Letters to the editor x3: Bottled Water

All letters in reference to: Bottled water the eco-fadbottled20water1

Letter 1

The Coalition for Bottled-Water-Free Campuses is thrilled to take this opportunity to inform the STU community of our loftiest aspirations. We are fighting to provide universally accessible, safe, clean, locally sourced Champagne. It is, after all, a “human right,” and we feel that it should be available to all students, not just those social-justice snobs who spend their nights (and days?) swilling bubbly and eating (soy?) caviar.

All joking aside, we are a broad-based coalition made up of student and community groups as well as concerned students, faculty and community members. We feel that creating bottled-water-free campuses is one real, tangible step that we can take as a community to lessen our environmental impact. Climate change is a problem that is often too big to comprehend, much less take action on. Students at the University of Winnipeg and Memorial University have succeeded in creating bottled-water-free campuses and municipalities across the country, from small towns with fewer people than STU to the largest city in the country have eliminated bottled water from municipal buildings. Working towards a bottled-water-free campus localizes the issue of climate change, and provides a goal whose achievement is in sight.

St. Thomas came last in its category in the Globe and Mail’s recent University Report Card in the area of Environmental Commitment. We do not feel that this grade is reflective of the priorities of the students, faculty and staff of St. Thomas University. We believe that ours is a university committed to social justice and progressive policies, and we will not accept being labeled as apathetic when action is well within our grasp.

Let’s not evade the facts. Bottled water requires energy to make the bottles, to transport the bottles, and to recycle the bottles (when they don’t end up in a landfill). It takes the equivalent of seven bottles worth of water and a quarter of a bottle of oil to produce one bottle of water. Clearly other beverages that come in plastic bottles are also harmful to the environment. The difference is that pop and champagne don’t flow from our taps – we already have a safe, healthy, and cheap alternative to bottled water.

The Student’s Union has already signed on as a coalition partner, but we need the support of the student population for the planned referendum on bottled water later this year. We have been accused of attempting to limit students’ choices, however, we think it is important to recognize that there are many ways for us to make choices. You can find out more about what a Bottled-Water-Free campus would look like by visiting our website at :

http://nbpirg.org/working-groups/coaliton-for-bottled-water-free-campuses.

You can also email us at bottlefreefred@gmail.com.

– Coalition for Bottled-Water-Free Campuses


Letter 2

Dear Editor,

I was not going to bother replying to Greg Rodger and Mitch Messom’s opinion piece about bottled water in last week’s Aquinian, because I figured the absurdity of their statements would be evident to most students on campus. Then again, I don’t want to take a chance, so here are my thoughts. (It should be noted that I am NOT part of the Coalition for Bottled-Water Free Campuses.)

Rodger and Messom’s attempt at presenting “rational” arguments to veil what seems to me as an ideological attack on environmental activism is nothing less than insulting to students on this campus. I don’t think it is news to STU students that we are facing a global environmental crisis of extraordinary proportions. (Perhaps Rodger and Messom haven’t heard about it.) There is a group of dedicated students on campus (not exactly the champagne drinking type) who are spending a good chunk of their time trying to better their society and environment. Meanwhile, Rodger and Messom sit on the margins (perhaps drinking champagne?) and try to tear it down. Shame on you.

They argue that such things as Pepsi and alcohol are much worse for the environment than bottled water. Well, great! I officially nominate you two, Greg and Mitch, as presidents of the “Coalition to Ban Pepsi and Alcohol.” Actually, that won’t make enough of a difference. Instead, I nominate you as members of the “Coalition to Put an End to Capitalism”. Let us know how that goes.

Rodger and Messom seem to imply that water is not a Human Right. In fact, they like to put quotation marks around the term. They seem to be more concerned with their own “right” to choose bottled water over tap water, than with the greater issue of water privatization. (I would like for them to point out the section in our Constitution that guarantees our right to the “free market”.) Somehow, they see the inconvenience of carrying a reusable water bottle or bending over a water fountain as more important than securing water as a public good for everyone in Canada, and working toward environmental sustainability. In fact, as unbelievable as this may sound, they seem to argue that water should be privatized. Can you imagine having Canada’s water supply controlled by private companies whose only obligation is the bottom line?! They seem to be ok with the fact that privatization of water could restrict accessibility to those who can pay, leaving behind the poor. Good to know…

I applaud the students who have been working hard to create a bottled-water free campus. This is an achievable goal that will send a strong message about the need for more action by the environment, while reducing waste from bottled water. No positive change in the world would happen if it weren’t for people like them. It takes energy and courage to fight for a cause like this, and plain cowardice to try and tear it down like Rodger and Messom are doing. There are many great names of those who have fought for what was right – Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Emmeline Pankhurst, Tommy Douglas – but we never hear of those who tried to keep the status quo.

