«It is never we who affirm or deny something of a thing; it is the thing itself that affirms or denies something of itself in us.»
Our world is commonly interpreted in a dual perspective: animate and alive living beings are contraposed to inanimate non-living beings, considered to be lifeless. This distinction is often interpreted as a dichotomy: on the one hand there is life, on the other there is matter.
This dual structure determines a misleading conclusion in common belief: only living beings have an intrinsic value, an ontological status, and therefore they are the only ones to whom fundamental rights are owed. However, are not non-living beings equally worthy of ontological recognition? Are not they beings as well?
In this regard, the American political theorist and philosopher Jane Bennet defines the “thing power”: the intrinsic ability of objects to rise above their status and to act as quasi agents. The understanding and validation of the thing power give grounds to refute the binary division between life and matter, commonly intended as the only valid and acceptable environmental structure.
In agreement with the philosophical and ontological argument mentioned above, the project Rights of Water was launched to acknowledge water as an active subject and to grant its fundamental rights. The project aims at defending water’s intrinsic value and deconstructing the deep utilitarian and anthropocentric conception governing people’s attitude towards it.
So far water has been treated, controlled and safeguarded only to serve people, their needs and their intended purposes. Water has been considered in a consumeristic and capitalist perspective, where its preservation almost exclusively serves an economic gain. This consideration denies the intrinsic value of water and makes it impossible to postulate a form of protection that disregards human interests.
Our goal is to foster a new ecological and civil culture, where water is safeguarded and respected as a priceless element, and thus to overthrow people from their self-assigned role of owner. Water must not be merely defined as an object, but rather as a subject, a source of life to be safeguarded as it is, not in function of people’s needs and interests.
The Declaration of Water Rights is a small step towards this ambitious goal.
English translation: Sofia Credaro