Ethical question # 4: water’s challenge

DSCN2254‘What is the right use of water in a drying climate?’

THE Kerferd Oration committee has released the fourth of eight questions being asked of Indigo citizens and communities to stimulate thinking about ethics in the lead-up to this year’s oration by ethicist Simon Longstaff in Beechworth on July 19.

Charles Sturt University’s Rik Thwaites (pictured) – a Beechworth citizen – had the challenge of answering this week’s question outside Beechworth Post Office on Monday.

“What is the right use of water in a drying climate?” – that’s the question.

“It’s a great question and there are a number of different angles to this. These questions are all framed around the ethics of the problems that we face,” Dr Thwaites said.

“And so this question of ‘right’ is a real challenge because what’s right for one person may not be right for another.

“At the heart of this is that water is really central to life on earth, to every one of us, to our community, our society, our well-being, the food that we grow, all of our industries depend on water, power generation depends on water, so all these different competing uses for water – our natural environment – life only exists because of water.

“The health of our natural environment depends on water being within that environment.

“So all of these things are so important – and the other side that’s so often forgotten is the cultural perspective on water, where water sits in our hearts.

“We build our communities around water, water links our communities, our central imagination of place, where we live and how we feel about it, is around water, and of course there’s the highly significant indigenous perspective of water.

“There are so many different aspects to this question of water and its value to us, yet we don’t value them all equally.”

Dr Thwaites said that water is a common resource – part of the ‘global commons’.

“And yet it’s not always managed in that way – and not every individual has the same access to that common.

“How do we consider these issues? It’s an important question.”

The oration is named in recognition of the community service of George Kerferd, a nineteenth century Beechworth municipal chairman and later a solicitor and colonial government minister who became premier.

It is now in its 13th year – is a free community event and will be held at George Kerferd Hotel from 10.15am.

This post is reprinted from the ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser’, which is supporting the oration by publishing each question of the week.

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