When this is all over and we can look back at this fight for environmental and social justice, which side will you have been on? I trust that students are willing to bend over a water fountain, or carry a reusable bottle.

Marie-Christine Allard

Letter 3

Dear Editor,

In response to Rodger and Messom:

Call it an eco fad if you want but I’d rather call it a gaining of consciousness; people coming together and understanding what kind of effects bottled water has on our population and on our earth.

Sure we’ll ask ourselves what the difference is between Pepsi, water, and alcohol – one of them comes out of the ground, flows in rivers, melts from icebergs and has a very natural presence on the earth. The disturbing thing is that we continue to commodify, privatize, and sell this vital resource.

The authors of last week’s opinion piece suggest that the human right to water does not involve the access to water but the ability to choose your source of water. Please, tell that to the woman who walks four miles to access the village well, to the millions living in drought, or to the aboriginal communities of our country that do not have access to safe, potable, clean water. Let’s not talk about your right to pollute the air with the production of plastic, to put the water through an unnecessary “filtering” system, to fill landfills or to generate energy from recycling, and to continue oppressing the majority world as well as burdening the earth, when you can bend over and drink from the fountain, fill up your cup in the sink, flush your toilet, take a shower everyday, wash your clothes and your dishes, and have continued access to safe and healthy water. Until the rest of the world has enough to drink, we have no right to produce more, to consume more, and to continue sipping from our bottles as the fountains and taps are ignored.

The authors move on to consider the privatization of food and oil as proof that water too should be let free of the reins of government and public interest. They state that water is surely no more important that food or oil. Hello, what planet do you live on? Did you not learn a long time ago that humans couldn’t go more than a few days without water? I feel like you might be able to survive a while without oil, don’t you think?

No, you’re right. Bottled water is not the only threat to people and to the earth. But it’s the beginning of a “reclaiming of the commons”; of people standing up for what is rightfully theirs. If someone took something from you and asked you to pay to get it back, would you? Well, why in the world are we paying for water? And let me say, that if this is the kind of resistance with which the ecological and human rights movements are met, we have a long road ahead of us. But we are willing to take that road, to take back, and to use our power and influence to highlight the interdependency of people and the planet. So if it’s a fad, I’d hop in because it’s one that will be here for a long while.

Rébeka Frazer-Chiasson

Vote in our poll: Should we ban bottled water on campus?

[poll id=”6″]

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  • Show Comments (11)

  • Facebook User

    Sell re-useable metal STU Water Bottles, sell metal Aquinian Water Bottles,

    Reduce re-use recycle-

    Currently, over 75 % of returnable re-fillable containers end up in landfill as garbage.

    Our grandchildren will be mining the garbage dumps for the materials that we used once and threw away.

  • Facebook User

    Just out of curiosity. What's considered a win here? Removal of bottled water from the caf and machines? Or something more stringent?

  • Facebook User

    Sell re-useable metal STU Water Bottles, sell metal Aquinian Water Bottles,

    Reduce re-use recycle-
    Currently, over 75 % of returnable re-fillable containers end up in landfill as garbage.
    Our grandchildren will be mining the garbage dumps for the materials that we used once and threw away.

  • Facebook User

    Just out of curiosity. What’s considered a win here? Removal of bottled water from the caf and machines? Or something more stringent?

  • Ella Henry

    The goal is to phase out the sale of bottled water on campus (after a referendum indicating a majority of students are in favor of it) – not to ban it entirely from campus.

  • Greg Rodger

    “The difference is that pop and champagne don’t flow from our taps – we already have a safe, healthy, and cheap alternative to bottled water.”

    Our main point was to illustrate just the opposite of this comment.
    If soda and other non-hydrating products steal water from the same sources as bottled water (which hydrates you) then practically it would make more sense to start fighting non-hydrating products first.

    I personally do not agree with either the motivation or the practicality of the idea of banning water on campus. First off it is a very harsh and abrasive reaction to a business contract with our sole food providers on campus and secondly, the proposed bottled water ban is openly deceitful in its aims. Am I really to believe that a ban on campus would benefit the third world, considering the water is actually taken from Ontario and Quebec.

