All letters in reference to: Bottled water the eco-fad
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 :
You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Coalition for Bottled-Water-Free Campuses
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.
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.
Vote in our poll: Should we ban bottled water on campus?
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