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First a campaign to stop Nestlé from bottling water in California, and now Walmart has been bottling Sacramento water
When mandatory water sanctions are placed on California citizens, residents grumble about the lack of restrictions on businesses.
California’s extreme drought conditions have created emergency conditions on the western coast of the United States. With restrictions being imposed on restaurants and residents and the governor urging $10,000 fines against any violators, Californians are rightly angry at water bottling companies that continue to utilize their state’s water resources. Already, thousands have signed petitions to get Nestlé to stop bottling water in California, and Starbucks, bowing to consumer pressure, has halted production of Ethos bottled water in the state.
The latest water bottling controversy comes from Walmart. Walmart brand bottled water, Great Value purified water, is allegedly sourced from the Sacramento municipal water supply, and angry California residents are urging Walmart to move their business elsewhere in order to conserve the state’s most precious resource.
According to CBS, the city of Sacramento sells water to the Walmart bottling company for 99 cents per 748 gallons. For comparison, the average California family uses 417 gallons of water a day. Required residential water cuts in the Sacramento area are expected to climb as high as 36 percent.
Coca-Cola and Water Scarcity: substantial progress or just another drop in the bucket?
Coca-Cola claims to have attained water neutrality, but are communities truly reaping the benefits?
‘‘When the well is dry, we know the worth of water”
An astonishing 1.9 billion servings of Coca-Cola products are consumed every day throughout the world, requiring the funneling of over 300 billion liters of water through 863 bottling plants each year to deliver carbonated beverages to eager consumers. Although such a feat is logistically impressive, the Coca-Cola Company has grown increasingly concerned about the sustainability of its water usage and the associated implications for its bottom line,  especially given that within the next 10 years an estimated 2.8 billion people will be at risk of encountering water shortages . As climate change threatens global water security—and as political activists publicly call into question the acceptability of its practices—the Coca Cola Company has made great strides to establish their position as an eco-conscious producer. But have their efforts gone far enough?
Fig 1: Protesters Outside Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in India
The Case of India
Groundwater tables and freshwater sources are being depleted at alarming rates in many parts of the world due to accelerating demand by industry, and in some markets the consequences are quite serious for instance, the World Bank recently estimated that without further intervention or technological advancement, all of the available water supplies in India will have been exhausted by 2050.  This was especially worrisome for Coca-Cola since, prior to 2007, it operated 24 bottling plants across India. With reliable water access already in short supply, residents and regulators alike began to fervently oppose the presence of Coca-Cola bottling plants, opening the doors to legal and reputational damages to the brand. With bad PR mounting following the shuttering of multiple bottling plants in India due to protracted legal battles with local residents and ongoing protests decrying exploitation of local resources , the company shifted focus toward sustainability.
Steps Toward a Sustainable Future
Pathways to Just Digital Future
Their solution was to institute a system-wide water stewardship platform to achieve water neutrality by “returning to nature and communities an amount of water equivalent to what we use in all of our products and their production by 2020.”  Strategies to offset water usage included plant-level innovations—such as improving manufacturing efficiency to reduce water waste and reuse of treated wastewater in boilers, evaporators, and chillers—and improving local infrastructure through partnerships with governments and NGOs to finance and build water treatment facilities, install rainwater harvesting structures, construct check dams, and restore water to natural reservoirs.  In essence, when water is consumed by the production process, an equal amount of usable water is returned to the environment at large or conserved from use altogether.
Fig 2: Projected percent change in water deficit index for 2030
Global Neutrality vs Community Inequity
In 2015, Coca-Cola announced that they had achieved global water neutrality five years ahead of schedule. However, there is reason to be skeptical of the mission’s success. Although the amount of water purportedly replenished to the environment may very well balance their overall water usage from bottling, the underlying inequity at the community level remains problematic notably, each bottling plant is not required to replenish water to its direct source,  and thus total water neutrality was often achieved by replenishing aquifers at locations far removed from the plant’s actual water sources, leaving local communities ever vulnerable to depletion of their water source while Coca-Cola reaps positive PR for replenishing it elsewhere. It is imperative that the next step should incorporate a blanket policy to replenish water sources within the community from which it is derived, lest the company remain vulnerable to depletion of its primary input in the given region, regulatory interference, and further reputational damage.
Bigger Opportunities Ahead
Coca-Cola’s rhetoric grossly underestimates the water footprint required to produce its beverages, commonly citing bottling requirements of 2.16L per 1L of finished product . These calculations only include water consumed as an operational input but do not take into account contributions from the overall supply chain (for example, a single plastic bottle uses 4.5L of water input alone). However, the single largest contributor to the overa
Fig 3: Share of Global Water Usage by Agriculture
ll water footprint of the company’s beverages is its major ingredient—sugar. Agriculture requires immense amounts of water to produce sugar crops, and although highly dependent on region and type of crop, it is estimated that the water footprint per beverage is at minimum 169L (using sugar beet from the Netherlands) up to a maximum of 309L (using sugar cane from Cuba).  Indeed, agriculture contributes the largest water footprint globally.
This represents a key opportunity by utilizing suppliers with efficient water usage strategies—instead of those offering lowest purchase price—Coca-Cola can fulfill ethical obligations to conserve water while also fostering a future competitive advantage since, as water becomes more scarce and crop yields decline due to climate change, the company is better insulated from the expected increases in volatility of input costs and availability. 
Why Nestle is one of the most hated companies in the world
Child labor, unethical promotion, manipulating uneducated mothers, pollution, price fixing and mislabeling – those are not words you want to see associated with your company. Nestle is the world’s largest foodstuff company, and it has a history that would make even hardcore industrialists shiver. We’re gonna look at why Nestle has such a bad reputation and whether or not it deserves it.
People love to hate, and they really love to hate on big companies – whether or not they have a reason to. I especially dislike it when the latter happens. Companies (big companies included) are the very backbone of our economy, and they often get a bad rep for little or no reason. But sometimes there is a reason, or as in this case, several solid reasons, as we’ll see below. Which brings me to the next point: why are we writing this article? ZME Science is a science website (crazy, right?), and this is not strictly science, at least not in the way our regular articles are. But we also write about environmental issues, especially when they affect many of us, and especially when we can make a difference.
Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company. According to Wikipedia, their products include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Twenty-nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year and have over 8,000 brands. They have 447 factories across 194 countries and employ around 333,000 people. They truly are what you would call a giant. They’re also considered to be one of the best employers in Europe with six LEED certifications and sponsor numerous activities and sustainable projects. Looking at only these stats, it would seem that Nestle is one of the “good guys”… but then why are they so hated? Let’s take it step by step.
Baby Formula and Boycott
We’re in the s, and this is a sad story about poverty, breastfeeding, and greed. Nestle aggressively pushed their breastfeeding formula in less economically developed countries (LEDCs), specifically targeting the poor. They made it seem that their infant formula was almost as good as a mother’s milk, which is highly unethical for several reasons.
This is one of the first Nestle formula ads, from 1911.
The first problem was the need for water sanitation. Most of the groups they were targeting – especially in Africa – didn’t have access to clean water (many don’t to this day), so it was necessary for them to boil the water. But due to low literacy rates, many mothers were not aware of this, so they mixed the formula with polluted water which put the children at great risks. Nestle seems to have knowingly ignored this and encouraged mothers to use the formula even when they knew the risks. Breastfeeding, one of the most important aspects for an infant, especially in unsanitized areas, was cast aside. Baby formula was “the nearest thing in the world”, and this “splendid triumph of care and science” is “so like mother’s milk that the tiny stomach won’t notice the difference”. But the tiny stomach did notice the difference.
“Breastfeeding is unparalleled in providing the ideal food for infants.The optimal way to feed a baby is exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months followed by breastfeeding combined with complementary foods until the child is two years old…” – a 2007 Save the Children report.
Many mothers were able to read in their native language but were still unable to read the language in which sterilization directions were written. Even if mothers understood the need to boil the water, they might not have had the facilities to do so. UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child. Another problem was that mothers tended to use less formula than needed – to make the jar last longer, resulting in many infants receiving inadequate amounts.
But even if the water was boiled, and even if the formula was administered in the right proportion and in the right quantity, it is lacking in many of the nutrients and antibodies that breast milk provides. Breast milk contains the required amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development, and to some extent, protects the baby from many diseases and potential infections. According to the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Nestle used unethical methods to promote their infant formula to poor mothers in developing countries. But it gets even worse.
Rachael Romero, San Francisco Poster Brigade
Boycott Nestle, 1978
Courtesy Inkworks Press Archive, Berkeley, CA
IBFAN claims that Nestle distributes free formula samples to hospitals and maternity wards after leaving the hospital, the formula is no longer free, but because the supplementation has interfered with lactation, the family must continue to buy the formula. Nestle denies those allegations… sort of.
“Nestlé takes reports on non-compliance with the WHO Code very seriously and we have endeavored to investigate all allegations brought to our attention, despite the fact that in many cases we are not provided with accurate details substantiating the accusations. This makes it difficult for us to investigate how, where and when the alleged infringement could have occurred. Some of the allegations are several years old before they are brought to public attention, which also could complicate the investigation.”
