Bottled water ban feedback — Walden Pond division


Contrarian’s friend Gus writes:

In my younger days I used to live in Concord, where the Contrarian spirit runs deep (and perhaps was born). Bronson Alcott, who would not wear wool because it was stolen from sheep, would have recruited Louisa May to the cause. I remain interested in the bruising local politics of these places – it would have been fun to listen to the arguments about P.E.T. bottles at town meeting. Since half the town are M.I.T professors, the lines would have been sharply drawn. The other half, Harvard professors, would have spoken at length and contributed nothing to the discussion. Doris Kearns Goodwin would have told what Lincoln would have done.

Solid waste always figures high in budgetary priorities. Part of the charm of living in a New England town in the days before recycling was the obligatory trip to the dump on Saturday. A dump sticker being required, it was by nature an exclusive activity. In the days before gated communities, it was a social event of significance. Tales were swapped, acquaintances renewed and business transacted. The father of one of my friends would time his visits to coincide with the arrival of the town doctor, so he could get free medical advice. Teens took their dates to the dump to shoot rats (gun culture!).

The Concord dump is immediately adjacent to Walden Pond State Reservation and would be worth a visit, except it is now closed to the public. Concord presently has a fee-based curbside pickup program, and the trash probably goes directly to a regional incinerator/recycle center. As an aside, it would be an interesting project to map the location of the dump in every Massachusetts town. You would find that the dump is typically hard up against the boundary of the neighboring town which is the traditional sports rival. In this case, it is the town of Lincoln. The Lincoln dump is practically in the town of Bedford. There is a hierarchy.

I remember the first appearance of Poland Spring bottled water (in the 1980s?) and being puzzled about the economics of the business. So you pay a dollar for a bottle of something from Maine that the bottler gets for free. You can also get the same stuff for free, right in the kitchen. Why would you pay? Then Perrier got popular, then Dasani. I do believe that water will soon be a scarce resource, so the hint that the controversy in Concord might be about the privatization of water was intriguing. Alas, it doesn’t seem to be, since every other bottled or canned water-based liquid has escaped banishment. Coke, Gatorade and Canada Dry are certainly more than 99% water.

Anyone who pays a dollar for water is committing at least two of the seven sins and will be held to account. It is a folly at least as grievous as putting nitrogen in your tires for $5 each. The free air at the Irving station is 78% nitrogen, and the science of nitrogen inflation is right up there with creationism. Anyone who takes the lessons of The Gods Must Be Crazy to heart will understand.

For convenience, the safety of unbreakability, the ability to freeze the contents for transport to the beach (global warming must be really advanced in Boulardrie) and the status accruing to branded water consumers, Contrarian is permitted to continue his present pattern of use of P.E.T. bottles.

For failing to correctly identify the principal errors in the sale of bottled water – waste and extravagance – the town of Concord is hereby sentenced to recite the sermons of Ralph Waldo Emerson.


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