Against Bottled Water

The United Church of Canada‘s General Council is meeting in Thunder Bay this week. That meeting happens once every three years, when democratically elected commissioners vote on various policy and directive resolutions affecting the church. It is the highest governing body of the church.

I’ve been at the last three General Councils, so I’m a little sad to not be at this one. (I’m going to the Green Party of Canada’s National Convention next weekend instead.) Three years ago, at the General Council meeting in Wolfville Nova Scotia, I met Alexa Mcdonough. We only spoke briefly, but were both able to agree that if parliament worked more like a General Council meeting it would be much more productive. For example, everyone sits at randomized round tables (instead of in the automatically adversarial arrangement of our parliament) and decisions are made by consensus (instead of by….um….how does our parliament make decisions again?).

And for those of you who would say that can’t work in a large group, there are around 600 people at a General Council meeting, with over 400 voting commissioners. Parliament has 308 MPs.

The past two General Councils have generated media attention for the United Church’s support of same sex marriage. I was proud to be a part of that. This year’s meeting is getting attention for a vote scheduled for tomorrow, where the GC will vote on a resolution opposing the commodification and privatization of water, including bottled water. I’m proud again (this time in absentia).

There are a number of reasons. For one, I do believe that water should be public, and that access to clean water is a human right (even though the government of Canada disagrees). That on its own may not be enough to avoid bottled water, but there’s more. The bottling process drains aquifers and reduces the flow of streams and lakes, which causes stress on ecosystems. And of course, the bottle itself is an unnecessary piece of waste.

What do we get for those sacrifices? Not much. Bottled water isn’t even regulated under Ontario’s Safe Drinking Water Act, is regulated less strictly than tap water, and is often just treated tap water anyway (as is the case with Coke’s Dasani and Pepsi’s Aquafina, which I’ve read is mostly tap water from Detroit — yum).

Check out Now magazine for more details about bottled water and water politics in general. We can’t take this stuff for granted. We’re even more addicted to it than oil, and we’ve seen what those wars are like.

ps. What will those wars have to do with us? Well, we’ve got the world’s largest fresh water reserves, and we’re right in-between the US and China. Might be hard to stay out of this one.

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