Health experts were concerned from the very start. It’s been known for quite a while that bottle-feeding infants in impoverished tropical environments, with limited sanitation and refrigeration, can be a recipe for disaster. But Nestlé’s asked that critics should focus on doing something to improve unsafe water supplies, which contributed to the health problems associated with bottle feeding. They also later used this approach to promote their bottled water, using their huge marketing budget to influence people’s behavior, while avoiding denying any direct responsibility.
Today, several countries and organizations are still boycotting Nestle, despite their claims to be in compliance with WHO regulations. There’s even a committee, the International Nestlé Boycott Committee that monitors their practices. Several universities and student organizations have also joined the boycott, especially in the UK.
More recently, the company has also been under head for a study on breastmilk substitutes in India. India’s apex medical research authority asked the company to stop paying study participants, which included pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
It’s not clear how many lives that were lost directly and indirectly due to this aggressive marketing campaign, and of course, Nestle does not claim responsibility for these tragedies. But it was easy for them, as it was easy for everybody to see the risks and the negative effects their formula was having. It was easy for them to save many lives, but they chose the money instead. Profits before children — check. Let’s move on.
Nestle and WaterBrown admitted that Nestlé currently wastes about 30% of the 700m gallons of water a year it draws from the ground in California. Image via Sum of Us.
Few people know it, but Nestle is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water. In fact, they’re so keen on their water business (which also involves many of their other products), that they believe water isn’t a universal right. Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said:
“There are two different opinions on the matter [or water]. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”
Having access to water is not an extreme solution. It’s what we have called a basic need for centuries. Even Brabeck, after the media attack that followed, backed down. He said that he “believes that water is a human right” and “advocates for universal access to safe drinking water”. But his actions, as well as Nestle’s actions, show that that’s just greenwashing.
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At the second World Water Forum in 2000, Nestle pushed for making access to drinking water from a “right” to a “need,” a defining change. Meanwhile, Nestle drains the aquifers it controls as much as possible, without any regards to sustainable usage or environmental concerns. A recent case is the California drought – an issue without precedent in the past 1,200 years. But Nestle doesn’t care. Even as Starbucks recently announced they would transfer their Ethos water bottling facility from California to Pennsylvania, Nestle CEO Tim Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase [water bottling operations], I would.”
Yes, if he could, he’d increase water bottling operations, even though Nestle has been working without a permit since 1988. Inhabitat reports that the company has been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest without a permit and they’ve been recently been bumped to the front of the queue for permit renewal (which will take around 18 months), and they can keep working in the meantime as long as they pay a laughable $524 annual fee. Also, California doesn’t know how much water Nestle uses, because they have no legal grounds for making the company divulge this information, and Nestle hasn’t published any reports. An independent analysis puts all their water usage at 1 billion gallons a year.
Arguably, that’s not much when you considering that 500 billion gallons of water that will be saved under Gov. Brown’s new water restrictions, but there’s something absurd and immoral about a private company using as much water as they want while the rest of the state is facing severe restrictions.
But other areas in the world have it even worse than California.
In the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. Who’s to blame? He says it’s bottled water maker Nestle, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water.
“The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. (source)
The small village of Bhati Dalwan is suffering a water crisis following the development of a Nestle water bottling facility. Image source.
Indeed, unsustainable usage of aquifer water can lead to a significant decrease in water levels, and can even exhaust the aquifer. That’s right, underground water isn’t the inexhaustible source many people believe it to be. In the case of Bhati Dilwan, people are getting sick because if the community had fresh water piped in, it would deprive Nestle of its money source – bottled water under the Pure Life brand. Greedily using natural resources for profits? Check.
But when Nestle isn’t trying to privatize water or use it without regards to the environment, it’s simply bottling… tap water. A Chicago-based business has sued the company (again), claiming that the five gallon jugs of Ice Mountain Water they bought were nothing else than tap water. It may come as a shock to you, but nearly half of the bottled water in PET plastic bottles is actually from a tap – though Nestle never advertised this. They know what’s likely going to happen though, as this is almost a dress rehearsal of a previous scandal. Twelve years ago Nestle Waters was sued over allegation of false labeling, and ultimately settled for $10 million in charitable contributions and discounts.
More recently, Nestle expressed their concern to the city of Flint, Michigan, which was undergoing a massive water crisis at the time — a crisis which still takes a toll to this day. Meanwhile, the company was using nearby water reserves for their own bottled water products. Nestle was bottling hundreds of thousands of bottles, paying only $200 to use this natural reserve.
Child labor, abuse, and trafficking
Most people love chocolate, but few know the dirty deals behind chocolate production. The 2010 documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate brought attention to purchases of cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that use child slave labour. The children are usually 12 to 15 years old, and some are trafficked from nearby countries – and Nestle is no stranger to this practice.
Children labor was found in Nestle’s supply chain. Image via Crossing Guard Consulting.
In 2005, the cocoa industry was, for the first time, under the spotlight. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Nestle (among others) on behalf of three Malian children. The suit alleged the children were trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire, forced into slavery, and experienced frequent beatings on a cocoa plantation. In 2010, the US District Court for the Central District of California determined corporations cannot be held liable for violations of international law and dismissed the suit – a controversial decision which has since been appealed. But even if Nestle wasn’t legally liable for these abuses, they are, at least morally. But that wasn’t the only case of this kind.
A report by an independent auditor, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), says it found “multiple serious violations” of the company’s own supplier code. It was reported that Nestle hadn’t carried out checks against child labor and abuse. Additionally, many injuries caused by machetes, which are used to harvest cocoa pods, have been reported. Nestle’s excuse can be summed up broadly as ‘everybody does it’:
“The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” says Nestle’s Executive Vice-President for Operations Jose Lopez. “No company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but we can say that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”
The FLA reported that Nestle was fully aware of where their cocoa was coming from and under what conditions, but did little to improve conditions. Child slavery and abuse? Check.
In July 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned consumers to avoid eating any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7 (a foodborne bacterium that causes illness). In the US, it caused sickness in more than 50 people in 30 states, half of whom required hospitalization. In particular, one woman had a fatal infection before the batch was reclaimed.
“The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle,” the company said in a statement. “Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high quality standards,” which sort of makes you wonder – why weren’t stringent testing and inspections implemented in the first place?
But this is just a minor incident compared to the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal. Six infants were killed and 860 were hospitalized with kidney problems after Nestle products were contaminated with melamine, a substance sometimes illegally added to food products to increase their apparent protein content.
In October 2008, Taiwan Health ministry announced that six types of milk powders produced in China by Nestlé contained low-level traces of melamine and were removed from the shelves.
The scandal quickly escalated, with China reporting over 300,000 victims, raising concerns about the security of major food companies operating in China. Two people were executed and several life prison sentences were issued, with the World Health Organization (WHO) referring to the incident as one of the largest food safety events it has had to deal with in recent years.
Nestle denied implication and claimed that all its products are clean, but the Taiwan government linked their products to toxic melamine. As a response, Nestle says it has sent 20 specialists from Switzerland to five of its Chinese plants to strengthen chemical testing.
Nestle’s CEO, Peter Brabeck.
As with any “respectable” large company, Nestle has been involved in several incidents regarding pollution. A 1997 report found that in the UK, over a 12 month period, water pollution limits were breached 2,152 times in 830 locations by companies that included Cabdury and Nestle. But again, the situation in China was much worse.
While people in the US and Europe are slowly becoming more environmentally concerned and some are opting for more sustainable sources of water, Nestle has moved to another market – Asia. Alongside companies such as Kraft or Shell, Nestle made several environmental violations.
Nestle Sources Shanghai Ltd’s bottled water manufacturing plant also made the list for starting operation before its wastewater treatment facilities had passed an environmental impact assessment.
“These are only some of the water pollution violations committed by multinational companies in China, since our website has yet to cover information about air and solid waste pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. “The parent companies in their home countries are models for environmental protection. But they have slackened their efforts in China.”
Another article claims that Nestle capitalizes on China’s already-polluted waters to make a good profit, while Corporate Watch highlights the fact that Nestle continues to extract water illegally from Brazil for their Perrier brand. Although Nestlé lost the legal action, pumping continues as it gets through the appeal procedures, something which can take ten years or more.
In 2002, Nestle made what turned out to be a colossal error: demanding that Ethiopia pay them back a debt of US$6 million. There’s nothing wrong with that per se… if Ethiopia wasn’t facing extreme famine at the time. For a company that has 29 brands that make over $1 billion a year, asking a famine-stricken country to pay you back 6 million seems questionable, to say the least.
Nestle’s claim dates back to the 1970s when the military regime in Addis Ababa seized the assets of foreign companies.
