24 July 2008

A grump about water

I refused to buy bottled water. To charge for water seemed to me immoral, on a par with charging for air. Especially in a world where water looks like being the next global cassus belli.

A couple of decades later, I feel slightly different. Not wildly different; I haven't actually changed my view, but it has complicated somewhat.

I see no point in paying to drink something which I do not enjoy and may actually harm me in low level ways (cola, for example) so, if there is no alternative, I buy a bottle of water. But if there is a tap, I'll always go to that instead.

There is, of course, the powerful environmental argument: all those disposable plastic bottles are one more component of a social crime for which our descendents will pay over the centuries and generations. Recycling does provide a partial redress; so does reuse; and some people (solo sea travellers for instance) are a legitimate market; but, when all is said and done, the bottles represent energy expended to no necessary purpose.

However, the core of my uncertainty lies in social attitude. I am seriously worried by societies which avoid (as western developed societies did, and many in them still do) drinking water in favour of other things. My concern is partly on physical health grounds, but beyond that is social psychology. Rejection of water as a basic staple is a decadence.

So, I should be (and to some measure am) in favour of the fashion for drinking water - regardless of how it is delivered. Hurrah.

On the other hand ... refusing the free output from hard won, convenient, expensively developed and maintained clean water systems of those developed societies to insist on paying for inefficient delivery in a little plastic bottle with a large brand marketing component in its generous mark up ... that, too, is a decadence. So have we really moved forward?

I don't know.

No comments: