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Pledging to not drink bottled water

The U.S. Girl Scouts Leadership Journey this year deals with the “Wonders of Water,” the tiny proportion of fresh water that must support all terrestrial life, its journey through oceans, atmosphere and the planet’s vegetation and land water bodies, the risks to it from pollution and ways to save and protect it.
One section addresses “Clean Water to Drink,” inaccessible now to one-sixth of the earth’s people. Noting the astounding amount sold in packaged form in the U.S., 22 billion bottles in 2007, it discusses a few consequences of the bottled drinking water habit.
“Can you imagine that many bottles piled in the garbage?” it asks, these being “thrown away after one use,” most not recycled and many ending up in the ocean where they harm sea life.
As mentioned in this column some time ago, Jessica McAmis’s 4-H display at the Appalachian Fair illustrated one local youngster’s worries about the persistence of trash items, as outdoor litter or land-filled, in the environment. Glass bottles, her research had found, remain un-decayed a million years, containers made of plastic stay around “forever.”
The Girl Scout question seems quite pertinent in this context: Should we continue to manufacture and toss “that many plastic bottles,” there being no need of so doing for accessing clean water?
The commercialization of water raises many issues in addition to its wastefulness, one being the subject of a report by Anna Lenzen in Mother Jones this month.
What is now “America’s leading imported water” comes from the main island in a chain of several hundred small islands and atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1,300 miles equidistant from New Zealand and the east coast of Australia.
The Canadian owner of a multinational real estate and mining corporation founded Fiji Water there in 1995, after getting “wind of” an enormous aquifer that had been discovered through studies by the Fijian government and aid organizations.
He secured a 99-year lease on the land and tax-free status, bottled water being claimed to be a risky business. From the aquifer’s output, marketed as “pre-industrial living water,” a large amount is packaged since then in a huge industrial plant with plastic imported from China, “50,000 bottled per hour, 24 hours a day, five days a week” and shipped to the four corners of the globe.
Most Fijians, including the main island’s inhabitants, lack access to clean water. Through dearth of adequate wells and functioning water treatment plants, they are plagued by periodic outbreaks of typhoid and parasitic infections.
Their government, a military junta declared unconstitutional this year by its courts, “has not been able to come up with the money or infrastructure” to tap the country’s pristine water for its own people.
Eight hundred thousand Brownies, mindful of the “Girl Scout Law” to use resources wisely, are studying personal actions they can take to save and protect water.
These include “doing my best to not drink bottled water.” It seems a wise pledge for them to take, for their own and all children’s future.