The public roar came almost overnight with the company receiving 40,000 letters from outraged people, in one of the most famous cases of public opinion beat corporate greed. In the end, Nestle took a U-turn, settling for a partial debt which was also invested in the country’s bouncing back from famine. For Nestle, who initially insisted that the compensation issue was “a matter of principle” and that it was in the best interest of Addis Ababa to settle the demand to repair its record with foreign investors, it was a huge moral defeat. For analysts, it was an exciting case which showed that even giants can falter in the face of public opinion.
“This is a welcome result because it shows that Nestle is not immune to public pressure,” said Phil Bloomer, a senior policy analyst.
A Deal With Mugabe
Striking dubious partnerships to make a profit seems to be a recurring theme. The Swiss multinational made a deal with the wife of the infamous dictator from Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, buying 1 million liters of milk a year from a farm seized from its rightful owners by Grace Mugabe
Grace has taken over at least six of Zimbabwe’s most valuable white-owned farms since 2002, building a farming empire from illegally confiscated farms, which led to an international boycott, as well as EU and US sanctions. She is known for her ridiculously lavish lifestyle, which includes overseeing the construction of two luxuriant castles. In 2014, she was given a doctorate diploma only three months after signing up for the program. Nestle went forward with the deal though, even as the country’s agriculture-based economy was collapsing and inflation was reaching unheard of levels.
In Canada, the Competition Bureau raided the offices of Nestlé Canada (along with those of Hershey Canada Inc. and Mars Canada Inc) in an investigation on price fixing. Nestlé and the other companies were subject to class-action lawsuits and ultimately settled for $9 million, without actually admitting liability. Furthermore, former president and chief executive officer of Nestle Canada is facing criminal charges.
In the US, another, larger trial was rejected, because even though it was plausible that the same thing happened in the US, there was no clear evidence of any foul play. The suspicion remained however and still lingers with the company.
Promoting Unhealthy Food and Mislabeling
That Nestle is promoting unhealthy food should come as no surprise, but the level at which they operate it is simply staggering. A recent report by the UK Consumers Association claims that 7 out of the 15 breakfast cereals with the highest levels of sugar, fat, and salt were Nestle products.
“Nestlé claims to be ‘the world’s leading nutrition, health, and wellness company’, but when it comes to food marketing to kids, Nestlé is a laggard, not a leader,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan.
Nestle dismissed all responsibility in promoting healthy food. To pour even more salt in the foods wound, mister Brabeck came out with a dismissive interview in the Telegraph, claiming that he is not obese yet ‘every morning I have a tablet of dark chocolate as my breakfast’ and that it is the perfect balance and contains everything he needs for the day. Hey, after all, who would actually think that Nestle’s cereals are healthy, right?
But while Nestle’s labels aren’t simply misleading, they have also been downright false. In November 2002, police ordered Nestle Colombia to decommission 200 tons of imported powdered milk, because they were falsely relabeled, not only as a different, local brand, but also with a different production date. A month later another 120 tons suffered the same fate, causing uproar among the Colombian population.
Nestle bringing old powdered milk from a different country and labeling as local and new is not only unethical and illegal, but it poses health hazards for consumers.
Drawing the Line
All major companies have incidents, accidents and scandals. When you have so many people working for you, it’s virtually impossible to maintain a clean sheet. Someone will eventually screw up, someone will eventually do something they should. As I was preparing to write this article, a friend actually asked me if other companies don’t have a similar record, and advised me to look at Mars, for example. What I found was that Mars and other big companies have indeed had their share of scandals (sometimes the same ones as Nestle), but not nearly on the same scale. Nestle has shown, time and time again, that they have few ethics and little interest in a real social responsibility. From promoting their formula to uneducated African mothers to lying about production dates, to using water without a permit to dealing with ruthless dictators, they have often gone the extra mile to make an extra profit – even when the extra mile meant hurting people, directly or indirectly.
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American drought: California’s crisis
A storm has hit California, but that’s not going to end the ‘worst drought in a generation’ that is turning much of the centre of the state into a dust bowl. Chris McGreal reports on the drought bringing one of the richest states in America to its knees
Last modified on Wed 14 Feb 2018 17.57 GMT
E sidronio Arreola never gave much thought to the well that so reliably pumped water to his traditional clapboard house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. But one day in March, he opened the tap and all he got was air.
Through the searing summer heat, the Mexican immigrant to California’s Central Valley and his family endured a daily routine of collecting water in his pickup truck from an emergency communal tank, washing from buckets and struggling to keep their withering orchard alive while they waited for snow to return to the mountains and begin the cycle of replenishing the aquifer that provides water to almost all the homes in the region.
But as more of Arreola’s neighbours in East Porterville, a ramshackle, low-income town in sprawling Tulare County, reported their wells running dry, and state officials warned that the most severe drought in living memory may well extend into 2015 and beyond, he realised he might not have water for years to come.
So Arreola, who makes his living dealing in old fridges and washing machines from his garage, bit the bullet and borrowed the lion’s share of the $11,000 it cost to drill a new well four times as deep as his old one. In mid-November, seven months after the pipes went dry, water began flowing to his taps again. Arreola just doesn’t know for how long.
Yet for all the difficulties, he considers himself fortunate. “We’re among the lucky ones. It’s weird to say that, but our old well was shallow and ran dry early – so, once we decided, we only had to wait a month for them to start drilling a new one. Now the waiting list is a year and I hear the price has gone to $17,000,” he says.“There are a lot of people who cannot afford a new well. Even if you drill one, you don’t know how long it will last.”
Spray fan: Daniel Arreola and his father Esidronio use their new well after not having running water for over six months. Photograph: Barry J Holmes for the Observer
At the other end of Tulare County’s 4,800 square miles, Chris Kemper is the principal of the poorest school in California: Stone Corral Elementary. The water supply to his entire small town of about 500 people, Seville, stopped in April when its collective well ran dry.
“We had sponge baths, like in the army. Doing that for a week or two isn’t bad but for months – it’s difficult. Well, it’s awful. The school found it harder and harder to function. When the kids would flush the toilet nothing would happen,” says Kemper. “If you can imagine going to an underdeveloped country, it was worse. No potable water. It was a humbling experience. You figure you’re here in California, which is a rich state in a developed country, but you turn on the water and it comes out in drips.”
The only supply for Kemper and his eight children through a scorching summer was bottled water delivered by the county’s emergency office.
“We used that for bathing. We used it for washing our clothes,” he said. “It really made you manage your life differently. It changed how we think about water. You appreciate just how precious water is in our lives.”
Eight decades ago, the worst drought in living memory helped drive hundreds of thousands of people from Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl to central California in search of work and a future toiling on the fruit farms that fill the San valley. It’s a part of the American epic immortalised in John Steinbeck’s bitter novel, The Grapes of Wrath.
In time, many of the “Okies” were replaced by Mexican migrant workers as the Central Valley farms grew to produce up to half of the US’s fruit, nuts and vegetables. But now the 400-mile long agricultural basin of four million people is facing its own life-changing drought that, like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, is hitting hardest those with the least.
California’s governor, Jerry Brown, declared an emergency in January as 2013 was the driest on record in the state, and this year is little better. The federal authorities say more than half of California is enduring “exceptional drought” – the highest category. The state’s main reservoirs are at an average of only 40% of capacity.
A lot of bottle: Chris Kemper, principal of the school in Seville, which has had to rely on delivered water. Photograph: Barry J Holmes for the Observer
At the beginning of the year, John Laird, the state’s secretary for natural resources, told the US Congress in a letter that “California is experiencing the worst water crisis in our modern history. We are in our third consecutive year of below-normal precipitation and this year’s snowpack – on which 25 million Californians depend as the source of their water supply – currently is only 10% of what it should be.
“As you know, California’s climate is such that it is generally dry for almost half the year – and we rely on rain and snow during the winter season to carry us through the year,” he wrote. “Conditions – in terms of both supply and quality – are unprecedented and serious.”
A recent study for the National Science Foundation, a US government agency, found that the drought is “very likely” linked to climate change. The immediate cause is a region of high atmospheric pressure over the Pacific, diverting storms away from California. Known to scientists as the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge”, it is blamed on rising greenhouse gases and the study described its persistence and intensity as “unrivalled”. Other studies say California is part of a “mega-drought” in the western US that could stretch for decades, even if the rains return periodically.
The sharp drop in water levels in rivers, canals and dams is responsible for what a University of California report called “the greatest absolute reduction in water availability for California agriculture ever seen”.
That has prompted farmers to seek alternative sources of irrigation for ever-more-demanding crops. Drought-resistant cotton has given way to more profitable but thirsty plants such as the massive almond farms which now grow 80% of the world’s supply – farmers are now drilling under their fields to tap into aquifers. But that has only added to the pressure on groundwater already depleted by lack of snow on the mountains. As agriculture drew heavily, wells serving individual houses and small communities began to suck air.
The impact in Tulare County, where some of the richest agricultural areas in the US sit alongside people with the lowest incomes, is starkly on display. There are queues at communal water tanks and the irrigated fields plump with crops abruptly give way to hard-baked soil forced to sit fallow.
