the lost snows of Mount Chacaltaya or for the Aral Sea, which disappeared from Central Asia because of the irrationality of productivism and the titanic diversion canals of the former Soviet Union. The North Pole is being butchered by the horses of global warming but hardly anyone thinks from the point of view of this Tupaj Katari of nature.

Earth is the blue planet. Almost 71% of its surface is covered with water. However, less than 3% of the planet’s water is fresh water while 97% is salt water. And of this tiny portion of fresh water, more than two-thirds are found at the poles and in the glaciers of the snow-capped mountains. As the north pole melts, fresh water pours into the oceans, affecting their composition and currents. Climate change, about which so much is said and so little is done, also causes acidification of fresh waters. The life cycle of water is being affected by human activities with unpredictable consequences for the Earth’s systems. The search for water on Mars and other planets wins more headlines than the growing tragedy of water on Earth.

The latest report of the Secretary General of the United Nations on Harmony with Nature [2] – an agenda item created at the urging of Bolivia [3] – proposes an Earth Assembly to reflect on the world and life from a non-anthropocentric perspective or rather from an eco-centric perspective. The proposal is key. For example, 17 sustainable development goals have been articulated at the UN from the perspective of human beings. Everyone cares about the “sustainable use” of natural resources, no one talks about sustainability from the perspective of nature, water, forests, pangolins or condors. How can “sustainability” be achieved if what prevails is the human perspective and worse still that of a political and economic elite?

We are moving towards the sixth extinction of life on Earth, and we must stop seeing the world from our human navels. It is time to start thinking about life from the point of view of water, of nature, of the Earth community as a whole.

[1] El derecho humano al agua y el saneamiento, Resolución aprobada por la Asamblea General el 28 de julio de 2010, (A/RES/64/292).
[2] Párrafo 87, Armonía con la Naturaleza, Informe del Secretario General, 28 de julio de 2020, (A/75/266).
[3] Armonía con la Naturaleza, Resolución aprobada por la Asamblea General el 21 de diciembre de 2009, (A/RES/64/196).


The original Spanish version is available at

Pensar desde el agua

Thanks to John McClure and Mary Lawlor for the translation and to Tom Kruse for making the connection.