Saturday, March 02, 2019

Pet peeve post about water

Several of the aggressively hip progressive podcasts I listen to have an irritating new sponsor. You've probably encountered this company -- I won't give them a link, but for as long as I can remember, they've been pitching pitchers to filter your tap water if, for some reason, you think you need to do that.
But now they've got a new shtick: actually they are earnest environmental warriors seeking to save us all by reducing use of plastic bottles. You are promised a warm glow of social responsible when you buy their gadget.

Bullshit. They are selling a product we can and should be working not to need in the first place.

It's true that climate change threatens global water and that plastic bottles are filling landfills and polluting the oceans.

But what people need is access to healthy, adequate water which usually requires government organization and/or regulation. Way out in the countryside -- whether in the US or in the campo where I support El Porvenir helping local Nicaraguans -- local wells can still matter. But most humans live in developed urban areas and need developed water systems. And developed countries usually have such systems.

US tap water is far from perfect, though most of it is just fine to drink. In 2017 the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a report which found that about of fourth of us live in jurisdictions where water should be safer. But they don't tell us to go buy a filter pitcher. The title of the paper tells what we need to do: Threats on Tap: Widespread Violations Highlight Need for Investment in Water Infrastructure and Protections.

Bottled water may be a temporary last resort solution to bad supply. But if we want better water, we don't need either plastic bottles or fancy filter pitchers. We need collective public action to demand that public authorities do their jobs. At the water system level, city, state, and country governments are failing if the water is contaminated. Sometimes old residential plumbing systems are the source of dangerous pollutants: landlords should be held liable for pipes that contaminate; governments should be forced to assist building owners and householders to clean up their acts.

Individual filters -- however slick and hip -- treat a social problem as a consumer fashion accessory. Want cleaner water and less bottles? Jack up your politicians!

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