‘We bought in three truckloads of water and got rid of it in eight hours’: Andrew Lockman, manager of the Office of Emergency Services for Tulare County, being interviewed. Photograph: Barry J Holmes for the Observer
Within Tulare County, where one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, nowhere is harder hit than East Porterville – a community of about 7,400 people. More than half of homes are now without running water and many of the remainder wonder how long their wells will last. “Back in January, the county was getting these sporadic calls: ‘Hey, my well’s gone dry,’” says Andrew Lockman, head of Tulare County’s Office of Emergency Services, who is in charge of relief efforts. “By June, there were over 800 households with dry wells. In East Porterville, we brought in three full truckloads of bottled water – 15,552 gallons of drinking water – and we got rid of all of it in about eight hours.”
Lockman installed a 5,000-gallon tank in front of the fire station with a motorised pump. A steady stream of residents make the daily journey to fill buckets and drums.
Houses without running water – mostly small, low-slung bungalows on plots marked out by wire fences – are often signalled by large blue storage barrels. Many of the houses are wood with corrugated iron roofs that drive people outdoors in the scorching midday heat. The sun has drained colour from their walls and paint is luxury for families struggling to pay for utilities. If there are gardens at all, and mostly there is only bone-dry dirt, they have withered for want of water. No one is going to waste it on grass, although some, like Arreola, are trying to save sources of food. He’s been using waste water to keep alive a small orchard of kiwi fruits, and lemon, apple and cherry trees. There has been no fruit this year but the vines have survived.
If the drought has taken a physical toll it doesn’t seem to show on faces already weathered by years in the fields. Some seem to shrug off the added hardship as just another price of poverty. Lockman has been struck by the stoicism of people. “We’re seeing a lot of neighbour helping neighbour,” he says. “We see a lot of folks in East Porterville who say, ‘You’re out of water, hook up to mine,’ knowing full well that theirs is low and then theirs goes out. Choosing to help their neighbours to their own detriment over time is pretty refreshing to see.”
For all that, some residents in low-income communities feel shunned by more affluent towns close by. The city of Porterville has for years resisted incorporating East Porterville into its municipality, and hooking it up to a reliable water system, out of a suspicion that it would drag down property values.
And as grateful as residents are for the assistance they receive, there is worried talk in some low-income communities that people could lose their homes because of regulations requiring houses to have running water. Steve Worthley, a member of Tulare County’s council, the Board of Supervisors, is aware of the concern but does not entirely allay fears. “We’re not doing that and we have no desire to, but as a long-term situation, people cannot live in a home without water,” he says.
With winter setting in, Lockman decided it was too much to ask people to wash in buckets, so in mid-November he moved in two articulated lorries with shower stalls. Some residents had already taken to using the showers at a camp site at a neighbouring artificial lake.
Success Lake: fishing well below the usual shoreline. Photograph: Barry J Holmes for the Observer
Water levels have fallen so far that much of Success Lake’s 150ft-high dam is visible. A road that served as a boat ramp now ends abruptly 35ft above the water. “Have you seen the lake?” says Katherine Hampton, sitting on the doorstep of her wood cabin home on the edge of East Porterville. A large broken window is roughly patched up with a piece of board. “It’s normally so full. It’s so down right now you can walk across it.”
Hampton, 32, has five children and is pregnant with her sixth. The drought has cost her husband, Johnathan, his job. “I haven’t worked in eight months,” he says. “I work in agriculture doing anything: transplanting trees, yard work, tilling ground. I was going around all the farms asking, and everyone was saying ‘no’. I thought maybe they had a problem with me. I went to four or five different farms in Tulare. Then I came across a big old sign: ‘Water shortage. No jobs for farm hands.’ So I came home.”
Hampton gets no unemployment benefit because he didn’t hold a permanent job. He takes the hardships in his stride. “I do anything I can do. Cleaning people’s houses when they move out. There’s not much work. We get by because we don’t spend much,” he says. He’s a man of God and says the drought is part of the Lord’s plan. “People are small in their faith and bring this on themselves,” he said. “I’m hoping people start praying there’ll be some water.”
The University of California report estimates that the drought has already cost the state’s agricultural industry $1.5bn and 17,000 jobs. But the dependence of so many people in Tulare County on agriculture for a living has largely muted any criticism of farmers for drilling deeper and pumping more. “People see farms getting water as a necessity,” said Kemper. “They’re more resentful of the water going to the cities than to the farmers.”
The drought has exacerbated a less visible but widespread issue: pollutants contaminating the underground water. Nitrates from fertilisers and septic tanks have been feeding into the groundwater for decades. A University of California study found that one in 10 people in the Central Valley are exposed to unsafe drinking water. But as water levels have fallen, the nitrates – which are dangerous to young children, nursing mothers and the elderly – have become more concentrated and the drinking water even less safe.
Susana de Anda, director of the Community Water Centre in Tulare County, which campaigns for access to clean water, said more than one million people in California are drinking from contaminated supplies. “More residents are getting notifications not to drink the water because they are over the legal limit of the contaminant,” she says.
Tulare’s health department has issued thousands of letters to users of municipal systems warning against drinking the water, but no one knows how many individual wells are also affected because they are not tested.
The situation in Seville was so bad that in 2011 it attracted the attention of a United Nations investigation into lack of access to clean water. Its report warned that what amounts to discrimination in the provision of water and sanitation in parts of the US “may intensify in the coming years with climate change and competing demands for ever scarce water resources”.
Earlier this year, Seville’s school board became so alarmed at tests showing high levels of contamination that it decided to start buying bottled drinking water for students at a cost of $700 a month from Kemper’s budget. “That’s money we’re spending that could buy a laptop a month for the school,” he says.
But the drought has, to some extent, proved fortuitous for Seville because one crisis has drawn action on another. The state and federal authorities did little over the polluted water, but once there was none at all, funds were rapidly found to drill a new well. It was built and on line within a week in August – a speed Lockman describes as unprecedented – at a cost of more than $250,000. “Frankly, we kind of look at that as a silver lining of the story,” says Lockman. “If we didn’t have all the other drought issues going on, we probably wouldn’t have been able to make that happen.”
But Lockman says that Seville is probably not an example for a lot of other towns. For a start, it already had an established municipal water system. “There’s going to be a lot of places where there’s nothing around,” he says. “East Porterville is probably our biggest challenge. We’ve looked at putting in a new water system. It’s really not viable to do, largely because that area has nitrate contamination.”
The crisis has forced California to think about long-term management of the ever-increasing demand for its limited water supplies. A state-wide conservation campaign has reduced water consumption in urban areas by about 10% over the past year, even if some of southern California’s wealthiest residents have come under fire for continuing to water the vast lawns of their sprawling mansions as if there was no crisis. Individual cities have introduced a slew of initiatives, such as San Diego’s recycling of wastewater for drinking.
In October, the governor approved new laws to regulate the use of underground water supplies for the first time in the state’s history. Worthley says that should include rationing in agriculture.
“There are going to be some very serious issues in agriculture about what is going to be a sustainable yield of water,” he points out. “My guess is that there’s going to be a monitoring of the wells to see how much they’ve been taking out and a limit on how much they can remove. You’re going to have to decide: how much of my land do I allow to go fallow? Do I grow a different kind of crop?”
Farmers are not likely to accept further restrictions without a fight. Relief programmes are in part funded by federal money and Congress in Washington is considering its own legislation to address the crisis. But California’s leaders fear federal laws being used for political ends – particularly to weaken environmental standards at the behest of large agricultural corporations and some cities, which object to water being shifted from farms to fish conservation.
While the severity of the drought in some ways matches that which created the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the consequences so far are very different. For a start, it has not prompted a mass migration. Kemper came to Seville from LA because he was weary of the problems and violence of an inner-city school. Back then he wondered why modern day agricultural workers didn’t follow the example of the Okies in the 1930s and go somewhere else.
“When I lived in Los Angeles and I’d hear about drought I used to think, ‘Why don’t those people just move?’ But living here, you see why. Where do you go? When you’re a poor family, to move is very expensive. You have to have a job and most people here work in agriculture and those jobs are hard to find elsewhere,” he said. In any case, a house without water is almost impossible to sell.
But even in Seville, with its new well, there is a recognition that, with warnings of waves of drought to come, it is only a solution for so long as there is water under the town. “It’s the future we’re afraid of,” says Kemper. “What happens if this isn’t the end? Life is going to change totally in our society. When water ceases, what do you do? If we don’t have agriculture, we don’t have anything here. If water goes, it’ll turn into another wasteland.”
Scorched earth: Lake Kaweah, a flood control reservoir in Tulare County, California, is now down to just 8% capacity. Photograph: Barry J Holmes for the Observer
Student comments on Clouds on the horizon? Nestle, climate change, and the future of bottled water.
Nestle’s position in the US is both large and interesting (both with regard to water rights and how they’ll respond to climate change), but their footprint is much larger than this – and the consequences much greater. They are the largest bottled water company in the world  (operating under dozens of brand names ), and while moving operations to wetter climates is possible, I don’t think it solves a few of the underlying problems Nestle is apt to face.
