Friday, February 10, 2006

Is Bottled Water really such a good idea?

Bottled water, a natural resource taxing the world's ecosystem
Feb 10 10:10 AM US/Eastern

Bottled water consumption, which has more than doubled globally in the last six years, is a natural resource that is heavily taxing the world's ecosystem, according to a new US study.

"Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing, producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy," according to Emily Arnold, author of the study published by the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington-based environmental group.

Arnold said although in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can end up costing 10,000 times more.

"At as much as 2.50 dollars per liter (10 dollars per gallon), bottled water costs more than gasoline," the study says.

It added that the United States was the largest consumer of bottled water, with Americans drinking 26 billion liters in 2004, or about one eight-ounce (25 cl) glass per person every day.

Mexico was the second largest consumer at 18 billion liters followed by China and Brazil at 12 billion liters each.

In terms of consumption per person, Italians came first at nearly 184 liters, or more than two glasses a day, followed by Mexico and the United Arab Emirates with 169 and 164 liters per person respectively.

Belgium and France follow close behind and Spain ranks sixth.

The study said that demand for bottled water soared in developing countries between 1999 and 2004 with consumption tripling in India and more than doubling in China during that period.

That has translated into massive costs in packaging the water, usually in plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is derived from crude oil, and then transporting it by boat, train or on land.

"Making bottles to meet Americans' demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 US cars for a year," according to the study. "Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year."

Once the water is consumed, disposing the plastic bottles poses an environmental risk.

The study, citing the Container Recycling Institute, said that 86 percent of plastic water bottles in the United States end up as garbage and those buried can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

In addition, some 40 percent of the PET bottles deposited for recycling in the United States in 2004 ended up being shipped to China.

The study warned that the rapid growth in the industry has also ironically led to water shortages in some areas, including India where bottling of Dasani water and other drinks by the Coca-Cola company has caused shortages in more than 50 villages.

It said that while consumers tend to link bottled water with healthy living, tap water can be just as healthy and is subject to more stringent regulations than bottled water in many regions, including Europe and the United States.

"In fact, roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water," the study says. "Often the only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefits.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Recording Industry vs The People

This past Christmas there is one kind of present that was absent from our family's shopping list: CD's. That's right, no shiny discs of recorded music were to be found under our Christmas tree. We haven't bought any CD's in our household in the past year, and we probably won't for the forseeable future. Why? The recording industry has declared war on its customers. Witness the following:

It was Easter Sunday, and Patricia Santangelo was in church with her kids when she says the music recording industry peeked into her computer and decided to take her to court.

Santangelo says she has never downloaded a single song on her computer, but the industry didn't see it that way. The woman from Wappingers Falls, about 80 miles north of New York City, is among the more than 16,000 people who have been sued for allegedly pirating music through file-sharing computer networks.

"I assumed that when I explained to them who I was and that I wasn't a computer downloader, it would just go away," she said in an interview. "I didn't really understand what it all meant. But they just kept insisting on a financial settlement."

The industry is demanding thousands of dollars to settle the case, but Santangelo, unlike the 3,700 defendants who have already settled, says she will stand on principle and fight the lawsuit.

"It's a moral issue," she said. "I can't sign something that says I agree to stop doing something I never did."

Read it all here.

People like Santangelo who never downloaded music illegally are being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) simply because music files were in a shared files folder on their internet connected PC. Did Santangelo illegally download the files? The RIAA doesn't know. Did anyone actually illegally copy the files just because they were available in a shared files folder. The RIAA doesn't know. The RIAA is proceeding on the assumption that anyone who uses file sharing software and who has mp3 files on their computer is guilty of copyright infringement. To date 3,700 people have paid settlements of $3,000 or more rather than risk the much greater cost of fighting in court. Now it seems the RIAA has met its match in Patricia Santangelo who is willing to fight rather than pay.

You can read more about Santangelo's case and contribute to her defense here.

Sadly, the lawsuits continue. You can read more about the abuses by the recording industry against women, children, and grandparents here.