Friday, August 28, 2009

What's wrong with Fiji bottled water?

Let's just keep this one easy. It comes from a military dictatorship that steals water from its own people. Mother Jones has a great story up on it.
THE INTERNET CAFÉ in the Fijian capital, Suva, was usually open all night long. Dimly lit, with rows of sleek, modern terminals, the place was packed at all hours with teenage boys playing boisterous rounds of video games. But one day soon after I arrived, the staff told me they now had to shut down by 5 p.m. Police orders, they shrugged: The country's military junta had declared martial law a few days before, and things were a bit tense.

I sat down and sent out a few emails—filling friends in on my visit to the Fiji Water bottling plant, forwarding a story about foreign journalists being kicked off the island. Then my connection died. "It will just be a few minutes," one of the clerks said.

Moments later, a pair of police officers walked in. They headed for a woman at another terminal; I turned to my screen to compose a note about how cops were even showing up in the Internet cafés. Then I saw them coming toward me. "We're going to take you in for questioning about the emails you've been writing," they said.

And that's just the beginning.

For reasons too long to enumerate and explain here, we too often think of our economic decisions as separate from our moral decisions. In the United States we often think in terms of things like "freedoms" and "inalienable rights" and the like. But when it comes issues tied to our pocketbooks, what we eat, and what we drink, we too easily outsource moral decision making to people whose vested interest is solely economic - profit-oriented or interested in job creation for example - and do not think in terms of social and/or environmental interests. And those decision makers - read Fiji water "producers" - deliberately hide those moral questions from us because if people knew what was happening, they would, or at least could, "vote" differently with their wallets.

And here we have a great example of the sham of the "choice" involved in part of the disposable plastic water bottle industry. Not only does it waste enormous amounts of petroleum in its fabrication and shipping; not only does it take water from the place where it has helped create and sustain an ecosystem; not only does it steal water from the people whose culture has been built on, around, by, and in conjunction with that water; it also does all of that with the threat of the gun and yours and my money. When we buy this water, it makes hypocrites out of those of us who believe in and say we practice rights and liberties because we steal the rights and liberties of all of those Fijians who have no sovereignty. It makes a public hypocrite of Barack Obama for sure.

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