In the U.S., there is quite a bit of controversy over the fees they pay for the rights to access clean water (in some places just hundreds of dollars per year! ), especially when they’ve come under fire for pumping water out of places like Michigan during the Flint water crisis and California when locals were forced to adhere to water restrictions during droughts. I would speculate that these rates will exponentially rise as access to clean drinking water become less secure in the U.S. and that Nestle will need to decide whether it makes sense to continue to operate in U.S. under these high rates – and poor press.
Moving more operations overseas, though, is not without consequence. Rather, Nestle has frequently entered developing nations, extracted (and sometimes contaminated) clean drinking sources, and then attempted to sell this bottled water back to locals. The people in these communities, though, had free and clean drinking water previously and do not have the financial means to pay for bottled water (nor do I think they should have to). This has left locals without access to clean drinking water, which, the United Nations recognizes as a human right. This is especially problematic since, as you state, “water demand is expected to exceed sustainable demand by 40% by 2030.” I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the privatization of water – especially in the developing world – comes under serious fire. It will be interesting to see how Nestle responds (perhaps with a robust corporate social responsibility initiative in the communities in which they operate) or if their sheer size in the water market lets them skirt by.
It will also be interesting, as you mention, to see how pricing plays into this. I don’t think most people know how large Nestle’s play in the bottled water market is and the power they have to determine access to drinking water.
In response to your second question: 35 million gallons related to daily consumption of 300+ billion gallons is only drop in the bucket. But I think the key issue – and one that you get at in your post – is the geographic distribution of consumption. I wonder what the picture looks like if you were to layer onto your two maps 1) daily agricultural water consumption and 2) personal water consumption (homes etc). Looking at those two consumption patterns in the face of climate trends would likely identify that in certain areas a few million extra gallons being taken out of the ground for bottled water are a bigger deal than in other areas.
I think there is huge promise in using recycled waste water – perhaps recycling that water for home uses though, not necessarily bottled water. I would worry about the effect that any news about a bottled water company using recycled waste water might have on the brand. I think using desalination presents a more palatable option for bottled water. My understanding is that technology is still very expensive but the cost is coming down and would be a good long term investment. The economics are investing in such technology is difficult though. And this is an area where government can be helpful in encouraging businesses to invest in technology development that supports a public good. Not sure if that will happen in the current administration but potentially in the future?
I also wonder the extent to which climate change related demand shocks threaten the bottled water supply chain. For example, large volumes of bottled water are distributed whenever there is a major hurricanes or other disaster events. We anticipate these types of events will become more frequent and extreme as global warming continues. How prepared is the supply chain to respond to such shocks? What is the current “shelf life” of bottled water, how and where is inventory stored? My guess is Nestle and others aren’t trying to hold any excess inventory given costs of doing so, so this consideration likely falls to the government. I’d be curious about how organizations like FEMA partner with companies like Nestle to keep stock prepared for disaster events like hurricanes and whether they have any plans to adapt this as climate change related events increase.
Related to the policy question: water is definitely public good just like clean air is. Without water people cannot survive. I see two policy tools: 1) regulation use of current natural water shed supply and 2) investing in technologies for recycling, desalination, and other tools to generate more drinkable water supply. On 1), it is absolutely the government’s role to regulate the usage of water such that there is sufficient supply but I think however until very recently, there wasn’t sufficient technology to test how much ground water was remaining in certain regions and to predict trends in future climate change related supply changes and agricultural demands. Water is thus very underpriced in the U.S. because I think we’ve assumed we have a larger supply. I worry that the current pro-business administration will forsake the regulation of water – both in terms of supply and investing in new technologies. My hope is that private business have recognized the extensive potential market for technologies that efficiently convert nondrinkable water into drinkable water and will take risks to invest in such technology without waiting for government to create programs and policies to encourage such investment.
Super interesting topic and would love to discuss further!
Great article! Nestle is facing tremendous climate and regulatory headwinds that seem difficult to overcome in the long term. With water becoming scarcer and scarcer, I agree with all of Nestle’s actions to date and your proposed actions. Unfortunately, I don’t believe any of these actions will be enough to fully mitigate the industry’s long-term challenges. Additionally, most of these actions will increase the costs of bottling water making Nestle and others less competitive in the marketplace.
Your question regarding the role of governments in pricing and selling water further illustrates the challenge Nestle is in. As water scarcity increases, I believe governments will get more involved in regulating water distribution, which will in turn increase the costs to bottle water.
With climate change trends increasing supply chain costs, Nestle and the bottled water market may be fighting a losing battle.
I was shocked to see the price difference between what Nestle is charged to withdraw water versus what it sells for in stores. This is, no doubt, an immensely profitable operation for the company. To address your first question, I think the most recent drought in California really underscored the fragility of the nation’s water supply, especially in the American SW. Without true market forces being applied to the price, the state ends up running out of water instead of the price increasing, which largely hurts the environment, farmers, or both. I think the government should take a far more aggressive role in pricing water to corporations like Nestle, especially given their insane margins. It makes sense to use higher pricing as a tool to incentivize Nestle to move bottling plants to regions where water is less scarce.
To your second question, it is also important to realize that bottled water is just a drop in the bucket compared to the water used for industrial, agricultural, and environmental purposes. There are larger water issues at play and Nestle can be viewed as a scapegoat in some ways. However, even a few million liters of water on the margins can make a big difference in the overall ability of a region to meet its water needs.
Really interesting article! I read it paying thorough attention to the measures Nestle has taken so far to address this issue, and in my opinion these measures do not have any real impact.
The problem in this situation is that Nestle’s business model relies precisely on water consumption, so there are no solid incentives for the company to reduce its impact, rather there are incentives for it to try to somehow offset or even hide that impact – as we have seen with the strong lobby they do.
Regarding your first question on the role of governments when it comes to natural resources used by corporations, I believe there should always be public offices actively following these topics, and even if unfortunately it goes against some companies’ P&L, enough constraints must be set in place so that companies see no other option more than taking meaningful measures – as it would be if Nestle started investing heavily on converting non-potable water.
Thank you for sharing! The topic is extremely relevant! Nestle will certainly have challenges ahead. Regarding your question, I believe it is the governments’ responsibility to charge for profit organization. Ultimately, companies should be pay a fee equivalent to the costs the government will incur to treat the same amount of water the companies are extracting. Given that, I would expect prices of water bottles to rise in the US, leading to decrease in demand. In order to revert this trend, I would recommend Nestle to invest in innovation (e.g. different flavors, “functional waters”, etc) aiming at improving the product’s value proposition.
Building on the essay, as Nestle, I wouldn’t be only worried on the water supply perspective. It’s also important to highlight that water bottles have also significant implications in the consumption of plastic and in the CO2 emitted transportation, which is mostly done by trucks. These components will also imply in increasing costs. The main solution in this case is to invest in R&D to try to decrease the amount of plastic per bottle to the extent possible or to try to develop a biodegradable substitute.
I really liked your questions. The article serves a good way to open the debate for a larger issue.
To continue speaking in the framework of CA’s groundwater and Nestle, it does seem egregious that the company can tap into an arguably non-renewable resource (or that takes a lot of time to recharge) for next to no cost and then sell it for healthy profits. One on hand, they are serving a customer demand (whether that should exist or not is a separate question).
I believe that the best way to regulate is to have a public water authority set market rates for water and have consumer and business be on a similar price framework. These rates should be dynamic and adjusted for simple economic conditions like supply and demand and take into account longer term conservation costs that no one pays into today.
This achieves the overall goal of conserving water and also instills conservation in the home. Harvesting water from places like CA will become naturally costly, end consumer price will likely go up and ultimately corporations will be pushed to go to “water positive” locations and consumers will consume less.
Thank you for this very enlightening article – especially the three recommendations you proposed in the article: the current measures taken by Nestle do not help address the fundamental issues, while your suggestions can help the company tackle the challenge head-on. In particular, I love your idea about converting non-portable water into portable water. With more adoption of the innovative technology mentioned in your post, water, which is currently a limited resource, can be reused and become more abundant. With more investment and advancement of such technology, the cost of recycling and reusing water can – hopefully – be lower than the cost of extracting more water and therefore, more companies may be incentivized to adopt such technology to further help protect our limited water supply. (Reference: http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/23/living/newater-singapore/index.html)
I am also curious to see how Nestle plans to react to the trend that more companies are now selling water bottles – such as Swell – to encourage less consumption of bottled water.
Thank you for sharing this article. I think it would be interesting to see which route Nestle along with other bottled water producers take in the light of this situation. Looking at initiatives Nestle put forward, I agreed with you that it has done nothing to solve the issue of depleting underground water sources. As you recommended several course of actions, one particular suggestion stood out to me – use technology to recycle wastewater into bottled water. Although this makes a lot of sense rationally, I feel that consumers would not react positively to it. Consumers’ perception on recycled water would definitely be a challenge to Nestle or to any producers that choose to go down this route.
