Friday, August 22, 2008

Bottlemania, by Elizabeth Royte

You get the impression that the title, Bottlemania, was something dreamt up by the publishers rather than the author. I say that because this is a rather earnest little book about the politics of water.

This reader was expecting something different, say a book which took a more economic outlook.

Most of Bottlemania, however, looks at how the incursion of a major corporate bottler impacts on a small community. In that respect, this is quite a scary story, for it tells of how water has in effect become privatised, and how the public has supported that privatisation.

Other aspects that the book explores are the safety of the US water supply. Too much information! It makes you realise that water is never one hundred percent clear, but full of tiny little bugs and chemicals and god knows what else. Sometimes it’s better simply not to know.

The bits that I was looking for in this book came on page 139. Did you know that in the US it takes 17 million barrels of oil per annum to make the bottles that carry so much bottled water?


‘Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute estimates that the total energy required for every bottle’s production, transport, and disposal is equivalent, on average, to filling that bottle a quarter of the way with oil. His finding, undisputed by the water-bottling industry, shocks me.’

This is not a very exciting book, but one feels necessary reading. It’s more about the politics of water. Who has priority over this resource, business or communities?

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