I Agree with the Pope!

Rarely have I agreed with the words of Pope Benedict XVI, but this weekend the head of the Roman Catholic Church addressed a half million young people and urged them to ensure that water be equally shared in order to avoid conflicts. The Canadian Press quotes the Pope stating,

“Before it’s too late, we need to make courageous choices that will recreate a strong alliance between man and Earth,” Benedict said in his homily. “We need a decisive yes to care for creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk making the situation of decay irreversible.”

He said water needed to be preserved since “it unfortunately becomes a source of strong tensions and conflicts if it isn’t shared in an equitable and peaceful manner.”

I have so many problems with bottled water. In fact, I nearly included a whole bottled water section in The Re-Education of George W. Bush. I already have my character Chad assisting President Bush with a Legacy Makeover in which he suggests the White House goes vegan. One fact I do share is that in order to produce one liter of cow’s milks, it requires 990 liters of water. (and don’t get me started about all the CO2 and waste that gets thrust on the environment as a result of the dairy industry).

But back to bottled water. Unless you are in a place where healthy drinking water is not available (and sadly that is many places on the planet), why buy it?

  1. We already pay billions of dollars in taxes towards securing safe drinking water in most of our cities in North America and Europe.
  2. The water “manufacturers” mostly sell the water in plastic bottles, a petroleum-based product. (The US currently spends more than $2 billion dollars per month on a war in part because it gives us access to Middle East oil).
  3. More and more studies show that heat breaks down the plastic in these bottle and toxic chemicals enter our bodies, something potentially bad for all of us but especially harmful to children and pregnant women. Even if you don’t keep your plastic water bottle in a hot car, before you get it the companies often keep their product in warm warehouses. The extreme heat affects the plastic so that we drink it along with our water.
  4. Most of the water is not even pure spring water like many of us would like to think. In fact, it is often no better than the tap water many folks turn their noses up at. Some tests show that the quality of some brands is actually worse than tap water.
  5. At most gas station “food marts” we end up spending more on water per liter than we do for gasoline (petrol).
  6. Then there is all the water bottles that get into our landfills. Sure some folks look to recycling as the answer, but millions of these plastic bottles get dumped in the trash and add to the growing eco-disaster we have created for ourselves.
  7. The environmental costs of transporting all of this bottled water in CO2 producing vehicles are outrageous (especially when you insist on drinking water flown in from Fiji.)
  8. Now that we are used to paying for water, at a premium, what is to stop it from becoming a commodity that gets traded on open markets creating a situation where something that is vital for life becomes yet another thing that separates the haves and the have-nots?
  9. The fight over reliable water sources go back to ancient times (look at the Hebrew scriptures to all the fuss over wells). Don’t we have enough to fight over right now? Do we need to add water rights to the fray? (sadly this has already begun in communities in the US and UK).

There are no perfect solutions. Not all public water is safe, but most is. We often feel powerless to address the many needs and problems around us, but we can do loads to stop the madness of the bottled water craze. Mainly we can choose to not be part of that system. Buy a non-plastic water bottle and fill it up with tap water (get a filter if you need one). SWIGG has a vast selection of really cool and safe bottles.

And let’s educate each other. If you want to learn more about bottled water, check out AllAboutWater.org and BottledWaterBlues.com. Also read Charles Fishman’s excellent article, Message in a Bottle.

This post has 9 Comments

  1. Brian on September 4, 2007 at 4:16 pm Reply

    I often get backed into “defending” my reasons for being a vegetarian so I appreciated your fact-based commentary on bottled water as well. My explaining just got a little easier!

  2. Joe G. on September 4, 2007 at 5:11 pm Reply

    You’ll agree with just about anyone to get media attention, won’t you? {takes another sip from his bottled water}.

    You know I love you…

    PS: Skepticality podcast has had two shows about the myth of the “cleaner” bottled war vs. tap and the problem of bottle disposal. Check it out here.

  3. Auntie Doris on September 4, 2007 at 5:56 pm Reply

    Oh I need a pretty new bottle now! I have been using a filter and filling up water bottles for ages now… maybe that is bad for me now instead!

  4. alex resare on September 4, 2007 at 6:26 pm Reply

    You just don’t see the beauty of capitalism enough my friend.

    What you buy in the bottled water isn’t just water. It is convenience, a weird sense of luxury, lifestyle. All that in a bottle. I think that is sort of great.

    I don’t buy water in bottles personally but I’m enjoying the ways of the free world.

  5. Peterson Toscano on September 4, 2007 at 8:25 pm Reply

    joe g. I would say that you will rot in hell, but you have already moved out of LA. Thanks for the pod link!

    brian, ah, so glad I can help out. You need to see Chad in my new “Bush Show” (aka Check out my Bush!) He outlines loads of logical reasons for being vegan, including the fact that by and large vegetarians are SMARTER than people who insist on consuming animal muscle and fat and blood and secretions and embryos. (Oh, did I say that out loud?)

    alex, alex, alex, you need me to come to socialist Sweden and smack your capitalist bum!

    auntie doris, oooo, shopping spree! Enjoy and post a photo of what you get!

  6. Auntie Doris on September 4, 2007 at 9:26 pm Reply

    I love shopping… I bought a new kitchen today… does that count as a big enough shopping spree? 😉

  7. Miss_Persona on September 5, 2007 at 4:42 am Reply

    Just wanted you to know that I changed my blogadress to miss-persona.blogspot.com 🙂 Love /Anna HP

  8. Peterson Toscano on September 5, 2007 at 12:16 pm Reply

    auntie doris, that is not a shopping spree, that is a shopping surge. 🙂

  9. Anonymous on September 6, 2007 at 1:19 am Reply

    The United Church of Canada took a stand on bottled water last year, you might find that interesting.

    Also a Canadian company has realized that why people get educated, it doesn’t hurt to make bio-degradable water bottles. That company was featured on the CBC a couple of weeks. ago.

    Bene D

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