The Beverage Marketing Corporation, which tracks sales and consumption of beverages, is reporting that sales of bottled water grew nearly 7 percent between 2011 and 2012, with consumption reaching a staggering 30.8 gallons per person.
Despite having one of the best municipal tap water systems in the world, American consumers are flocking to commercial bottled water, which costs thousands of times more per gallon. Why? Four reasons:
First, we have been bombarded with advertisements that claim that our tap water is unsafe, or that bottled water is safer, healthier, and more hip, often with celebrity endorsements. (Thanks a lot, Jennifer.)
Second, public drinking water fountains have become increasingly hard to find. And the ones that exist are not being adequately maintained by our communities.
Third, people are increasingly fearful of our tap water, hearing stories about contamination, new chemicals that our treatment systems aren’t designed to remove, or occasional failures of infrastructure that isn’t being adequately maintained or improved.
Fourth, some people don’t like the taste of their tap water, or think they don’t.
Some people, including the bottled water industry, argue that drinking bottled water is better than drinking soft drinks. I agree. But that’s not what’s happening. The vast increase in bottled water sales have largely come at the expense of tap water, not soft drinks. And even if we pushed (as we should) to replace carbonated soft drinks with water, it should be tap water, not expensive bottled water.
This industry has very successfully turned a public resource into a private commodity.
Unilever’s push into Africa is a return to familiar territory. The firm made a fifth of its profits in Africa until the 1970s, when it shifted its attentions to Asia. Now it is back, employing 30,000 people on the continent and shifting soap, soup and so on worth €3 billion ($3.7 billion)—out of total worldwide sales of €46 billion. It is already Africa’s biggest supplier of consumer goods, and aims to double sales in the next five years by beefing up investment and bringing in more of its brands.
In spite of the risks, businessfolk are upbeat. A couple of decades ago, most African governments made life very hard for business. Now policies are more market-friendly, albeit with frequent relapses: Zambia, for example, recently banned the use of American dollars in local transactions—a needless extra hassle for firms operating there.
Still, the corridor chatter at sub-Saharan conferences these days is cheerful. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, says that cynicism about Africa has turned to optimism. “We have a sense that things are really getting better,” says Mr Braeken. Africa is not only about mining and oil any more. But, he says, the continent still needs to overcome what George Bush, in another context, called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.
Beyond 7 billion: After remaining stable for most of human history, the world’s population has exploded over the last two centuries. The boom is not over: The biggest generation in history is just entering its childbearing years. The coming wave will reshape the planet, and the impact will be greatest in the poorest, most unstable countries.
This is one of the biggest projects coming out of The Times this year. Read the stories, watch the videos, look through the photos — the collection is a beast. And let us know what you think.
In late June, Florida’s governor and GOP Legislature shut down the state’s only hospital to treat tuberculosis. At the same time, the state was experiencing the largest outbreak of TB - “consumption” - in America in 20 years. The CDC warned Scott’s health office an epidemic was in the offing. But he never even told the lawmakers who voted to close the hospital, much less Florida’s millions of citizens who are at risk of their lungs melting.
As our Florida correspondent reports, it’s par for the course in the Sunshine State, where even septic-tank inspections are derided as socialism, and conservative lawmakers have cut social services to the bone—and Rick Scott has cut even further, using his line-item veto to slash mercilessly at Legislature-approved spending he deems unimportant.
Scott, for his part, has yet to comment on the TB outbreak in Jacksonville, Miami, and who knows where else. He’s at an air show in London.
“Is Environmentalism Failing?” Presented in a debate format, with heavy hitters arguing for and against the question. The audience is polled before and after the debate to see which side was more persuasive.
The Sustainable Living Festival
The Sustainable Living Festival is an annual festival held since 1998 in Melbourne at Federation Square and Birrarung Marr along the Yarra River.
The three-day program includes presentations by local government representatives, environmental and renewable energy groups, experts in climate science and solutions, workshops, demonstrations and discussions about sustainability, and art and music. Wiki
“Photographer Livia Corona — a native of Baja California, Mexico — lives in New York City and Mexico City. She is the recipient of a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim fellowship, awarded for her photography book project Two Million Homes for Mexico.
The project is a long-term study of the surge of mass-scale public housing projects throughout Mexico, exploring their role in the ongoing transformation of the ecological, social, and cultural landscape of the nation and its citizens.”
The elephant in the room is what to do about overpopulation.
For those who care about the environment, the future of human civilization, or both, the Day of 7 Billion should prod us to face and address the risks of continued population growth.
By the sheer scale of our presence and activity we are putting ourselves and all life at risk. No human being has the right to consume forever more than any other. Yet if we could somehow close the global consumption gap, the importance of our numbers would be even more obvious as the limits of natural systems were crossed.
Above: Population growth, historical and projected, 1950-2100
It scarcely lessens the importance of reducing both consumption and inequity to celebrate the fact that population growth can end without policies that restrict births, without coercion of any kind, without judgments on those who choose large families. We are not far from a world in which the number of births roughly balances the number of deaths, based on pregnancies universally welcomed by women and their partners.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
Professional and sponsorship inquiries, please