There is nothing like walking on a beach to reconnect you to the world. On one side is the ocean, filled with life both large and small, the steady pounding of the waves on the shore much like a heartbeat. On the other side is the land – in this case, jungle – filled with dense vegetation, the stirring of animals and the twitter of birds. Beneath your feet, rocks and sand – itself the product of thousands of years of steady grinding to turn coral and stones into fine soft grains. Where the land and sea meet, endless interactions between the two worlds – most visible in the pretty hunting birds darting into the surf.
And after a storm you see the other world – the human world – in the detritus of civilization washed up on the shores. Some things are almost natural – bits of wood or concrete washed away from human buildings. Even lost shoes don’t seem so bad, sandals and beach shoes torn loose by the waves.
But the rest? Endless water bottles, plastic rings from six packs and bottle caps, scraps of plastic of all kinds, even toothbrushes and hair combs – all the disposable junk we throw away and forget. So much of it winds up in the ocean, clogging the waves and killing millions of seabirds and mammals.
And for what? For convenience – nothing more than that.
There is seldom any need for anyone to buy water in a plastic bottle. There are exceptions, of course. Many First Nations have been on boil water advisories for decades. Places like Flint, Michigan, have had their water systems ruined by clumsy or venal politicians (who really need to go to jail). But for most of us in North America – where the bulk of water bottles are produced and discarded – the water in those bottles is no better, no cleaner, no healthier than the water that comes out of our taps.
This disservice we do to the environment, we do because we are too lazy to fill a renewable container with water from a tap. Even in Mexico, where municipal water systems don’t always supply potable water, you can get clean water at your hotel. There is no need to spend a lot of money for a product you have, in fact, already paid for.
It is a vicious cycle. As tax payers we have already spent money to produce reliable water systems – which when we obsessively use bottled water — It’s more healthy!!!! – become underutilized and so underfunded. And, of course, as water systems fall into disrepair we actually begin to need bottled water. Which is exactly what the corporations who sell the stuff want.
Which is funny. Because a lot of that bottled water comes from the same source: a municipal water system. This has been proven over and over again. A number of companies have been sued and forced to pay settlements because of falsely claiming to have drawn their water from mountain springs when it was really the town down the road that did the purification. By the way, most mountain springs are filled with parasites and other contaminants. Beaver Fever is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.
So when you buy that bottled water in the store, you are not only committing a crime against nature, you are being conned out of your hard earned money. And the corporations – who used to rely on cola and sugar to make their money – go laughing all the way to the bank. And I don’t mean the river bank.
But that’s ten minutes.