How Eating Smarties Can Light Your Tap Water on Fire

Do you ever have those times when you read or see something alarming and think,

Shit, this is it. We are GOING DOWN FOR SURE THIS TIME. Humans are SCREWED.

I have thought this many times. When I was a kid in the ’80s, raised (and homeschooled) by liberal activist parents, I was pretty well-versed in environmental problems even before my age reached double digits. (We watched David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things regularly.) It seemed likely to Mini-Di that we would pollute ourselves to death pretty soon.

Then I took World Issues in high school (back when Ontario still had Grade 13), and was convinced that our little planet would not be able to handle the projected human population; we’d run out of food – and livable space – by 6.5 billion.

Amazingly, here we are. We’re still truckin’, well past 7 billion. I’m not quite sure how, but who am I to question?

This week, with another Earth Day behind us and May Day upon us, I’m mad at Nestlé. Again.

Yes, it’s Nestlé. “Good Food, Good Life.” Wholesome purveyor of Smarties, Perrier, and infant emaciation.

nestle-boycott-twins
This mother was told she would only have enough milk for one of her twins. She ended up with only one twin.

There has been a boycott of Nestlé since the 1970s, because of their aggressive promotion of infant formula in developing countries, where mothers have been persuaded to formula-feed, but are unable to make formula that is safe for babies to drink, due to water contamination, language barriers, etc.

no-nestle
Boycott Nestle

Last week, there was news that this oh-so-virtuous company, the largest food company in the world, has chalked up another point for greed:

Nigella sativa — more commonly known as fennel flower — has been used as a cure-all remedy for over a thousand years. It treats everything from vomiting to fevers to skin diseases, and has been widely available in impoverished communities across the Middle East and Asia.

But now Nestlé is claiming to own it, and filing patent claims around the world to try and take control over the natural cure of the fennel flower and turn it into a costly private drug. (From GlobalResearch.)

Classy move. Clearly they’re hurtin’ for cash. Nestlé has put a “clarification” (denial) on their website, because once the internet got ahold of this, it didn’t look very good on them. Gee, if it doesn’t look good… DON’T WEAR IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Then there’s the incredible mercenary attitude that is jeopardizing the water that Wellington County relies on.

Nestle photo

Nestlé Waters is the world’s largest bottled water company, and Wellington County in southwestern Ontario is home to its largest bottling facility in Canada. Under its current permit, Nestlé pays $3.71 for every million litres of water it pumps from the local watershed, which it then packages in single-use plastic bottles and sells back to the public for as much as $2 million!

Despite reaping enormous profits from bottling a shared public resource, Nestlé is now arguing for an even better deal. One of the mandatory conditions built into its water-taking permit requires Nestlé to reduce pumping by 10-20 per cent during times of drought. In a recent appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), Nestlé has requested these restrictions be removed.

In a stunning move the Ministry of Environment (MOE) has agreed to a settlement which would weaken the conditions and potentially allow for Nestlé to pump at its maximum rate during droughts. We believe this puts Nestlé’s profit-making interests before the water rights of the people of Wellington County. (From The Council of Canadians.)

I live in Wellington County. It blows my mind when I see people in my very own city, drinking the same water that pours from their taps – out of bottles marked “Nestlé Waters”. It is an impressive feat, this brainwashing that has convinced us that water is automatically better from a disposable bottle.

THEN I read this article in the Guelph Mercury, written by a Community Editorial Board member, Cynthia Bragg, who happens to be a friend of mine. I highly recommend you read the whole thing, especially if you live in Wellington County, but here are some highlights:

Syncrude's toxic tailings pond in alberta
The Syncrude tailings pond and oilsands facility seen from a helicopter near Fort McMurray, Alta., in 2012. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Let’s zoom in on one area of Canada: the Alberta oilsands. To produce one million barrels of oil a day, industry requires withdrawals of enough water from the Athabasca River to sustain a city of one million people, every year. But by 2020, the oilsands are expected to produce five million barrels of oil a day. In spite of constant recycling, most of the water never returns to the river. It ends up in toxic tailings ponds. […]

Las Vegas and the entire State of California are under real threat of running out of water this century, and the Hoover Dam will stop producing electricity if the water level falls by about 12 metres.

In all the Great Lakes, water levels are at an all times low as hot dry summers cause more water to evaporate than our reduced rainfall and snowmelt can replace. Cargo ships have had to reduce their loads to avoid being grounded. At one popular Michigan fishing spot, salmon were seen flopping in the mud.

In Ontario, 65 major creeks and rivers that flow out of the Oak Ridges Moraine already have lost as much as two thirds of their water. Yet golf courses are still permitted to draw three million litres a day for 180 days.

In case you don’t know, extraction of oil from the oilsands is what necessitates fracking, a process that imbues water with so many chemicals that it actually becomes flammable.

gasland_clip tap water on fire
Just add a spark.

Fracking, or horizontal hydraulic fracturing, is cleverly and understandably illustrated here.  It is being committed all over Canada.

This article rounds up a whole buffet of threats to our water. It’s a reminder that if you add them all up, it’s one lethal situation. It makes me want to use melodramatic terms like evil and doomed. YOU CANNOT JUST FUCK WITH THE WATER SUPPLY. (Yes. I used the actual word for once.) Forget car crashes and drug addictions and bullying and anorexia and sexual assault. If we don’t have a system of drinkable water, that’s it. We – and countless other species, both animal and vegetable – are DONE.

I know it’s a bummer that I’m bringing this up. I know this is really depressing reading. I know we’d all rather think about the spring flowers and sunshine and our plans for next weekend. And that’s very easy to do, when you live far away from any tailings ponds or flopping salmon.

