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Valuing fresh waters

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In an era increasingly focused on the question of how to value fresh water, this essay argues that questions of value cannot be parsed apart from the multiple ontologies that undergird those value judgments. Returning to Nelson's observation that water exists “in a metaphysical blindspot,” this essay describes what chastened metaphysics have to do with fresh waters' pluralities and depicts three apertures by which contemporary water discourses delineate fresh waters' values: economic theory and neoliberal market practice, paradigms of liberal governance, and cultural‐religious multiplicities. In the latter, fresh waters' life‐giving properties tend to be accorded central respect in ways that often exceed the ontological understandings and moral possibilities preferred by western liberal discourses in an era that has been decisively shaped by scientific, hydraulic/extractive modernity and rational planning. Parsing the ways that selected cultural‐religious formulations align with or challenge dominant governance paradigms, this essay argues that decolonial ways of proceeding are necessary if value discourse and ethical action are to be substantially oriented toward the inclusive, long‐term flourishing of human and other bodies of waters. The final section summarizes these claims and underscores necessary warnings. This article is categorized under: Human Water > Value of Water Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented Human Water > Methods

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Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented
Human Water > Methods
Human Water > Value of Water

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