A few years ago I wrote a post about bottled water, likening it to the Emperor’s New Clothes. Since then I’ve become an environmental educator so in class we examine the marketing, manufacturing, science and social justice aspects of the bottled water industry exposing the human, societal and environmental dangers:
*Bottled doesn’t undergo as stringent, consistent testing as tap.
*It comes in a toxic leaching package.
*It’s a petroleum package, worsening climate change.
*Plastics bioaccumulate toxics in the food chain (of which humans are a part).
*The bottled industry pollutes through its extraction, manufacturing, distribution and disposal.
*Bottled water is largely tap.
*The sources of what water isn’t tap, don’t have to be revealed.
But because most of my students come from homes where bottled is normative, this hardly convinces them tap water is the better option-short or long term.
Then Flint happened and the emperor got new threads.
Suddenly people were shipping pallets of bottled water to Flint, bolts of illusory fabric, perpetuating the delusion that bottled water is safe.
Why is it a delusion? All the water we have is all the water that’s ever been and will be on earth because it constantly moves through the water cycle. That means whatever we put in our water-pesticides, ice melt, medications, microbeads-impacts the water cycle, impacts all water. That means there is no pristine, magical place where bottlers can source water.
There just isn’t.
Believe me, I wish there was. I wish I could get clean water from a pristine, magical place uncompromised by all the ways we pollute water. I wish the emperor’s new clothes were dazzling enough to clothe me.
But here’s what I want even more.
I want us ordinary people to shake off the emperor’s robe of Consumer and gear up as Citizen Advocates in the same way the ordinary people of Flint became water experts and whistle blowers. Flint is everywhere.
I want my government to invest in water infrastructure so that water doesn’t become a privatized commodity only accessible to those with means.
I want everyone on the planet to have clean water as specified by the UN: “All peoples, whatever their stage of development and social and economic conditions, have the right to have access to drinking water in quantities and of a quality equal to their basic needs.”
Little d democracy in action.
I want to be able to look my students in the eye and tell them unequivocally that their tap water is safe because an informed citizenry takes seriously the responsibility of protecting water and that very real mantle of responsibility will be theirs for the next generation.
I want to look your children and mine in the eye and tell them we refuse to buy illusions and will instead put our effort into a future of accessible safe water for all of them.
That would be truly magical.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.--Chief Seattle