But we need to make sure that we, as a species, are not so dumb and arrogant as to forget our dependence on existing natural systems, forget that we can indeed poison ourselves, if we’re not careful.

Here’s the good news, though: we are not that dumb. We are still growing, still polluting, but also innovating all the time. That’s the thing about humans: we manifest all the idiocy and brilliance in the world. We can do almost anything we can imagine, healing or toxic.

I admit, I’m not the kind of exemplary environmentalist that Mini-Di could be unequivocally proud of. I drive a car on a regular basis. There are bananas in my kitchen that travelled way too far to get here. I sometimes buy beverages in disposable cups even though I totally know better. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take small steps to help. All of our small steps add up, just as surely as those taken by the fracking oil execs.

Dear Wellingtonians, please click to visit Wellington Water Watchers and learn, donate, volunteer, or even just read Nestlé’s Twitter-based attempts to pretend they don’t suck. (A bit of comic relief.)

To learn more about fracking and/or sign a petition against it, please visit the Council of Canadians.

Thank you so much for reading.

P.S. I’m aware that eating Smarties does not actually light your tap water on fire. But all the water in the world is connected. And so are all the Smarties.

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10 thoughts on “How Eating Smarties Can Light Your Tap Water on Fire

  1. Effin-A! A is for awesome. It is also for Amen! How apt is it that I just read this post? Here’s how: I just returned from a walk into the heart of my new town. I used to work in the organic market here a few years ago (I’m from a town just north of here), but since it closed the options have sucked. I’ve been thinking a lot about my frustration with the food industry, especially now that I have a wee one. I don’t want my son eating conventional meats or dairy. The hormone situation and what it is doing to our children’s bodies is truly frightening. Anyways, I’m so happy that we now have a new organic market… That I can walk to, no less!!! Right across the street, a local butcher who sells hormone free meat (better than conventional, and affordable for us, unlike organic). So as I’m walking I become acutely aware that I’ve lost my Sigg water bottle somewhere along the way of my 50 million moves over the last two years. What am I drinking? Bottled water. From a disposable bottle. Bottled where? Wellington. By who? Effing Nestlé. I was so aware of this problem when I lived in Guelph. I NEVER drank bottled water. Joey insists… Ignorance is bliss. I can try to educate him, but failing that I can just refuse to buy it for him/drink it myself. Anyways, as I approached the store I got really ashamed by this water bottle. I knew I was going to a place where people would know what it meant. I hid it in my diaper bag. Ouch. What a hypocrite. I had even just explained the Nestlé thing to a friend last week!

    I returned home from my walk and plunked down on my front porch to catch up on my reading, and here is your post. I think it’s a sign. I was raised by a couple of hippies who manufactured and sold organic feminine products and clothes for a living. I too was well aware of environmental problems from a very young age. We didn’t have cable, but we waved those bunny ears around to watch the Nature of Things on CBC! I wish I had a million dollars so that it wasn’t even a question. I wish I weren’t so picky. I wish I could go veg (I’ve tried many times. I can’t). But I am going to go back to my roots, as best I can. And i won’t give Nestlé another cent. Smarties are overrated anyway.

    Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Thanks, Shannon – I love the honesty-and-humour you manage, in spite of everything! At least you were aware and cared enough to hide the bottle 😉 Lots of people would not even realize the faux-pas!

      Aw, good memories of fiddling with the rabbit ears – that’s what we did too!

      At this very moment, we have a box of Smarties in our house because Ev went grocery shopping with Sean and wheedled them out of him. They’re his favourite ever since his first Halloween. But he is just going to have to suffer and eat M&Ms instead, from now on.

  2. Mama says:

    There’s a strong tendency for aquifers to be connected underground. We draw nice water from our well just one concession south of Wellington County. If Nestle gets to keep pumping in a drought, our well will probably be affected. It’s not enough just to avoid buying Nestle products (ESPECIALLY the water!). We have to do everything we can to fight Nasty Nestle. Thanks for speaking up, Di.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Yes. It’s one of those “How bad will things have to get before the public gets it/the evil company smartens up?” situations. Sigh.

  3. Minerva says:

    This is an AMAZING post! I was aware of some of it but not all. I was certainly not aware of all the many companies under the Nestle umbrella and I am shocked and disgusted at their attempts to continue to suck the water out of Wellington County. I make a strong point of always drinking tap water but every once in a while I succumb due to convenience.
    I agree, we can all make small changes and take small steps.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Thanks for reading, Minerva. It is so depressing about the big companies – all the ones with the worst practices seem to be the ones with the biggest umbrellas (Nestle, Proctor and Gamble, PepsiCo and others have all been boycotted for shocking reasons, and all have seemingly millions of smaller companies under them). And I too have been in situations where a bottle of water was a very welcome thing, despite the disposable plastic…

  4. Krista says:

    I have a friend who has a fridge full of bottled water because, well, sadly (in my opinion) he works for Nestlé. I don’t drink bottled water (I’ve previously signed petitions against their draws and I don’t want to be a hypocrite, plus all the other reasons). A couple of visits ago I did drink a bottle. And immediately felt guilty. Last time I was visiting, I helped myself to a glass and ran the tap. As I filled the glass, my friend said, “Oh, there’s water in the fridge.” My reply was, “Yup, and the same water’s in the tap.” I can’t change everyone else, but I can make choices that work for me.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Good for you, Krista. It has occurred to me in the past that there may be people who think it’s unhospitable of me to have only tap water to offer guests, but really – we have some of the best tap water in the world! It’s so spoiled and first-world-y of us to have that AND buy water in bottles.

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