I admit it; I’ve taken it easy on multinational corporate predator Nestle Waters of North America as of late.
After all, I’ve been happily fly fishing in Montana, and they’ve taken a pounding all over the USA at the hands of suddenly energized rural towns which are no longer happy to see them suck the local aquifers dry, and do so in exchange for a handful of sub-living-wage jobs.
With Nestle being turned away by small towns everywhere, we’d like to suggest an alternative liquid for them to bottle
There’s even rumors floating around the Underground’s neck of the woods that Nestle’s willing to do almost anything to make the bad press stop, which… (wait for it) is the Underground’s cue to pile on.
Our first cannonball into the bottled water pool?
First up Is Kennebec, Maine, where Nestle’s plant proposal was soundly trounced by vigorous citizen opposition, who forced the trustees to cancel a vote on the project:
When local citizens became energized in opposition to a proposed public/private partnership between our water district and Nestle/Poland Spring, they invited the water district officials to what was a spirited and well-attended meeting on June 22 in Kennebunk. The uproar caused postponement of the anticipated vote at the June 25 trustees meeting.
That, my furry group of Undergrounders, is one Maine-sized can of whupass.
Next comes the story of a small town in rural Washington which didn’t even let Nestle unpack their bags – they kicked the minions of the cloven hooved deceiver multinational to the curb right away:
Last month, without so much as a public hearing, Enumclaw sent a message to the multinational corporation: Go tap someone else’s spring.
In the past several years, as the bottled-water industry has boomed, NestlÃ© has set up 26 plants in towns across the country, tapping into local springs. Enumclaw was its first shot at a Northwest plant.
It did not go well. As word spread of the proposal, residents unleashed a torrent of e-mails and letters to the local paper, concerned about a possible water shortage, the potential for invasive corporate control and the damage plastic bottles can do to the environment.
Ouch. And this in-your-face rejection happened to none other than Dave Palais — Nestle’s McCloud operative, who’s taken so many lumps over Nestle’s proposed McCloud plant and subsequent retreat from their original proposal that we’re almost (not really) starting to feel sorry for him.
Next we look to an AFP story outlining the backlash against bottled water that Nestle and other bottlers are “enjoying” right now:
Janet Larsen, director of research at the Earth Policy Institute, cites a “backlash against bottled water as more people are realizing what they get out of the bottles is not any better than what they get out of the faucet.”
The Pacific Institute, a California think thank on sustainability issues, contends that producing bottles for US water consumption required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil in 2006, not including the energy for transportation.
Haven’t read enough about the backlash against bottled water? Here’s another:
Across the country, opposition to bottled water is building, amid growing concerns about the industry’s environmental impact and rising fears about private control of public water supplies.
“There’s no question that there is a groundswell,” said Ruth Caplan, coordinator of Defending Water for Life, a Washington, D.C.-based campaign that opposes the bottled water industry.
Sadly, the news isn’t all good; the Underground’s heart goes out to the citizens of Fryeburg, Maine, who are facing their umpteenth (Ok, third or fourth) round of litigation at the hands of Nestle’s legal department.
Still, there’s hope, as evidenced by this lengthy passage from a story on the Corporate Accountability International site. It’s long, but the last paragraphs are worth it:
One reason community members were concerned with NestlÃ©’s practices was the fact that the corporation was getting local water for a relative bargain, while most residents of Fryeburg got the short end of the stick.
NestlÃ© secured a deal with a handful of local investors giving the corporation exclusive access to the town’s primary wells. While Nestle and a few local investors reaped large profits from the deal, other residents received no tangible benefits – instead, it became more difficult for Fryeburg residents to protect a water source that had once been designated to serve the needs of the local community.
In response to the local opposition, Poland Spring opened an office in Fryeburg.
â€œWhen Poland Spring decided to open an office in Fryeburg to offer â€˜free coffee and real communication’ as part of their â€˜good neighbor policy,’ they also offered to give away free cases of Poland Spring water,â€ said Mike Dana, a Fryeburg resident. â€œI was amazed at how ludicrous it was to pump water from the aquifer into tanker trucks, ship it to a bottling plant, put it into plastic bottles, ship it back to Fryeburg and offer it to the local residents as a â€˜free gift.’â€
Dana, along with Dearborn (the two are neighbors), had an idea about what Poland Spring could do with its free gift.
I think the Underground has the same idea Dana and Dearborn do, but I’m too polite to say it.
In truth, what’s happening is nothing short of revolutionary.
Nestle’s grown used to walking into small rural towns and having their way with the locals, buying water for a pittance and selling it at prices that make gasoline seem cheap.
Suddenly, communities are recognizing the risks, and seeing battles being fought and won by others.
The battle for McCloud’s water may prove to be a turning point in the bottled water saga; Nestle’s operative arrived and played the usual gambits — pitting community members against each other and using Nestle’s legal department to intimidate opponents (including a heavy-handed attempt to subpoena personal financial records).
Yet here we are a few years later, and Nestle’s on the mat, thanks largely to a committed community effort and the involvement of groups like CalTrout.
See you fighting the good fight, Tom Chandler.