Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Did your Dasani kill a baby?

Two weeks ago, I participated in OSU's commencement ceremony in which several thousand students graduated. We sat under the hot sun for a few hours with great anticipation. But to soothe us in our wait, the OSU Alumni Association had provided large bottles of water under each seat. At the end of the ceremony, there were dozens of unopened bottles, and half drunk ones, all around Reser Field.

At the same time, research at OSU is pointing out how environmentally unsound bottled water is. Professor Todd Jarvis indicates that we spend about $20,000 a minute in the U.S. on bottled water. However, it is not better for us than normal tap water and there are serious environmental impacts as a result of having to produce the plastic bottles and ship them everywhere. About 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to produce the plastic for the bottles each year. and some 90% of them are not recycled, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

There may also be some important global justice implications involved in drinking bottled water. Peter Singer argues that in a world with so much wealth and income inequality (in which almost half the population must make do on less than $2 of purchasing power for all their housing, food, and health needs), drinking bottled water might be a luxury that we really should do without. Especially when we consider how the United Nations estimates that several million people die each year as a result of exposure to dirty water, then we might want to think about pouring billions of dollars into an industry that is essentially providing most of us with fur coats in summer.

Much of that money goes to soda corporations and almost none of it is reinvested into improving water systems. As the BBC reports, the world is facing a crisis in terms of access to potable water and future international relations (and wars) could be at risk. For the sake of a peaceful and just world, it seems we need to think about whether we can reduce our personal and institutional use of such products.

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At 9:24 AM , Blogger Dennis said...

Were you sitting in great anticipation for when the ceremony would be over? I was, and from what I could tell, so were most other folks.

On the other hand, the commencement speaker wasn't half bad.

At 10:45 AM , Blogger crallspace said...

Yeah, I try to avoid bottled water at all costs.

Try telling this, though, to a bunch of rich parents and their nw graduates. Some will listen.

At 1:09 PM , Anonymous Theresa said...

I attended one of Jarvis' presentations at OSU, and was really surprised by how huge the industry is, and how blindly we're willing to spend money on what is rarely ever more than tap water with a fancy label. It’s a $10.8 billion industry, and the most popular brands cost between $3.30 and $3.80 a gallon. In Corvallis, drinking straight from the tap costs around 5 cents a gallon. By adding a filter onto the faucet, the cost increases to around 15 cents per gallon. Any way you look at it, it's easier on wallets and the environment to stick with tap water.

At 3:49 PM , Anonymous popi.and.tom said...

By describing what is taking place in her country, as between the upper and the lower classes, Arundhati Roy helps us anticipate better what may well devolve here:

At 6:06 PM , Blogger Rev Parisa said...

More frightening than the gross consumerism of buying bottled water is the fact that the industry promoting it is also buying up local water supplies all over the world, including in the United States. The two giants, German conglomerate RWE and the French corporation Vivendi, have significant shares in a growing number of local US water companies. New Hampshire has most recently found itself in this situation, and there are serious concerns over the fate of their water. And that's at the state level. Bankrupt (or near-broke) cities in the US have begun turning to privatization to solve their infrastructure problems, and water is among the utilites vulnerable. More necessary for life than oil, I'd say the struggle for water will be a much more volatile one than we've ever seen.

I'm sure glad the press still finds the time to cover Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

At 6:10 PM , Blogger chris farrell said...

I think drinking fancy water is a status symbol, like a lot of things. Either way, it's a drag. It does all the things you say it does and takes emphasis away from the most important thing: making sure the local tap water is safe to drink.
On the other hand, you could say that just about every luxury is something that could have gone to feed a poor person somewhere else. I guess the responsible thing to do is live frugally and donate some money to groups that are doing what needs to be done to eliminate third world poverty.

At 7:12 AM , Anonymous popi.and.tom said...

Another Corvallis resident is heard from about bottled water. See this letter to the editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times:

At 10:56 AM , Anonymous popi.and.tom said...

Moreover, our archons have placed
a nuclear reactor
at the geographical center
of the city of Corvallis:

Nevin, K.S., OSU's "Nuke" a Local Cause for Concern,
Corvallis Gazette-Times, 7'3'07.


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