I just finished watching an incredibly haunting documentary called Tapped. Even though it came out a decade ago in 2009, it still is incredibly important that everyone sees it. Because honestly, climate change has gotten worse, even with demonstrations and actions we’re taking towards it, and environmental injustice is still a reality in many marginalized communities. I saw the film at the library a few weeks ago when it was World Water Day and the display was filled with books and documentaries about water conservation. Other than the Minimalism documentary on Netflix, I hadn’t seen a documentary in a while, so I gave this one a shot. And boy, am I glad I saw it.
The film talks about the adverse effects the bottled water industry has on consumers and the environment. It covers several topics that all go back to the topic of our consumption of bottled water. In 2007, Americans bought more than 29 billion bottles of water, showing how big companies have commodified this precious resource. In a small community in Maine called Fryeburg, Poland Spring, which the large corporation Nestle owns, got a secret permit to pump all the water in Fryeburg’s community before its residents even knew about it. In 2004, due to Nestle’s excessive pumping of water, Fryeburg residents didn’t have any water coming into their community. In other places such as Georgia and North Carolina, which suffered from severe drought, the large bottled water companies such as Pepsi kept pumping water and feeding their multibillion dollar industry.
There are several other reasons bottled water is bad, one being the material that plastic bottles are made of. The plastic in the bottles is made of PETE or PET, which is derived from crude oil and has dangerous chemicals that, when leached, can cause birth defects, reproductive problems in men and women, and cancer. Many residents of Corpus Christi, Texas lived at the time the documentary was made near a PET manufacturer, so the residents were constantly exposed to these toxins, causing many to eventually die from cancer. It was haunting to hear the residents speak about the damage the manufacturing plant has caused to their community and its residents’ health, but it too well reminded me of the community of Altgeld Gardens in Chicago. Altgeld Gardens was often called “The Toxic Doughnut” because so many polluting factories surrounded the community. Many of the residents there died from cancer because of the pollution and lack of access to environmental resources and politicians who cared about the issue, so Hazel Johnson, one of Altgeld Gardens’ residents, started a movement to resist the environmental injustice that the community suffered at the hands of big businesses.
I cannot tell you how many times I have flipped through magazines, saw ads on TV and on the radio, about bottled water. This documentary presents water bottle advertising as something that should disturb rather than manipulate us into buying bottled water. Even though a lot of these ads say it’s all “pure” bottled water, 40 percent of bottled water is really just filtered tap water, not pure spring water. I had no idea about this because I never did any prior research on whether water in plastic bottles was really pure. Throughout this film I couldn’t help but think about the Flint water crisis and how a lot of residents didn’t have access to clean drinking water and had many health problems after consuming the water. It has a lot to do with the lack of concern that many government officials had about the health of its citizens.
To be continued in part 2