Pipes reaching deep into aquifers pump ground water up and into a bottling plant. The plant, owned by a private, foreign company, bottles and sells the water worldwide, claiming to be a unique product of “Pacific romance and luxury” that has remained “Untouched by Man,” (Kaplan, 696). The private, foreign company pays rent on the land around the bottling plant to a semi-militaristic nation. That bottled water is then shipped across thousands of miles to you, the consumer. You then tilt the familiar square plastic bottle to your lips and wait for the perfect water to reach your mouth.
And you wait and you wait, and yet even when you have finished the bottle, the perfect water still escapes you. Bottled water is more than convenient hydration or a luxury experience, whether it originates from mountain streams or underground aquifers. The water that comes from a retail bottle is the sum of every distance the water crossed to get to you, every human life that handled the bottle, and every action that occurred as a result of water sales.
There are politics behind every drop of water, economic value within every bottle, and social consequences that result from requiring payment for the most basic life-giving resource. The environment is not independent from human life. As David Harvey said, “It is inconsistent to hold that everything in the world relates to everything else, as ecologists tend to, and then decide that the built environment and the urban structures that go into it are somehow outside of both theoretical and practical consideration” (Heynen, 60). Deciding that the built environment and its human characteristics relate to everything else in the world allows consumers to contemplate the true cost of the goods offered to them, beyond what they see on the price tag. Therefore, drinking a bottle of water can never be viewed independently from the processes used to create it.
Adamson, Joni; Gleason, William A.; Pellow, David N.. Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: NYU Press, 2016. Ebook Library. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Kaplan, M. (2007), Fijian Water in Fiji and New York: Local Politics and a Global Commodity. Cultural Anthropology, 22: 685–706. doi:10.1525/can.2007.22.4.685