The rare story of a successful campaign: The Water Defenders won their battle against Big Gold : in 2016, the World Bank ruled against the mining corporation’s $250 million claim against the nation of El Salvador. This victory was widely covered in the press, but the full story behind the campaign has never been told.
Powerful narrative history: Broad and Cavanagh spent many years researching this story, meeting with all the key players, to write a book that immerses the reader in the culture of the Salvadoran villages, and the long journeys undertaken by the activists to learn the truth about the effect of gold mining on the environment, and their struggles against the elites who stood to profit from the Pac Rim mine. It is a story that has its share of tragedies as well as victories: one the book’s main characters was tortured and murdered by those who opposed his activism.
Speaks to the widespread concern over the effects of unchecked corporate power: This a book for serious readers concerned about how global economic rules have been structured to favor transnational corporations over citizens, and their profits over democracy (and citizens’ concerns about the environment and their health).
Substantial author platforms: Co-author Robin Broad is an expert in international development and won a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2018 for her work on this project, as well as two previous MacArthur fellowships. Her professional experience includes work as an international economist in the US Treasury Department, in the US Congress, and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Cavanagh is Director of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies. Over the past year, he has led the IPS team that has served as the research arm of Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign. With Broad, he helped create and run the International Allies group that spearheaded the global fight against mining in El Salvador.
“Broad and Cavanagh offer a practical David-versus-Goliath playbook for those who would mobilize both domestic and international forces to halt corporate abuses and to place the long-term welfare of communities above short-term financial gain.”
“Demonstrates the potential of nonviolent campaigns to protect the interests of local communities against corporate powers.”
“The book is an environmentalist playbook, a how-to guide for activists seeking to defeat a power structure that is rigged in favor of their opponents.”
—The American Prospect
“To anyone tempted to think there is nothing an ordinary individual can do to make a difference, this story offers a powerful wake-up call.”
“It is rare, in the world of corporate power, to have a story where David beats Goliath. And rarer still to have one that reads like a fast-paced thriller.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost
“Bravo to the courageous Salvadorans—and their likely and unlikely allies—who prove that victories against overwhelming odds are possible…. The water defenders of El Salvador and their international partners provide a powerful guidebook, poignantly retold by Broad and Cavanagh, of how the struggles for justice in the United States can link with allies abroad to build power and win.”
—Opal Tometi, cofounder of Black Lives Matter
“This story of how everyday citizens, against implacable odds, managed to defeat a corporation that ravaged their community and polluted their water is one of the most inspiring I have read in many years. A blueprint for further global action…it is also exceptionally moving, full of unforgettable characters, intrigue, and surprising twists and turns.”
—Ariel Dorfman, author of Death and the Maiden
“If you ever felt that your own contribution didn’t matter and that the powerful always win, this captivating saga will help you envision who truly has power if we unleash our imaginations and act together.”
—Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance
“Broad and Cavanagh are masterful storytellers. The words, deeds, and stories of people in El Salvador come alive so vividly in these pages to reinforce what we in the Poor People’s Campaign in the United States know well: the most powerful defenders of water, of the environment—of justice across the board—are poor people.”
—Rev. Dr. William Barber II, author of The Third Reconstruction
“When the story of the courageous Salvadoran people came to my ears, I was full of pride and hope. Indigenous peoples everywhere are fighting for their water, and enlightened governments are valuing water over foreign corporate control. Our work…is a parallel struggle, and we are inspired by the people from the south. The Eagle and the Condor meet again.”
—Winona LaDuke, author of To Be a Water Protector
“In this gripping tale full of drama, plot twists, and, most importantly, the powerful and savvy dedication of ordinary people and their communities, Robin Broad and John Cavanagh have given us a terrific play-by-play handbook of how David can, in fact, beat Goliath.”
—Dana Frank, author of The Long Honduran Night
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