Watering down our care for the environment
IT would be difficult to find a more pertinent example of our conflicted relationship with our environment than the production and consumption of bottled water.
We find it deeply depressing that anyone should seek to profit from an unnecessary and polluting product and further that our council should support it by granting planning permission for the proposed bottling plant at Greengill, Penrith. So why do we feel so strongly about this?
First, bottled water is almost universally packaged in single-use plastic — plastic which most readers recognise is becoming a scourge of the planet. In the case of the proposed bottling plant, it is anticipated that 25 million litres of water will be bottled per year, which probably equates to 50 million more discarded bottles.
Second, the production process for bottled water consumes a large amount of energy that is responsible for greenhouse gasses that will add to the growing global climate crisis.
Supported by incontrovertible scientific evidence, the International Panel on Climate Change has warned that we have just 12 years to mend our ways and hold the rate of global warming to levels that will not be catastrophic for the planet.
Yet we go on building an economy based on the destructive exploitation of natural resources, producing and consuming energy and products that will inevitably lead to our collective detriment. To put it bluntly, we should not allow development that unnecessarily consumes energy and resources to produce a product that we do not need.
Our relationship with water is absurd. We have allowed marketing to overcome rationality. Bottled water is around 1,000 times more expensive than tap water — Britons spend £1.5 billion on it every year. The producers have persuaded us that the product is purer and safer than tap water. We have fallen for a huge con trick. Research evidence shows that tap water is safer than bottled water, it is more stringently regulated and it is not stored for long periods in plastic.
While we may not like the traces of chlorine in tap water, it provides protection from pathogens in a way that bottled water does not. It would be nice to claim to be the first people to notice that the word Evian spelled backwards reads naive.
The greatest public health achievement of our Victorian civic ancestors was supplying clean water. We should be celebrating their legacy by reinvesting in public water fountains, not undermining it with decisions to support production of an unnecessary, poorer quality alternative that simultaneously causes damage to our environment.
DICK O’BRIEN, ALI ROSS
and ALAN BARR
(Penrith and Eden Green Party)