Un-Bottle it!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I’ll bet that you have heard something about the anti-bottled water campaign haven’t you? Is bottled water good? There are some redeeming qualities. It can be easily transported to areas that don’t have public utilities (like regions in sub-Saharan Africa or even New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina), it is a safe source of water when water bourn viruses are a problem (like in Walkerton), and it is healthy (you know zero calories and all that).

And there is the bad. Coca-Cola has been accused of polluting water basins, Suez has been accused of instigating civil unrest in South America when they privatize public systems, and everybody is being accused of making a mounting of money from a commodity that many people debate is a human right. And there is also the matter that it is only being tested every once and a while (voluntarily I might add), that the plastic bottles they come in leach chemicals into the water, and that buying bottled water undermines confidence in public utilities.

Hhhhhmmmm, tough decision I guess. Well on Tuesday I went to the Un-bottle it presentation at St. Joe’s Church. It was hosted by CUPE and featured the irreverent Maude Barlow. Kind of strange huh? A church hosting a union funded event featuring one of Canada’s biggest NGO activists. Not exactly an unholy alliance but not exactly your everyday run of the mill event. So why did these people come together?

Allow me to give you some long-winded context. In one hundred years from now is it possible that historians will look back and think that we were crazy to try to commodify water and sell it at thousands of times the price of what it costs to get from your tap? Is it possible that we are draining precious aquifers for limited profit at the expense of future generations? And is it possible that in the future, wars may be fought over water instead of oil?

If you can answer yes to any of those questions than there you have it; strange times call for strange alliances. People have come together in order to deliver a message. Maybe we need to slow down and take a look at the activities that we are passing off as normal.
Recently the University of Ottawa has introduced a sort of ban on bottled water. They haven’t out right banned it but they are they are not letting departments buy water for an event and get reimbursed for it. This actually makes sense because if bottled water costs thousands of times more than tap water, than this is tantamount to fiscal mismanagement.

So although it is possible that the wars for water may soon be a reality, the war against bottled water is already here.

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