Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fiji fights Fiji

That's right. Fiji water*, one of the most overpriced single-use plastic water bottle companies is in trouble with the Fijian government. MSNBC, AlterNet, and others are reporting that there is a dispute on taxes between the corporation and the military junta government.

AlterNet reports:
It seems there is trouble in paradise. The boutique bottled water brand Fiji Water has announced that it is shutting down its operations in Fiji after the nation's government proposed a tax hike -- from 1/3 of a cent to 15 cents a liter. This comes just a week after one of the company's top executives, David Roth, was deported.
Ouch. On the one hand, how great is it that there is less bottled water coming from one of the worst collusions in corporate-governmental history. But how terrible is it that the junta will sell it to some other corporation to come in and exploit the people and the ecosystem in which they live to sell overpriced water primarily to people who don't need it but are stuck believing in a manufactured need for "convenient" and "glamorous" "Artesian water?" Companies like Coke, Pepsi, Nestle, Violia, Suez, and Thames are probably going to scramble all over each other to get at this one.

I'm with Maude Barlowe and Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch who say the closure should be permanent. At Food and Water Watch today they write the following:

“Like oil in the 20th century, water has become increasingly managed by corporate cartels that move it around the globe, where it flows out of communities and towards money. The commodification of water will continue to contribute to human rights abuses around the world, whether it helps bolster undemocratic governments or drives water from a community where it is needed.

“Water must be managed as a common resource, not as a market commodity. Unfortunately, celebrities, sports figures and American consumers pay a premium for the Fiji Water brand, buying it at approximately 3,300 times the cost of U.S. tap water. According to the EPA, a gallon of tap water costs consumers anywhere from .002 to .003 cents. A liter of Fiji Water costs approximately $2.19.

“Ironically, Fiji Water, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been named finalists for the Secretary of State’s 2010 Award for Corporate Excellence. It would be extremely unwise for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to honor these corporations, which have been known to extract water from developing countries that are facing water scarcity or that otherwise cannot meet residents’ needs for clean water and sanitation.”

Hear here! Are you going to walk away from bottled water? Do it. And tell Take Back the Tap that you are on board by signing the pledge.

Hat tip to Vince and Jess for this one.

* You have to love the sound of the tropical rain forest coming through your computer to show you just how free and unblemished that water is. If only corporations really protected the wild that much. Maybe they'd leave the water there for the wildlife and the people. Just a thought.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day

This coming Friday, December 3rd, marks World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day.
Sustainable development is an issue all countries in the world are currently looking at. The degree of emphasis and the level investing resources invested however varies from one country to another; but regardless of whether we are talking about industrialised or developing countries, the quest for environmentally sound, socially just, economically viable and ethically acceptable development needs to be regarded as a priority by all nations of the world.

For many years now, a large number of initiatives have been carried out throughout the world to attempt to stoke up awareness about sustainable development and promote initiatives to achieve it.

The 1987 Report "Our Common Future" produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), "Agenda 21" produced by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the "Johannesburg Declaration" produced following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 are examples of the type of initiatives being worked on internationally. These have been complemented by the various "National Sustainable Development Strategies" produced prior to UNCED and after Johannesburg.
As a club committed to sustainability, this marks a great opportunity to learn from others around the world about the myriad faces and facets of this thing called "sustainable development."

What is being developed and what is being sustained? So far, much of sustainable development seems to have been a global corporate-governmental collusion that has served the advantage of the already wealthy and powerful. Looking at just water issues in India, Bolivia, and Africa, the idea and practice of sustainable development might seem an oxymoron. There is no doubt we have a conundrum on our hands if we hope to bring health and material prosperity to 6.8 billion people and counting. Maybe we should be going for what James Lovelock, father of the "Gaia theory" has called a "sustainable retraction" and/or get in on the Transitions Initiatives. Or maybe that's just doomsville.

As teachers, we have a significant role to play. What do hope to sustain? Who do we develop? What and whose purpose does all of this serve? In a world of uncertain futures, how and for whom do we conceive of our teaching? These are the biggest questions we have to answer. Ultimately, we are servants and we have to serve people well.

What should education for sustainable development look like right here at Penn State and in the Centre Region? Where should we go?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And the movement just keeps getting bigger

Do you know how many people are fed up with bottled water? Millions. And lots of people are getting together in all kinds of configurations to do something about it.

Yes! Magazine has this feature:

Restaurants in California, Oregon, New York, Maine, and other states are serving only tap water. Students at Brown University were inspired to start Beyond the Bottle after Washington University in St. Louis ended sales of bottled water on its campus.

Seattle University and Gonzaga University in Washington state, and the University of Portland in Oregon, have also ended sales of bottled water. Multnomah County became the first county in Oregon to ban bottled water from county meetings and functions. Efforts to prevent a bottling company from extracting millions of liters of water from the local aquifer led the city of Bundanoon, Australia, to ban the sale and production of bottled water. Toronto, London, and other cities in Ontario, Canada as well as school boards in Ottawa and Waterloo have stopped the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities.

Bottled water is marketed as superior to tap, but public water supplies are actually cleaner, less expensive, and more environmentally responsible, according to organizations like Take Back the Tap, Food and Water Watch, and Stop Corporate Abuse. They are mounting campaigns to combat misconceptions caused by bottled-water marketing.

That's right. Take back that tap. In the near future, we'll be expanding our work on this with some film projects, a musical project, and other humorous theatrics. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Expanding Sustainability: Rights, Global Economics, and Human Transformation

Expanding Sustainability: Rights, Global Economics, and Human Transformation
A Public Talk with Chilean Environmental Economist, Diplomat and
Spiritual Teacher Alfredo Sfeir-Younis

Tuesday, Oct. 26
Noon —1:30 PM
124 Sparks

Brown Bag Lunch Talk (drinks and dessert provided)
Sponsored by
Penn State’s Center for Sustainability & Global Studies Institute

"It is impossible to attain the aims of a sustainable civilization without agreeing on a bundle of rights, be it for this generation or future generations. Sustainable Development embodies a social contract which must unfold from a vision and a set of human values that prove essential to human transformation in our global reality.”
—Alfredo Sfeir-Younis

Learn more about our speaker at: http://www.policyinnovations.org/innovators/people/data/07539

Update: You can listen my interview with Alfredo Sfeir0-Younis here.