Depending upon your outlook, we live in a wonderful or a screw-up world. Case in point: bottled water.
Some consider water to be the source of life; other know that it is life. Reports of life in poorer countries reveal that clean water—something taken for granted in my life—is a luxury.
In the modern world, water can also be a branded product. We ask for a specific brand in a restaurant and find familiar labels in hotels around the world. This is a sign of modernity, of luxury, or of waste. Some brands are truly spring water tapped from sources deep within the earth. Others are merely water from the public source with carbon dioxide, a fancy name, and creative label added. I avoid water offered by Coca Cola bottlers.
I thought of this as I sat in A380 after just having landed in Mauritius. In front of me was a bottle of water from Norway, Voss. This water had been bottled in Norway, in a small town in the mountains. (Many years ago I used a Eurail pass to see Europe. The train from Oslo to Bergen stopped here. I was surprised to witness snow in June, but now know that this feeds the water industry.) The bottles must be shipped by sea or air to Dubai (and other locations in the world), surely having a negative impact on life on this planet. So water not only is life, but can destroy life…although it’s really humans doing the dirty deed.
We had a surprise last night. I turned on a water faucet and...nothing. This has never happened before, without notification from the water company about work to be done.
Water is not like electricity, which occasionally fails. The water company does not have an emergency number, because there are never emergencies.
At some point during the night, water pressure was restored.
This morning, I wanted to make tea, but air in line made the flow sputter. It looked a bit cloudy, so I put some in a glass to check. The muddy look reminded my of reports from third world countries without water systems. I thought of the poor souls, who must walk miles to a well and carry water jars on their heads. I fuss about an hours without water pressure and a bit of cloudy water from one or our many faucets.
Still, this is Germany and life is supposed to be perfect...
If one scans the television news channels, it is impossible to avoid something about Syria. At the moment, a bunch of old men and women from around the world are racking up per diem in Geneva. Before I could switch channels, I paused at a report on the refugee camps.
A reporter was showing the water supply in one refuge: a hole in the ground with dirty water. Anyone fetching water needed a bucket on a rope, and all water had to be boiled.
Switching channels, I landed again at picture showing the table of negotiators in Geneva. At each place setting were four large (one liter) bottles of water. If each person drinks that much water, plus the free coffee, there will be a whole bunch of bathroom breaks. How will they get anything done?
Life is good for negotiators, who all are housed in luxury hotels. The hundreds of men and women in the room and along for the ride must cost a pretty penny, as the saying goes. I can imagine the salaries of these people, plus their benefits and per diems. Add this up for the time they spend in Switzerland, plus the travel costs (government plane, private jet, or 1st class), and a tidy sum would be available to improve the water supply and quality for refugees.
Water is water...but it isn’t. When we tastes different bottled water around the world, one discovers different tastes and textures. Europe has an especially large variety, each from a different source. The best come from the Alps, where water has been filtered by many layers of different rock formations. The worst come from bottling plants of large corporations, such as Coca Cola, which add fizz to local water. No amount of clever advertising can improve upon the flavor.
Many of the leading brands of bottled water have been purchased by large conglomerates, which makes me question quality once taken for granted. Occasionally, I consider the absurdity of shipping a glass bottle filled with water from a small Norwegian town to luxury eating spots in the likes of Miami. Still, I am happy to drink familiar brands in distant lands, which not be shipped by lesser players. This may be an illusion, but I enjoy water found in Switzerland, perhaps deceived by proximity of mountains and a carefully tended national image.
I sit and stare at a mountain lake, full of water good enough to drink. And then I think of the fortunes being made by companies selling high-priced water in plastic bottles to the US Government, which is then shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan by the military.
Water, water everywhere...and plenty of money to made.
This is difficult to believe, but I tend to believe guys that can do math.
That said, I’m sure the science deniers not only do not believe this, but are unable to figure out why they do not believe it. After all, water emerges from the tap, each time the turn on a faucet. And, each grocery store features an entire aisle on bottled water. How is it possible to run out?
I took many photos of...water. The pattern seemed to be graphically interesting, I had plenty of exposures on my camera chip, and I had time on my hands (and a camera in them). I look for interesting patterns or shapes formed movement.
When thinking about creating a gallery of a selection of water motifs, novels with a sea tilt came to mind. There's Moby Dick, which I started recently on my Kindle (it was free!) and have yet to plough through. I seem to be as becalmed as the Ancient Mariner, albeit without albatross. Somerset Maugham must have stared at water on his many long sea voyages, but did not seem to own a camera or be inclined to use one. He tended to put into words what I can only capture on "film".
My family usually rolls their eyes, when I spout the well-worn adage about opportunity lurking behind some minor household crisis. Still, it is often true. I will keep it in my quiver for the next chance target.
Yesterday, a violent band of thunderstorms dumped so much water, that gutters, downspouts, and storm drains could not handle the overflow. Pesky water, seeking the path of least resistance and the spot sure to cause the most aggravation, flowed into a cellar window well and seeped into the house. Worst of all, it sought out my “workshop”, which has collected every scrap of wood, unused paint can, stray screw or nail, bits of wire, and anything that might be useful in my lifetime. Occasionally, this collection has provided a needed something or other, but has not prevented me from frequent trips to the giant building supply outlet…where I always buy more than I planned to buy…which ends up in said workshop/junk room.
Water in the cellar is the crisis. What’s the opportunity? Finally, I’m forced to sort out the junk, clean up the mess, throw items away…and make room for a new collection of whatever I might have to keep for some future task. I should have done this on a regular basis, but it is easier to add to the pile, shut the door, and stifle good intentions. Why do today, what you can put off until tomorrow?
Water has that insistent way of not letting you put things off. Time has come to attack the mess, compliments of a thunderstorm. If the water would just go away by itself, I might have been able to leave the door shut…
I heard something scary on an economics talk show. (Is that cliche?)
According to one “informed source”, the crooks running the economy have come up with a new way to convert something essential into a derivative. They have already screwed up housing and borrowing, so are now turning to water. Buying up water companies wherever it is possible, they can slice and dice these assets into promises of future wealth to unsuspecting investors. The fate of the little guy is irrelevant. On a parallel news channel, it was reported that a Hong Kong billionaire has just bought the water rights to a large section of Northern England. No one seems to be upset.
These geniuses have managed to enrich themselves while screwing up the economy for everyone else. Now, they can make more money on a necessity for life, unconcerned that water will run out and the world could dry up, just as credit has for anyone seeking a loan. But, unlike with money, people will pay anything for a drink of water. That has been calculated into the model…
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.