In addition, I do believe that higher fee should be imposed on water resources permit to reflect the scarcity just like other products with limited supply. The government must be responsible for protecting and limiting the exploitation of natural resources by for-profit corporations.
Bottled Water Backlash Environmental Concerns are Sending People Back to Their Taps
Jennifer Phillips always felt guilty that her large Nashville law firm didn’t recycle. So after big client meetings, she collected all the empty plastic water bottles, took them home and added them to her own curbside recycling bin. Now, she is proud to report that her firm, Bass, Berry & Sims, serves an icy pitcher of tap water during meetings. “We even have glasses with the company logo on them,” she says. Phillips estimates switching to tap keeps 3,000 plastic water bottles per week out of the landfill.
It’s a trend that is taking hold in the U.S., Europe and Canada: more people are switching from bottled water to tap. Call it reverse snob appeal. Bottled water once carried a certain European mystique. But these days, it’s the tap water enthusiasts, concerned about the environment, who get to act self-righteous. Just like it has become cool to bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store and your own mug to the coffee shop, the reusable water bottle is the hip, new eco accessory.
It’s because people like Phillips and David Wilk, a Connecticut book publisher and tap water activist, have started to connect the dots. For Wilk, it happened on the soccer field. After his sons finished their games, he noticed the grass was littered with bottled water and Gatorade empties. Pretty soon, Wilk started showing up with a huge container of tap water. Now all the kids bring their own bottles and fill up when thirsty.
“We have such a consumption mentality, which leads to our throw-away society,” says Wilk, who started the website Turntotap.com to build more support for public water supplies and to cut down on the amount of plastic going into landfills. “I think the cost of our behavior should be built into the products,” Wilk says.
In Canada, the bottled water issue has become, as Wilk says, an “uprising.” College students are staging protests—declaring “bottled water-free zones’ on campus. High school activists are raising questions about why their school board members are locking them into a contract with Coke or Pepsi (makers of Aquafina and Dasani bottled water) when they have access to drinking fountains for free. Some students have jokingly started to sell bottled air for $1.
In an even bolder move, the United Church of Canada asked its three million members to consider banning bottled water during meetings and events. “We just had a lot of concerns about governance and accountability,” says Julie Graham, who leads the anti-bottled water campaign for a Toronto ecumenical activist group called Kairos. “Why is it people in Canada are willing to pay twice as much for bottled water as for gasoline? We started challenging that and raising questions about billions of empty bottles going into landfills.”
Others, like Richard Girard, a corporate researcher for the Ottowa-based Polaris Institute, don’t like the hypocrisy they perceive in the bottled water marketing. “This movement is gaining momentum because the general public is starting to figure out bottled water is a scam,” says Girard. More than half of all bottled water is simply filtered tap anyway, he argues. And some of it is actually worse in quality because bottled water companies aren’t subject to the same strict oversight as public water supplies.© Andy Hughes, from the book Dominant Wave Theory, published by H. N. Abrams, New York
“We want the bottled water corporations to be held accountable for their actions,” Girard says. “These companies are essentially commodifying water. We hope we can force them to change and be more environmentally responsible.”
The trend away from bottled water also ties in with the Slow Food movement—as the restaurant industry tries to support local agriculture and cut down on extravagant energy used to ship imported foods from around the world. At Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, general manager Mike Kossa-Rienzi had his “a-ha” moment when he sat down and calculated how far the 25,000 bottles of sparkling Italian spring water he ordered had to travel through the air. “It really does not make sense to ship from all around the world when you have such good water in your backyard,” he says. “You have to think about the carbon imprint you’re making there.”
Another big push for the bottled water backlash came during World Water Day 2007, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declared a ban on bottled water contracts for all city departments. Instead of bottled water vending machines, he installed large dispensers in city buildings that poured out pure tap water from the Sierra mountains. Other cities, from Chicago to Salt Lake, followed suit.
Just think about a bottled water brand like Fiji, says Wilk. On the company’s website, it says, “When it comes to drinking water, remote is very, very good.” If you think about it, Wilk says, it’s pretty arrogant to ask that Fiji water be flown 8,000 miles across the world just so North American yuppies can enjoy a slightly better taste.
Responding to rising criticism, the company launched the “Fiji Green” campaign. It partnered with Conservation International to go carbon negative, reduced packaging, committed to 100 percent recycled materials and has pledged money to protect the Sovi Basin rainforest in Fiji. A cynic would say the company is doing this because it can afford to—marketing Fiji water is an enormously profitable enterprise.
It takes 15 million barrels of oil per year to make all of the plastic water bottles in America, according to the Container Recycling Institute. Sending those bottles by air and truck uses even more fossil fuel.
Once people drain the bottles, they rarely recycle them because they’re often purchased at big concert venues or airports with no recycling bins. CRI says eight out of 10 water bottles end up in the landfill. The bottles that drift from landfills and litter streams are washing out to sea to form a huge raft of plastic debris in the center of the Pacfic that is twice the size of Texas.
It takes 1,000 years for plastic bottles to break down, CRI estimates. But when they do, they disintegrate into tiny bits. The green and blue bottles, especially, look like tasty food to fish and shorebirds. Scientists are finding these dead animals on the beach, with bellies full of plastic pellets.
If more states added deposits on bottled water bottles, it might spur recycling. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) has even proposed a national beverage bottle bill. But PET water bottles (short for polyethylene terephthalate) can only be recycled a few times. What about going back to refillable glass bottles? For one thing, they are heavy to ship. And Zero Waste expert Neil Seldman of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance doesn’t imagine anyone could persuade the beverage industry to go that route. “They have always lobbied against it,” Seldman says. “The industry does not want to deal with it after people buy their product—they want to wash their hands of the containers.” That’s why it makes the most sense to avoid creating the waste in the first place by drinking tap from your own container, Seldman says.
Meanwhile, as drought spreads to North Carolina and Atlanta, residents are casting a suspicious e
ye on beverage companies like Coca Cola, which tap into local aquifers to fill their bottles. Nestle has been seeking environmental approval for what would be the largest water bottling plant in the U.S.—one million square feet in McCloud, California—against community protests. Part of the company’s payout to the town, according to Robin Singler, Office Administrator of the McCloud Watershed Council, would include an annual exclusivity fee—”to disallow any other use of [the] water in any other business enterprises for 100 years.” Even with Nestle’s proposed Community Enhancement Fund payments, residents are concerned about the mega-plant’s effects on quality of life and outdoor recreation.
Bottled water industry groups, such as the International Bottled Water Association, say they are being unfairly targeted. They argue bottled water is a healthy alternative to sugary soda. And it can also be a lifesaver when disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, strike. “It’s not really a bottled water vs. tap water world,” says IBWA spokesman Steven Kay. “Most people drink both. We think bottled water provides a good healthy choice.”© www.tappening.com
But industry marketing firms have had to do an about-face. “What’s interesting about the backlash,” says CRI Executive Director Betty McLaughlin, “is that the companies say “drink our water, not tap water.” Now people are going back to tap and they’ve got to reposition themselves.” Companies are trying every angle, from claims of superior filtration to adding antioxidants (Snapple) and fruity flavors (Dasani and others).
Don’t Refill that Bottle!
The IBWA argues that bottled water companies are responding to environmental concerns by making lighter bottles that require less plastic in the manufacturing process. Kay says the industry does invest significant money to improve access to recycling at large public venues, such as airports and concert halls. Companies like Nalgene, Sigg and Brita are aggressively marketing their refillable bottles and home filters as a more responsible option.
When it comes to reusable bottles, however, consumers still need to do their homework. Research shows that clear bottles made of polycarbonate plastic (such as the original 32-ounce Nalgene) can leach bisphenol-A (BPA). This is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that acts like estrogen in the body. BPA essentially tricks your body into thinking it’s estrogen, says Washington State University Researcher Patricia Hunt. She discovered the dangers of BPA when some of her polycarbonate mouse cages started to leach BPA, causing infertility in female mice.
Since BPA has been linked to low sperm counts and an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer, scientists like vomSaal and Hunt suggest avoiding reusable bottles made from plastic. They also raise serious concerns about the potential for other plastic chemicals to leach out of typical PET water bottles—especially if they sit in the hot sun.
Hunt uses a stainless bottle brand called Klean Kantene, and Wilk’s website sells stainless guaranteed-not-to-leach SIGG bottles made in Switzerland. The trend away from bottled water may also boost sales of home filters. Water-quality experts say most tap water is fine to drink straight from the faucet—especially in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New York City and Denver, where water comes from pristine mountain reservoirs. But in places that draw drinking water from lakes and rivers with sewer outfalls, it might make sense to install a filter. Sometimes rusty pipes or naturally occurring iron can also affect the taste.
It makes sense for anyone turning back to tap to become educated about the local public water supply. And since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires frequent water quality reports, the data is easy to find. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) makes it easy with its Tap Water Database. You can plug in your zip code and find out whether your local water system is up to par.
