Put Down the Bottle: On the Natural Devastations of Bottled Water

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Om sarva mangala mangalye, shive sarvatha sadhike
sharunye tryambike gauri, Narayani namo-stute


Salutations to the Divine Mother, Narayani — the giver of auspiciousness unto all. Realization arises with her blessing. She is the world itself. Honor this gift, your life; bow to Mother Nature. It is only through the experiences of this life that the soul can be perfected. 

Our relationship with the Earth, specifically in the West, is an adversarial relationship; one that springs from a fear of nature giving rise to the need to control, exploit and profit from it. Because of this feeling of separateness from and superiority over nature, we are taking more than we are giving back. 

The commons was once considered to be the public space where water, earth and air were available and accessible to everyone equally. Laws about the commons were passed in the spirit of protecting this accessibility.

Nestle is presently violating the commons laws in Maine, California, and elsewhere by pumping ground water out of natural aquifers and wetlands. Nestle (a.k.a. Poland Spring) is pumping 750 million gallons of water out of the ground in Maine alone. The same water that is available through the faucet in Maine is then bottled and sold for $2.50 a pop. Coca-cola (a.k.a Aquafina) is doing the same thing in India. 

The extraction process is draining natural water reserves, changing local eco-systems, and nearby bottling plants are poisoning people and soil. Adding insult to injury, it takes an average of two gallons of fresh water to produce the plastic bottle it comes in. 

There’s nothing magic in those bottles. Many studies have shown that the contents of bottled water are the same or of lesser quality than the water that comes out of the tap. There is nothing special added, nothing taken away, nothing transformed from the tap water that comes gushing out of your faucet. 

(And then the empty bottle likely ends up in the ocean.)

Bottled water sales not only do not show any signs of slowing down, but sales numbers continue to grow rapidly. What is it in us that creates the demand for bottled water? Personal comfort and convenience?  Is it because of familial or cultural habit?  The yogi seeks to understand the root causes of all habitual actions and habits and to create relationships based on mutual respect - relationships that uplift life rather than destroy it.

Sthira Sukham Asanam
The connection to the earth should be steady and joyful. (Yoga Sutras 2.46)

Asana means seat, and this concept can be extended to the way you are seated on the earth. Asana is your connection to the Earth; therefore Earth and the forms of life on it should be sukham (joyful, happy) and sthira (steady).

The practitioner of yoga, the sadhika, practices non-grasping, or aparigraha, and through the practice of not taking more than one needs comes to understand the underlying root of the habits and thought-patterns that lead to the suffering that is grasping.

Or to put it another way, one moment of convenience isn’t worth the human or Earth labour and resources that it devours.

If you want to learn more about water rights and the effect of bottled water on the planet and communities around the world, Flow: For the Love of Water is an excellent place to start. It is available to watch streaming now on Hulu.


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