Bottled Water: A Simple Question With a Complex Answer

In my last post I referenced the author and speaker Charles Eisenstein.  Because I “liked” his Facebook page I get posts about his travels and articles from time to time.  I’m going to reprint some excerpts from the one I got yesterday.  I thought it was so good, I would recommend that if you are interested, go to his site and read the whole article.

I really liked this article for a couple of reasons:

  1. I identified with the title Nestlé executive.  Having been a VP in a global marketing firm (and actually having had Nestlé as my client on a few projects) I could stand in her shoes, interested in doing the best job possible, both for the company and for the society it serves.   I could also identify with the young girl who asked the rather accusatory question–I certainly have my own questions about Big Business and its ability to serve the public good without further damage to the earth, simply because the goals of business and environmentalism are inherently at odds with each other in most cases.
  2. The simple question put to the Nestlé executive by a young student was about Nestlé’s manufacture of bottled water.  But the answer was not so simple, and that’s what I really liked about Eisenstein’s piece:  It acknowledged that there is no benefit to a black/white, either/or mentality.  There is no benefit to pitting Us against Them and pointing fingers, simply because  we’re all in this together.   The question of “shouldn’t you stop making bottled water” calls into question not only market supply and demand, but also the lifestyle we’ve chosen for ourselves that necessitates water on the run, the current state of our natural resources to which we have all contributed, and our personal stories we live inside–of the Evil Corporations rolling towards us, the Helpless Citizens, tied to the rails.    But Charles Eisenstein gives each of us more power than that.

Well, I’ll let you judge for yourself by linking to the article, The Lovely Lady from Nestle on this website.  The bottled water question is emblematic of the whole tangled web we’ve woven, and the need for all of us to take responsibility in addressing the pressing questions of our future lives on this planet.

I am providing some excerpts, reluctantly.  I would reprint the whole thing, but I don’t have the author’s permission.  Printing the excerpts is nothing but a hatchet job of a very lucid piece, so I hope you link directly to The Lovely Lady From Nestle by Charles Eisenstein

The Lovely Lady from Nestlé
Charles Eisenstein

At a conference recently I happened to overhear a conversation between one of the speakers, a vice-president of Nestle Corporation, and a college student who was questtioning the VP’s glowing portrayal of Nestle’s social and environmental policies.

The student bravely interrogated the VP about their leading beverage category, bottled water. “Do we really need such a thing?” she asked. And, “I understand you are using 40% less plastic per bottle, but wouldn’t it be better to use no plastic at all?”

To each query, the VP had a persuasive, thoroughly reasoned response. Bottled water meets a real need in a society on the go. And did you know that raw ingredient for making the plastic bottles is a byproduct of producing gasoline from petroleum? If it doesn’t go toward bottles, it will end up as some other plastic product or dumped directly into the environment. Glass uses way more energy to produce. And tap water is no longer pure.

….

The VP’s positions are unassailable unless we can expand the scope of the conversation. We have to ask questions at the level of, “What role do plastic bottles play in the accelerating pace of modern life, why is this acceleration happening and is it a good thing?” “Where does our busyness and need for convenience come from?” “Why is our tapwater becoming undrinkable?” “Why do we have a system in which it is OK to produce waste products that are unusable by other life forms?” And, “Is the ‘sustainable growth’ championed by Nestle possible on a finite planet?”

….

In fact, the corporations don’t have all the power at all. They only do within the framework of a universe of force. In a universe of love, things are not at all hopeless. If we see the VP and people like her as people just like ourselves, then they can change as we have changed. …Maybe there is a time for fighting, for matching force with force. But I think if we carefully examine our victories in social and environmental justice, we will find that it was the power of conscience, compassion, and love that powered those victories.

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