Monday, September 17, 2007

Water, Fish and WC Fields

Google threw up this reference to an old column of mine recently. I complained ( well sort of, really I thanked her) to Marion Nestle the author, who has promptly sent me a copy. YOU can buy What to Eat here. Just click on the link.
I reviewed her previous book on Food Politics in the Nation.

So here is the review, and following that the column quoted. Still reading the book but it is a sane and informative guide to food... with none of the paranoid toxins and similar perils that quacks write about so much nowadays!
From The Times

September 1, 2007

The green kitchen: Bottled water

Richard Ehrlich

Bottled water has had a lot of bad press lately – not least from my esteemed neighbour on this page – and about time too. Our foolish addiction to the stuff has a significant environmental impact. The bottles, whether glass or plastic, have to be manufactured – using non-renewable fossil fuels. More energy is used (along with other resources) to bottle, package, store and ship it.

And all this for a product that is no safer or tastier than the water that flows out of our taps. A writer named Ian Williams, quoted in the excellent What to Eat by Professor Marion Nestle (North Point Press), describes bottled water as “ostentatiously useless”.

If you are addicted to bottled water, I beg you to conduct the following experiment. Take two bottles, one empty and one containing your store-bought water. Fill the empty bottle with tap water, then refrigerate both overnight. Overnight chilling brings them to identical temperatures and allows any odour of chlorine (a harmless and essential anti-microbial) to dissipate.

In the morning, get someone to pour the waters into two glasses without telling you which is which. If your blind tasting reveals no appreciable difference, quit your expensive, environmentally destructive habit on the spot.

What to do with the bottles you already have? Refill them with tap water and keep them in the fridge. If you mistakenly believe you need all-day hydration, carry one with you when you go out. If you have a garden, cut off the bases and sink the bottles neck-down into holes next to your plants: water poured in there reaches the roots more efficiently than water on the ground. If you make stock for freezing, pour it into the bottle (but don’t fill all the way) through a funnel.

Whatever you do, please quit that habit. It’s doing you no good. And it’s cruel to the planet.

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

Investor Relations Magazine, Ian Williams, Speculator, September 2004

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” declaims hoarsely.

WC Fields would have approved as he claimed never to touch the stuff anyway, his excuse being that fish fornicate in it.

But the ancient mariner s modern day shipmates are likely to have holds full of one of the most ostentatiously useless consumer products of all: bottled water branded dihydrogen oxide.

Years ago, an entrepreneur tried to sell tins of fresh Scottish air to jaded Londoners. They were supposed to open it, sniff the fresh breeze that emanated and, if they followed the instructions, run twice around the block.

They would feel better for it, the label said. Indeed. The enterprise eventually evaporated into thin air.

By contrast, bottled water is more of a commercial success, and increasing numbers of people are buying it in larger and larger quantities, even though benefits are equally illusory.

All sorts of greenish individuals stock up on bottles of water rather than going to their kitchen sink and drinking the much cheaper generic alternative.

Do they ever stop to think of the damage they cause to the environment?

For example, in New York supermarkets, apart from Perrier, you can get water from Scotland , Fiji and even Greenland , which is alleged to be melted glacier water.

Think about it. Why should water that has been lying around since the last Ice Age, or maybe even the one before, collecting dioxins, lead, radioactive fallout, polar bear poop and, for all anyone knows, the occasional dead Inuit or Viking, set any acceptable standard for purity?

Then, to completely insult our intelligence, the water is bottled - often in glass, no less, thus demanding huge energy expenditures to fuse the ingredients and smelt the bottle tops, or in plastic, demanding high hydrocarbon usage.

Manufacturing either type of container emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

During bottling, the water is often ozonated, introducing free radicals to kill the bacteria that would otherwise thrive on a long journey.

The bottles are then placed in shrink-wrapped non-biodegradable plastic units and stacked on disposable wooden palettes, deforesting whole regions, before being hauled by diesel-fueled trucks, which emit carbon particles and carbon dioxide, and loaded onto ships that burn the dirtiest of bunker fuels.

Finally, they arrive at your local store where you pay a $1 a bottle (or more) while cursing your city for charging the same amount for 500 gallons of some of the purest municipal water in the world.

Of course, not all bottled water travels such an environmentally deleterious voyage. No, sir.

In New York, many of the firms selling bottled water to offices and homes take it straight from the city supply and put it in bottles.

It is quite fitting, really, a bit like selling the Brooklyn Bridge on the installment plan.

Some bottles are then recycled, which means they are cleaned using water heated by burning fossil fuels, or melted at huge energy costs to make new glass.

Alternatively, they’re cast aside to clutter the beaches and landfills of the world.

And then there are those ubiquitous plastic bottles that every health-conscious jogger - indeed every pedestrian - in Manhattan clutches talismanically in the summer heat.

Never mind the way the discards clog the drains, ditches and beaches.

Have they ever thought of the complex organic compounds that leach from the plastic into that -pure spring water- they just bought at the neighborhood deli?

Unless of course they are drinking the allegedly naturally carbonated water that has been divested of bacteria with the introduction of carbon dioxide.

They drink it, and then every burp helps melt a snowman somewhere in the world. Don’t they feel the slightest twinge of guilt?

Green joggers should savor every last drop of that glacier melt bottled water.

If they keep consuming a product that adds so much in greenhouse gases, soon there will be no icecaps left to bottle.

And the sea levels will rise, forcing them to stock up on bottled water because although diluted with all that fresh water from the melted poles, the sea will be everywhere, and still too saline to drink.

Think before you drink!

A trip to the kitchen to fill up on pure, cheap, low energy water will save the planet - and your bank balance.

Until of course, the IMF forces New York to privatize its water supply and you have to pay market prices for the stuff.

1 comment:

Jaason said...

I have been studying bottled water for quite a while now and I would say you have done a good job at pointing out the sillyness of it all. Its funny you mention the selling of air as I have been saying to people whats next bottled air?

Good Job!