Environmental Injustices Surrounding Bottled Water

By Caity Varian       

Every second of every day in the United States, a thousand people buy a plastic bottle of water and a thousand more people throw one of these bottles away, adding up to more than thirty billion bottles purchased every year and resulting in tens of billions of dollars in profits for the beverage industry. Water was first sold for emergency storm supply purposes in grocery stores in the United States and is now being marketed and sold all over the world by multinational corporations. Public water supplies are increasingly being pressured by beverage companies to privatize their services. The emphasis on profit in the bottled water industry has exacerbated existing inequalities on local, national and global scales.

In the United States, the beverage industry has capitalized on public fear of tap water, marketing bottled water as a healthy alternative and a safe solution. The imagery and rhetoric employed in bottled water marketing and advertising has worked to construct the consumption of bottled water as the solution to the global water crisis, hindering any sort of political or collective action towards improving the quality of municipal water sources and the quality of freshwater more generally.

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Companies such as a Nestle, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo extract water and harness municipal water sources, damaging these sources for local communities and future generations. If the bottled water industry continues to grow and thrive, aquifers and groundwater sources will become depleted and only those that can afford to do so will be able to purchase clean drinking water. Bottled water costs 240-100,000 times more per gallon compared to tap water. If the bottled water industry continues to thrive, municipal sources will become more and more scarce and expensive, making clean drinking water more expensive and less accessible.

Bottled water does have an important role to play during emergencies when municipal water systems are temporarily disrupted and in some major cities and countries of the world, bottled water may be the only available source of safe drinking water. However, the perception of bottled water as a status symbol in the United States or as the main source of clean drinking water for the American people needs to be dismantled.

Resistance to the bottled water industry must be addressed at the level of both production and consumption. A “take back the tap” campaign needs to be employed to promote a cultural shift away from the consumption of bottled water. Creating awareness about environmental injustices that persist within the bottled water industry and establishing transparency within the industry will be crucial. Environmental Justice activists must work to persuade consumers to avoid bottled water whenever possible and to pressure public institutions and local governments to stop buying it. In terms of production, local communities need to actively oppose and protest specific instances of spring water extraction by the beverage industry, advocating for the preservation of municipal water sources. We need to think about drinking water as a cultural resource, a political resource, and as an economic resource, and deeply consider the implications of all of these perspectives.

 

Get Caught in the Web

Web

By Cheryl Mahoney

How much of your time do you spend on the internet?  Obviously some–you’re here, after all!  Personally, I’m on here eight hours a day for my job, and usually some time in the evening once I’m off of work too.    For me, the internet’s where I go when I’m communicating with a friend, looking up a random fact, trying to remember a quote, puzzling over where I’d seen that actor before, looking for movie times, needing directions, checking to see if my library books are overdue, looking at my credit card bill, wanting to feed the hungry with one click…and on and on and on.  I think we’re all a bit like that.  And mostly, we don’t think about it–I don’t, anyway.

But some people do.  The people over at One Web Day definitely do.  One Web Day is all about celebrating the openness and interconnectedness created by the internet, and the power of the web to transform the world.  An annual event on September 22, they consider themselves the Earth Day for the Internet.  Earth Day is all about bringing environmental concerns in front of the world.  One Web Day is intended to do the same for the internet.  They had events in thirty-four cities across the world last year, and they’re gearing up for this year–less than a month away!  The slogan is “One Web.  For All” and the goal is to empower everyone to access the internet and to use it freely.

I admit, most of my examples up above of how I use the web are not really going to change the world.  Not as individual actions.  But it’s the cumulative that counts.  It’s the spread of information, and the spread of connections.  I can look up a random quote or a fact I’m curious about.  Suppose a child in Africa could do the same.  One fact won’t change her life, but the ability to access knowledge and information will.  It’s about the freedom of information to spread.  Twitter became an important spread of information during the aftermath of elections in Iran.  Blogging has become an incredible tool for the freedom of communication.  Sure, a lot of the internet is frivolous or unimportant, but not all of it–and sometimes the parts that seem frivolous are important after all.  Besides, even if only 10% of what happens on the internet actually matters (I’m making this figure up), that’s all right.  Because the internet opens up endless possibilities, and 10% of infinity is still infinity.

So if you use the internet (and clearly you do!) and want to celebrate the possibilities, visit One Web Day’s site.  You can join their network and look for groups in your city, or read the blog for stories about supporters, and to learn how you can get involved too.  If you’d like to help spread the internet and ensure one web for all, come visit UniversalGiving.  You can sponsor one month of internet access for a classroom in rural China (just $15!), or help World Computer Exchange enhance internet connections in developing countries, or even volunteer in Ethiopia teaching children to use computers.  Imagine the possibilities.

Giving to the Earth

By Cheryl Mahoney

Happy Earth Day!

Considering all the buzz I’ve seen everywhere from BART ads to Twitter to the comics page, you’re probably aware that today is the day for celebrating the planet.  I like to see it as a good day for a spread of awareness and renewal of commitment.

In honor of Earth Day, I’ve been looking for good Green sites and resources to share.  The list abounds, but here’s a few I like.

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Green For All is working for a green economy, with efforts from the federal level to the community level, and with resources to share at every level.

Envirothink offers informative articles on climate change and about innovative products offering environmental solutions.

I recently joined Greenwala, an online community centered around living a green lifestyle.  You should join and connect with me!  And my favorite part–for everyone who joins, they plant a tree.  As they say, just by joining you can “put your life on a greener path to the future.”

Want to put even more trees into the world?  Check out the opportunities to donate to plant trees available on UniversalGiving.  Or if your budget is tight, my favorite sites to “click for free to save the world” include some tree-related ones, like The Rainforest Site and Oaks of the World, or Care2 where you can plant trees and also offset carbon emissions.

Looking for a movement to join to fight global warming?  In that case, 350.org is looking for you.  I’m a member.  You can be too.

I hope something here appeals to you, and that you’ll give it a click!  And I hope that the spirit of Earth Day sweeping everyone today won’t end with sundown.  There’s no reason we can’t plant trees tomorrow too.