Water, Water Everywhere...

Of the four classical elements, it is hard to say which is most important because they are so deeply interconnected. But if there had to be a choice, water might be the most sensible.

A person can survive for a month without food, but only a few days without water of some sort.

Without clean water, we literally have nothing. But instead of respecting it, we have made water our slave, piping it through streets, running it through septic systems, damming it, reserving it, pumping it out for irrigation, taxing it, hording it, buying it or selling it.

Clean water can't exist in a plastic bottle. The very worst thing we've done is encapsulate water in plastic which takes more water to create than one gets to drink. Intrinsically, this makes bottled water far dirtier than tap.

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Those that recycle think they're doing the right thing. Their hearts are in the right place, but it would be better to not purchase plastic-bottled drinks at all. Ecology center has a list of 7 misconceptions about plastic, and the very first one concerns curbside recycling;

Collecting plastic containers at curbside fosters the belief that, like aluminum and glass, the recovered material is converted into new containers. In fact, none of the recovered plastic containers from Berkeley are being made into containers again but into new secondary products such as textiles, parking lot bumpers, or plastic lumber – all unrecyclable products. This does not reduce the use of virgin materials in plastic packaging. "Recycled" in this case merely means "collected," not reprocessed or converted into useful products.

In many cases, "recycling" is simply "diverting" or "prolonging" the inevitable destination of the landfill. And most plastic doesn't even get that far: 2/3 of all plastic bottles are headed straight for the landfill.

I often think about the rainfall that soaks the landfill during summer storms: how contaminated that water must be, creating riverbanks of disposable toiletries, worn-out shoes and hypodermic needles, where plastic floats into an endless reserve of plastic holding yet more plastic.

I imagine the rainfall doing its job: swelling materials, collecting dna, toxins; breaking down materials to be carried into the subterranean waterways, eventually landing in aquifers and reservoirs.

I think about all the oil it took to make that plastic; all the toxins that swell the clouds only to later fall in pastures, farms and gardens in their wake.

I think about all the plant and animal life that is damaged along the way; plant life whose photosynthetic exhalation is the basis for our clean air. I think about all the crude oil that is used to make plastic bottles and single-use drink containers and how blissfully content most of us are with using them. And for what reason? So we don't have to carry a cup.

Photo credit: Nigel Homer