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“The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed”

Wed, November 9th, 2022
7:30 pm
- 8:30 pm

“The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed” A Talk by Robin Broad ’76 and John Cavanagh.  Broad is a Professor of International Service at American University and Cavanagh is a senior advisor at the Institute for Policy Studies.

The Water Defenders (2021) is the  Winner of the 2021 Duke University Juan Mendez Award; Named one of The Progressive’s “Favorite Books of 2021” and one of the “Best of Books 2021” by Foreign Affairs.

This is a David and Goliath story of ordinary people in El Salvador who rallied together with international allies to prevent a global mining corporation from poisoning the country’s main water source. 

In a time when countless communities are resisting powerful corporations—from Flint, Michigan, to the
Standing Rock Reservation, to Didipio in the Philippines, to the Gualcarque River in Honduras—The
Water Defenders presents the inspirational story of a community that took on an international mining
corporation at seemingly insurmountable odds and won not one but two historic victories.

In the early 2000s, many people in El Salvador were at first excited by the prospect of jobs, progress, and
prosperity that the Pacific Rim mining company promised. However, farmer Vidalina Morales, brothers
Marcelo and Miguel Rivera, and others soon discovered that the river system supplying water to the
majority of Salvadorans was in danger of catastrophic contamination. With a group of unlikely allies,
local and global, they committed to stop the corporation and the destruction of their home.
Based on over a decade of research and their own role as international allies of the community groups in
El Salvador, Robin Broad and John Cavanagh unspool this untold story – a tale replete with corporate
greed, a transnational lawsuit at a secretive World Bank tribunal in Washington, violent threats,
murders, and–surprisingly–victory. The husband-and-wife duo immerses the reader in the lives of the
Salvadoran villagers, the journeys of the local activists who sought the truth about the effects of gold
mining on the environment, and the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of the corporate mining executives
and their lawyers. The Water Defenders demands that we examine our assumptions about progress and
prosperity, while providing valuable lessons for those fighting against destructive corporations in the
United States and across the world.

Sponsored by the Class of 1960 Scholars Program in Environmental Studies and the Center for Environmental Studies

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