    Thirdly, as a student my choices are already limited by a monopoly food service provider, it is a personal affront to me as a consumer to be forced by my own peers to be limited again in what choices I have with that food service provider.

    If you don’t like bottled water – don’t buy it. Let us that take no moral issue with it make up our own minds.

  • Marylynn Cote

    "Thirdly, as a student my choices are already limited by a monopoly food service provider, it is a personal affront to me as a consumer to be forced by my own peers to be limited again in what choices I have with that food service provider."

    Here you assume that we have some kind of consumer right. Since when is it a human right to be able to buy something? Where in the constitution does it say that none of our choices are ever able to be limited? In fact, it very explicitly states that there may be reasonable limits to our freedoms and privileges (for that is what they are).

    In a state of extreme environmental unrest which is occurring and will be worsening in the next twenty years, government restrictions will be put in place that will be much worse than "oh by the way, you can only drink from the tap or fountain (but you still have water)."

    This is a much more complicated manner than consumer rights.

  • Marylynn Cote

    I meant to say "matter"

  • Greg Rodger

    Also you cannot straw man a position away without addressing it. As a person who would be affected by such a ban as complicated as that may be to understand – I demand to have my consumer issues addressed.

  • Greg Rodger

    Just to show how abusive and unreasonable your argument is, I would actually like to have you reference the charter of rights and freedoms and to show me where water is a guaranteed right in Canada if you would. – It isn’t there, that does not mean you are wrong, it also does not mean the charter is flawed either.

    See section 26: “The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada.”

    Using a document to attack my position which has no reference to your position is a bit shaky. Should I fight for my charter rights to include consumer goods? – no that is absurd from my own perspective. But I would also not fight to restrict access to consumer goods either, unless they were somehow already in conflict with the charter.

    Even if we had a right to water it would not exclude my ability to buy it. In fact, to reiterate my position, I am arguing it would most likely guarantee my ability to buy it, or sell it.

    In response to your quip on government restriction:

    Government does not exist to force people to act in accordance with its wishes but rather the people act in order for government to serve their own wishes. I shall support a referendum on the issue and will even stop buying water on campus if 2/3 of the registered students vote to ban the sale of it.

    I hold no moral authority and will not choose what is right for any other student, I only hope the bottle-ban crowd has the same sentiment.

  • Tyler Barker ☭

    “Here you are assuming you have some consumer right…. human right… constitution… limit to freedom and privileges”

    The above is a load of garbage. In the capitalist economy, [basically] the only law is supply and demand regulated by consumer transactions.The only limitation on this principle is market restrictions set by a governing body [doesn’t always mean the state] to insure in theory fair play. Outright banning of products and/or restricting of products is considered only when there is a demonstrable argument that the product harms the market and and/or its consumer base. That is as far as the whole.. “freedom and privilege” argument can extend. Therefore, it’s not a matter of the “right as a consumer”, it’s the matter of it’s inherant to the system that the consumer gets to define that which they buy. Human rights, constitutionalism, have absolutely nothing to do with this issue.

    “In the state of extreme enviromental unrest..twenty years… government restrictions will be in place with are alot worse..”

    Scaremongering? . Yup. These type of statements are dominating the discussion, it’s not promoting debate, it’s stifling it! Regardless of your personal views on what the government will or will not do in the next twenty years [the funny thing about prophecying is that usually it never comes to pass – I want my jetson’s car !!] or the state of the enviroment, the issue is a consumer issue. Acess to drinking water is a very important issue,if that indeed is the issue – statements to what the issue with bottled water is change with every soapbox on this campus -but it has nothing to do with the availability of bottled water on a Canadian university campus. The water that pepsico sells out of it’s machines and the Aramark outlet at STU is collected and bottled from Canadian sources. It’s our water that we are paying to drink in the bottle. It’s not the water of the third world, it’s ours.Banning or restricting bottled water on this campus will not change a thing about the situation of third world water. Paying for water is not a new thing, Tap water isn’t free , the water bill is due every month for every houseowner- payable to the fredericton municipality. Water has been a commodity since men have been able to band together and build a fence around it, it’s hardly a unique phenomenon of the 20th century. As per enviromental degredation, synonynous with the global warming “issue” [???] , I just don’t care, same with other people. apathy is horrible, but hey, its the real life. You can save the enviroment while I have my bottled water. Isn’t that how crusades are supposed to work?

    That’s my two cents, I’m probably wrong, but I want to hear a structured reason WHY, as opposed to scaremongering and supposition..

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