Now that more people are trying get out of the bottled water habit, groups like Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and EWG wonder if this new awareness will translate into more support for public water supplies, and for water conservation in general.
Once you kick the bottle, they say, the next step is to get educated and get involved—find out what your water system needs and start pushing your elected officials to bring more funds to bear on the problem. According to NRDC, the EPA has asked for billions of dollars for a public water supply needs assessment. But the Bush Administration has allocated only a small portion of that request, says NRDC attorney Mae Wu.
“People are very concerned about what’s in their water because we drink so much of it,” says Jane Houlihan, EWG’s vice president for research. “We’re advocating for more protection for the waters that are the source of what comes out of kitchen faucets.”
Make it rain—literally
There are companies now that will promise to ensure you have a clear, sunny sky above your wedding party, so it makes a certain amount of sense there there are also folks out there who believe we can address California’s drought by engineering rain. Rain on Request is one such group. By using ionization technology and a network of towers located around one central, 100-foot tower, they claim to be able to induce rain within a 15-mile radius in the “same way as it naturally occurs,” boosting “precipitation levels from 50 percent to 400 percent.”
Their idea is that this targeted rainfall could be used to sustain agricultural projects or provide fresh drinking water, without requiring the use of chemicals and existing clouds—as is the case with cloud-seeding techniques.
In 1909, the Pure Food and Drug Act passed, and the United States government seized 40 barrels and 20 kegs of Coca-Cola syrup because they considered the added caffeine to be a harmful ingredient. One of the first noted criticisms of Coca-Cola was that it produced serious mental and motor deficits. This resulted in Coca-Cola's first lawsuit and trial where the official charges were that Coca-Cola was adulterated and misbranded. The trial following the lawsuit, The United States Government v. Forty Barrels, Twenty Kegs Coca-Cola, started in March 1911 a year and a half after the government had seized the barrels and kegs. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemist and head of the Bureau of Chemistry in the U.S. Department of Agriculture led the lawsuit. Wiley was anti Coca-Cola mainly because he was against the added caffeine. The trial included many studies as well as paid testimonies from both parties and in the end was dismissed by the judge. However, the United States government ended up winning the case when they took it to the Supreme Court in 1916. This resulted in the reduction of caffeine content in Coca-Cola.  
In 1916, there was a federal suit under which the US government unsuccessfully attempted to force The Coca-Cola Company to remove caffeine from its products.
In 1944, Escola was a waitress in a restaurant. She was putting away glass bottles of Coca-Cola when one of the bottles spontaneously exploded in her hand. She successfully argued that the company was liable.
Health effects Edit
Coca-Cola is rich in sugar, especially sucrose, which causes dental caries when consumed regularly. Besides this, the high caloric value contributes to obesity. Both are major health issues in the developed world.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health in 2015, ". people who drink 1-2 cans of sugary beverages daily are 26% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, Medical News Today reported on a study claiming 184,000 global deaths each year are down to sugary drink consumption."  Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton has criticised the company's reduced sugar options, as a can of Coca-Cola with Stevia still contains 37% of an adult's recommended daily intake of sugar. 
Vitamin Water lawsuit Edit
In January 2009, the US consumer group the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a class-action lawsuit against Coca-Cola.  The lawsuit was in regard to claims made, along with the company's flavors, of Vitamin Water. Claims say that the 33 grams of sugar are more harmful than the vitamins and other additives are helpful. Coca-Cola insists the suit is "ridiculous."  
Coca-Cola and Catalan language Edit
In Catalonia, there has been controversy regarding Coca-Cola's refusal to print its labels in Catalan. On 12 December 1993, the Platform for the Catalan Language (Plataforma per la Llengua) managed to make a world record by bringing together more than 15,000 empty Coca-Cola cans in Barcelona's central square Plaça de Catalunya and using them to build a giant sign that read "Let’s label in Catalan". At the time, the organisation adopted the motto: "The Coca-Cola label in 135 languages around the world, but not in Catalan?". 
On May 31, 2014, Plataforma per la Llengua, recalling the act of the 12th of December, 1993, collected over 40,000 Coca-Cola cans for making a mosaic with the letters "Etiqueteu en Català!" (Label in Catalan!) in the heart of Barcelona, Catalonia, at Plaça de Catalunya to demand the company label in Catalan after more than 20 years of lawsuits.
In 2014, POM Wonderful unsuccessfully argued that Coca-Cola's Minute Maid division mislabelled a product as a pomegranate and blueberry juice, when it was made 99.4% from apple and grape juices. POM Wonderful said this labelling caused unfair loss of sales of its own pomegranate and blueberry juice.
Water use Edit
In March 2004, local officials in Kerala shut down a $16 million Coke bottling plant blamed for a drastic decline in both quantity and quality of water available to local farmers and villagers.  In April 2005, the Kerala High Court  rejected water use claims, noting that wells there continued to dry up last summer, months after the local Coke plant stopped operating. Further, a scientific study requested by the court found that while the plant had "aggravated the water scarcity situation," the "most significant factor" was a lack of rainfall. The case has been appealed and a decision is pending. 
In the investor summit held in Indore, Madhya Pradesh in 2016, the state government allocated land for Coca-Cola plant at Babai in Hoshangabad. The government gave all the required permissions but did not publicize the Rs. 750 crore investment project due to the controversies of water exploitation by the company. It became a serious issue and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan distanced himself from the project.  The residents of Babai opposed the project as the plant, when built, would consume tens of thousands of litres of water daily, thereby depleting the water level of the nearby river Narmada. In order to stop the project, residents started a signature campaign to garner support for the cause and passed a resolution against the company. They also attacked state government that on one hand, it was talking about taking measures to save the river and on the other hand, gave permission to set up the plant. 
The company is the single largest plastic polluter in the world, producing over 3 million tonnes of plastic packaging each year.     The head of sustainability Bea Perez has said they will regardless continue to use plastic, stating "customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight". 
Packaging used in Coca-Cola's products has a significant environmental impact but the company strongly opposes attempts to introduce mechanisms such as container deposit legislation.  
In 2013, the company was criticized in Australia for undertaking litigation that led to the invalidation of a bottle recycling deposit.  
In 2017 Greenpeace published a report criticizing Coca-Cola's use of single-use plastic bottles.  The report is especially critical of the company's failing to reach the goals it set to source 25% of its bottles from recycled or renewable sources, and the non-existence of targets to reduce its use of single-use bottles since then. Greenpeace also claims that Coca-Cola has actively lobbied against recycling and deposit return schemes in several European countries, while at the same time maintaining a green marketing facade with vague promises and false-solutions such as sizable donations to schemes that put the emphasis of anti-littering on the consumer, instead of the producer of the litter itself.
Sales stopped Edit
In January 2017, Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaipu (TNVSP) called for its members to stop selling Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products to show solidarity with local farmers who have been complaining about groundwater depletion caused by these companies. In 2016-17 Tamil Nadu is in the midst of a severe drought which continues to fuel the animosity. TNVSP consists of over 6,000 local trade associations and boasts about 1.5 million (15 Lakh) traders across Tamil Nadu, a southern Indian state. The boycott came into effect from March 1, and the majority of the small and medium-sized vendors were reported to have stopped stocking the products. The move continues to receive strong support while continuing to gain momentum during the Jallikattu protests.  
Air pollution Edit
In 2014, the company was accused of 27 Clean Air Act violations at a Minute Maid plant in Michigan.  
In 2007, the Coca-Cola Company announced it would no longer conduct or directly fund laboratory experiments on animals unless required by law to do so. The company's announcement came after PETA criticized the company for funding invasive experiments on animals including one study in which experimenters cut into the face of chimpanzees to study the animals' nerve impulses used in the perception of sweet taste. Some experimenters have criticized PETA's campaign against Coca-Cola and other companies claiming that their work would be stalled if they lost corporate funding. 
Anti-competitive practices Edit
In 2000, a United States federal judge dismissed an antitrust lawsuit filed by PepsiCo Inc. accusing Coca-Cola Co. of monopolizing the market for fountain-dispensed soft drinks in the United States. 
In June 2005, Coca-Cola in Europe formally agreed to end deals with shops and bars to stock its drinks exclusively after a European Union investigation found its business methods stifled competition. 
In November 2005, Coca-Cola's Mexican unit - Coca-Cola Export Corporation - and a number of its distributors and bottlers were fined $68 million for unfair commercial practices. Coca-Cola is appealing the case. 
"Channel stuffing" settlement Edit
On July 7, 2008, Coca-Cola Co compromised to pay $137.5 million to settle an October 2000 shareholder lawsuit. Coca-Cola was charged in a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, with "forcing some bottlers to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of unnecessary beverage concentrate to make its sales seem higher." Institutional investors, led by Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund of Philadelphia & Vicinity, accused Coca-Cola of "channel stuffing," or artificial inflation of Coca-Cola's results which gave investors a false picture of the company's health.  The settlement applies to Coca-Cola common stock owners from October 21, 1999, to March 6, 2000. 
