Bottlemania

>> Saturday, April 20, 2013

Some books I feel so eager to read, and then I read them and find out that I pretty much knew most of the information anyway. Bottlemania was this book for me.

Part of this is that by the time I had bought this, a lot of people had already begun feeling like bottled water is a waste. A perfect example of this would be folks who would buy a bottle of water at The Grand Cinema, when I was working as a volunteer, rather than getting a free cup of water or two. After the movie, we'd all find tons of bottles that would have to go into the recycling, because some folks would just throw them into the garbage. A free glass of (tap) water (with ice) or a small bottle of water? Hm. This is why I take my own bottle of water to the movies in my bag.

But there were three quotes in the book I found interesting.
Every time I hear about Coke or Pepsi's elaborate filtration procedure, I sink a little deeper into a funk. Why is there so much stuff to remove from tap water? Because we've neglected our pipes and conduits, I remind myself; we've washed drugs and industrial and agricultural contaminants into our rivers; we've condoned urban sprawl, which sends sediment, upon which bacteria thrive, into our reservoirs; and our efforts at disinfection sometimes make matters worse.

The alternative--bottled water--presents another set of issues. Producing and transporting it burns oil, which contributes to global warming, and the bottles themselves may harm our health by leaching chemicals. As we hurtle into the future, all of our drinking-water choices seem to be problematic. If only we'd taken better care of our resources yesterday, we wouldn't be in this mess today. And while my first instinct is to blame the government for letting agriculture, industry, and developers off the hook, I have to admit it's all of us: it's the way we've come to live. We want convenience, cheap food, a drug for every mood, bigger houses, and faster gadgets. Whether it's building a second home or manufacturing meat, magazines, or mopeds, it all takes a toll on our water. (p. 160-1)
In coastal areas, groundwater pumping by agricultural and industrial interests has allowed salt water to creep into freshwater aquifers from the sea. Elsewhere, overpumping has pulled has pulled heavy metals and other pollutants into drinking water and washed away soil or bedrock to create sinkholes--depressions in the earth's surface sometimes big enough to engulf trucks or houses. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, more than 80 percent of the nation's identified land subsidence, or sinking, is a "consequence of our exploitation of underground water." In Massachusetts, groundwater pumping for municipal supplies converts parts of the Ipswich River, in the summertime, into a shallow canyon of mud. In eastern Michigan and in eastern Texas, commercial extraction of groundwater has dried up neighbors' drinking-water wells, and in other states, reports the Michigan Chronicle, a Detroit weekly, "groundwater pumping has severely diminished lakes, streams and underground aquifers used for drinking water and to irrigate farm fields." (p. 58-9)
Global warming will affect the quality of our water as well as its quantity. In warmer temperatures, more microbes flourish in surface water; if they move into pipes, they could feed biofilms, which include pathogens, in the distribution system. Climatologists agree that global warming will make the earth, on average, wetter. But more rain and snow will fall closer to the poles, and precipitation will fall during sporadic, intense storms, rather than smaller, more frequent ones. A warmer climate will bring more frequent floods, which will increase the flow of sediment and polluted runoff into our water supplies. Floods will damage pipes that move good water in and bad water out. In drier areas, perversely, we'll see more droughts. Not only will there be less water for home consumption, industry, and agriculture, there will be less water to dilute pollutants. (p.202-3)
Yay! I'm so excited!

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The Way of the World

After finishing Blackwater, I was looking through my books for something to read, something that would be much less technical. I came across The Way of the World. I have the cover with the near-panoramic picture of NYC, which is not helpful at all in describing/depicting its subject matter. I bought this four years ago. I couldn't remember what it was about. All I can remember is that it was a well-reviewed book back when I got it for a discount.

And I was pleasantly surprised.

Even though Suskind was writing about current events from about 2006 to early 2008,  it still felt like relevant material for today since basically all the same issues are still on going: Pakistan, CIA tracking nuclear terrorism, foreign relations, upheaval in the Middle East, etc.

But George W. Bush is still a dumbass with Dick Cheney as an asshole extraordinaire. The few chapters/sections specifically about them just reminded me how much I had forgotten them being involved in national politics. I think that's still a good thing given all the damaged they caused around the world.

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