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Bottled Water

We have a small local paper that gets delivered to our door, free of charge. The content is lightweight although the paper itself is generally packed with hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of advertising.

I happened to glance at one article with the headline: Municipalities, celebrities, activisits starting to reject bottled water.

Here is a summary of the ecological concerns raised in the story:

  • Water for bottling can be drawn from springs and aquifers, depleting them, as well as nearby wetlands and rural wells;
  • Transportation of the water, first for bottling, then when shipped to stores and, finally, hauled home in cars, trucks or mini-vans (when”™s the last time you saw someone on a bus carrying a carton of water?) burns oil, a non-renewable resource. As well, all these vehicles spew fumes, which we then get to breathe;
  • Water bottles, themselves, are made of oil, see above.
  • Their manufacture results in nasty byproducts;
  • While the bottles are recyclable, not all of them hit the blue box, turning them into one of our favourite street ornaments, often still containing water; and
  • Recycling helps, but comes at environmental (and financial) costs of its own. Heavy trucks haul the bottles from curbside blue boxes to York Region”™s waste management depot in East Gwillimbury where they”™re baled along with other beverage bottles made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

Bottled water has become environmentally bad. I guess that makes sense but is there another agenda to this particular article?

Two websites were highlighted for additional information on the topic: Kairos and Inside the Bottle, part of the Polaris Institute.

Kairos. Why, pray tell, is a “dynamic church based social justice movement” concerned with the environmental impact of drinking bottled water out of recyclable containers? Although it is difficult to track down on their site, I believe the answer is focused on the issue of privatization of the water supply. Linking this to the environment is one way of getting traction with consumers.

And I suppose it is much the same for Polaris. The Polaris Institute came about as part of a social movement against free trade. This group fears that transnational corporations have taken over public policy making in Canada. Here is what they say about water:

Our Water Progam aims to develop citizen capacities for education and action on water justice issues in communities. This includes issues like the privatization of water services, bulk water exports, water takings, water security and bottled water. Currently, a major focus of our work is on bottled water.

So, although it is fair to seed news stories in local newspapers about municipalities, celebrities, and activisits rejecting bottled water, it is also fair to understand motives and agendas. It is not always about the environment.

Me and Jean Chretien

Jean Chretien just released the second volume of his memoirs. And the Globe and Mail provided extensive coverage including Chretien’s views of Paul Martin. There was an interesting excerpt in one of the articles from the Globe:

On deciding to resign at a 2002 Caucus meeting: “I was warned that it was going to be a stormy [meeting]… That morning, in front of Bill Gates and a business audience in Toronto, I made what I knew immediately to be a terrible speech. I wasn’t confident with the text, my old jokes sounded flat, and I handled the questions without any wit or enthusiasm. Oh-oh, I thought to myself, my heart’s no longer in the game. When I got in the car with Eddie Goldenberg, I asked him to prepare a resignation speech. Then I called Aline and asked her to drive from Shawinigan to Chicoutimi, because I was going to announce my decision the next day.”

I was in the audience at the session in Toronto that day, back in 2002, listening to Jean Chretien and Bill Gates. There were about 200 business leaders, mostly from Bay Street, in the room. And Chretien was right. His speech was terrible. So much so that I thought that the time had come for him to step down.

And, although I cannot be certain of this fact, I think I may have been the last person to shake his hand before he stepped into the car with Eddie Goldenberg.

Ontario Provincial Election Debate

I had a chance to watch the debate last night. Hampton, Tory and McGuinty. I was surprised at how easy it was to predict the issue for the debate: character.

Whether character really matters in politics is an open question. From my perspective, McGuinty was clearly on the defensive. He repeatedly said “we have more work to do” when challenged about his electoral platform from the previous election. Or he blamed the actions of previous Conservative and NDP governments. He looked uncomfortable and his body language suggested that he was bothered by the process.

At one point, he looked directly at the camera and said that the people of Ontario will judge his track record. Whether this was scripted or not, the very next question was on his broken promise about not raising taxes.

If there was any lesson in this debate, it was the importance of following through on your commitments. Even as a political leader, a string of broken commitments does not build credibility. Nor does it build trust.

A Bunch of Tubes

Ted Stevens is the Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The Committee has a broad jurisdiction which covers many issues including telecommunications. Ted Stevens has been a member of the Senate for 37 years and he is Alaska’s senior Senator. Perhaps too senior.

The issue of Net Neutrality is under heavy debate.

Net Neutrality means that everyone can access content or run applications and devices of their choice on the Internet. The network’s only job is to move data ”” not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service. There are companies that are actively seeking to control the wires and discriminate against content based on source or ownership under some questionable assumptions about tiered services. You can find out more at Save the Internet.

Ted Stevens is being ridiculed for his speech on voting against the net neutrality provision in a review of the United States federal telecommunications laws. His speech, part of which is reported here, describes the Internet as a series of tubes:

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on.

It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.

And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

The senator also complained that his staff sent him an Internet, whatever that means, and that the Internet took five days to reach him because of what has been happening to all of those tubes running amuck on the web.

I suppose this response to his delayed Internet is as good as any.

Thank heavens there are informed politicians, like Ted Stevens, helping to decide important technical issues.

Conservative Blooper

I was asked about my opinion on the Cabinet announcement by the new Conservative party. As a member of the Conservative party, I was very disappointed in the first actions of the new federal government. The experiences of Garth Turner, described at length in his blog here, capture much of what I have been concerned about: politics without integrity.

Garth’s story:

Tory MP drives to Ottawa. MP (and rest of country) surprised at cabinet appointment of defecting Liberal and unelected party organizer. MP”™s constituents react badly. MP blogs and quotes voters. Media scrums MP, who suggests defecting Liberal minister should actually get elected as a Conservative. MP chewed out by party. Chewed out again. And once more.

Garth Turner’s blog is a fascinating look into the perspective of a Conservative MP on the hill. Another reminder as to why I prefer the unedited views of people over the sanitized pages of highly edited newspapers.

Election

I took my wife and two sons out to vote last night. My youngest son, at 9, has to wait a few more years before he can vote. However, he dutifully accompanied each member of the family to the ballot marking area to ensure that we voted for the right candidate. It is remarkable to me how every event is an adventure for him. He really does bring a lot of joy into my life.

We were more involved in the election process this year than in previous years. My wife volunteered to serve as an election scrutineer. I made a number of donations to a political party. Regardless of political affiliation, it was wonderful to see democracy in action. There was a sense of excitement and suspense as the election drama unfolded on television last night.

Last night I was definitely proud to be a Canadian.

Time For Change

Harper