Investments and operations in apartheid South Africa Edit
Coca-Cola entered South Africa in 1938 and, after the beginning of the official white South African government's policy of apartheid or "separate development" beginning in 1948, the company grew rapidly. By the 1980s at the height of racial oppression, with 90% of the market, Coke dominated the soft-drink industry with sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars, accounting for 5% of the parent company's global market. Coke employed 4,500 workers, operating under the racially segregated housing, workplace, and wages, and was one of the largest employers in the country. 
In 1982 in South Africa, black workers asked the community to boycott Coke and called two work stoppages until the company agreed to recognize and bargain with their union, raise its workers' low wages significantly, and share information on who controls their pension fund. 
As a result of Coke's economic support of white South Africa and its apartheid system, in the 1980s, it became a major target of organizers across the country against U.S. and corporate economic support for apartheid in the U.S. Boycotts then spread across the country to many universities including Tennessee State, Penn State, and Compton College in California, which established a "Coke Free Campus". Demonstrations were held by the Georgia Coalition and the AFSC at Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters.  
In South Africa, in 1986, the Coca-Cola response was to donate US$10 million to a fund to support improvements of housing and education for black South Africans and to announce ". plans to sell its 30% share of a major bottler and a 55% share of a canning operation within six to nine months."  (The company's assets there were estimated at US$60 million, their annual sales were circa US$260 million, and with 4,300 workers one of the largest U.S. employers in South Africa.) However, the movement in the U.S. demanded full divestiture and did not accept the company's offer to sell a major portion of the holdings to a South African firm. 
After democratic elections that produced Mandela's majority rule government, Pepsi sought to re-enter the South African market. In fact, "Coke never truly left the country, leading to overwhelming dominance through the rest of the 20th century. Pepsi adhered to different social imperatives and suffered exceptionally low market shares as a result."  Indeed, in the late 2000s, Coke's market share of the soft drink market in South Africa was estimated at 95% and Pepsi's at 2%. 
Marketing Issues Edit
In 2001, Coca-Cola reportedly paid Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner $150 million for the exclusive global marketing rights to at least one Harry Potter movie and subsequently enticing children to drink more soft drinks, a move criticised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. 
On August 9, 2015 the New York Times published an article that revealed that Coca-Cola had made a large investment to the non-profit called the Global Energy Balance Network, which promoted a scientific solution to the obesity crisis, which was that more exercise rather than cutting back on calories was the way to maintain a healthy weight. Health experts stated that the non-profit's message was misleading and part of Coke to deflect criticism about the role the company played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. 
Im Tirtzu Edit
On May 7, 2017, Haaretz published that Coca-Cola has donated 50,000 NIS (approximately $14,000) to far right wing organization Im Tirtzu.  The organization, that was declared by Israeli court to have "certain lines of resemblance to fascism",  asked to leave the donation private but the Israeli Corporations Authority forced the Organization to publish the donation.
Racial discrimination Edit
In November 2000, Coca-Cola agreed to pay $192.5 million to settle a class action racial discrimination lawsuit and promised to change the way it manages, promotes, and treats minority employees in the US. In 2003, protesters at Coca-Cola's annual meeting claimed that black people remained underrepresented in top management at the company, were paid less than white employees, and fired more often.  In 2004, Luke Visconti, a co-founder of DiversityInc, which rates companies on their diversity efforts, said: "Because of the settlement decree, Coca-Cola was forced to put in management practices that have put the company in the top 10 for diversity." 
In February 2021, recordings of an employee training course were leaked on social media, which were described as racist towards white people. The course asked employees to "be less white", which the course equated with, among other positive qualities, being less "arrogant" and "oppressive". 
Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co. Edit
In 2001, the Sinaltrainal trade union filed a suit against Coca-Cola in a Miami district court. The union alleged that Coca-Cola bottling partners, Bebidas y Alimentos and Panamco, assisted paramilitaries in murdering several union members. The court decided charges would be considered against the partners but not Coca-Cola itself. On September 4, 2006, Judge Martinez dismissed the remaining claims against the two bottlers.
Turedi v. Coca Cola Co. Edit
In 2005, 105 Coca-Cola employees in Turkey were terminated for their union activity and these employees, some of whom were joined by family members, were physically attacked by members of the Cevik Kuvvet during peaceful demonstrations against their terminations. 
B.C. water woes prompt protest against water-bottling companies
Hundreds of wildfires are scorching British Columbia, while drought conditions just a few weeks into summer have forced water restrictions and the closure of fisheries in some areas of the province.
So many residents are asking why Nestle Canada and other water bottling companies are still allowed to bottle unknown millions of litres a day — for free until new, low fees go into effect next year.
Even once those fees are in place, water bottlers like Nestle will pay just $2.25 per million litres for B.C. water.
“It is by far the lowest in the country,” says Ian Stephen of the Water Wealth Project.
The group worked with SumofUs.org to launch an online petition demanding the province revisit its water pricing regime.
The petition is well past its goal of 150,000 signatures. Stephen says the date for delivering the petition to government has yet to be decided.
The B.C. government passed a new Water Sustainability Act last year. The new act regulates groundwater use for the first time, including aquifers and water sources below ground in addition to surface water from lakes and rivers.
Earlier this year, the province released the new water pricing regime. Starting next year, water users will pay a licencing fee and annual rentals fees that range from .02 per million litres to a top rate of $2.25 per million litres for industrial users, including water bottling companies.
For comparison, in Saskatchewan industrial water users pay up to $46.20 per million litres in Quebec, up to $70 per million litres and in Nova Scotia, as much as $140.
It takes 1.3 litres of water to produce one litre of bottled water. So $2.25 worth of water drawn from the aquifer used for tap water in Hope, B.C., produces roughly 769,230 one-litre bottles of water. At a conservative price of $1.20 each for a 1.5-litre bottle, they will retail for $615,384.
While Nestle takes the brunt of criticism, there are many companies bottling water in B.C., including Whistler Water, Re-Leaf, Mountain Spring Water Company, RippleFX Water and Premium Springs Water.
“We’re trying to point out to people that, yes, Nestle is doing their thing in Hope but there’s also these guys right here and there’s another one over in Harrison Mills and there’s Whistler Water. They’re all over the place,” Stephen says.
Nestle voluntarily reports the volume of water it uses but under the old water act, water bottling companies did not have to report and most have not. There are no limits to how much they can take.
According to a 2013 report by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada , Canadian exports of water totalled over $24 million in 2012, with 83 per cent (or just over $20 million) of that total coming from B.C.
The federal agency estimates 2.29 billion litres of bottled water are produced in Canada annually by 65 different bottlers, most of them in Ontario, Quebec and B.C.
Nestle spokesman John Challinor says the company supports groundwater regulation and fees.
“We share the belief that all B.C. users should pay for the water services they receive and we welcome this requirement by the B.C. government,” he says.
Nestle draws 265 million litres annually from the aquifer in the Kawkawa Lake sub-watershed near Hope, Challinor says, less than one per cent of what is available. As for drought, Challinor says underground aquifers are typically not affected by drought the way surface lakes and rivers are.
Stephen says there are many good aspects of B.C.’s new Water Sustainability Act but the fees are not one of them.
Environment Minister Mary Polak has repeatedly said that the province chose not to commodify water as a for-profit resource. The fees are to cover the cost of administration and water management, she has said.
Stephen dismisses her explanation saying, “Nobody wants the province to profit from water but we do want things like mapping aquifers and examining the state of glaciers in the province” “There’s a lot we don’t know.”
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1 dead, 4 injured following Mississauga, Ont., shooting, Peel police say
Victim IDɽ in 4th fatal shooting in less than a week
Ottawa police have identified the man shot to death early Sunday morning in the city's east end, the fourth shooting death in the nation's capital in the past five days. Police and emergency responders were called to the intersection of Cyrville and Meadowbrook roads at approximately 12:50 a.m. after getting reports of gunshots. CBC spoke with several neighbours of the strip mall where the shooting happened. They reported hearing between three and five gun shots just after 12:30 a.m. Police found 27-year-old Warsama Youssouf from Ottawa in a parking lot suffering from gunshot wounds. He was taken to hospital but was later declared dead. The homicide unit is investigating. A section of Meadowbrook Road was closed at 5:30 a.m. but has since reopened. Police appeal for information Those with information about the investigation are asked to contact the homicide unit at 613-236-1222 ext. 5493 On Friday evening, Ottawa police were called to Alta Vista Drive after two men were shot dead, with a third man taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. On Wednesday, police were called to Palmerston Drive following the shooting of a 22-year-old man. There have now been seven homicides in Ottawa in 2021.
State of emergency declared in Aklavik, N.W.T., as floodwaters rise
A state of emergency has been declared in Aklavik, N.W.T., after water started rising over the road that leads to the hamlet's dump, according to a statement issued by its mayor and council overnight. Residents would start being evacuated from their homes Sunday morning between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. local time, the statement said. The remote community of roughly 600 people has been on flood watch for about a week and is the latest of several communities in the Northwest Territories to be affected by historic flooding on the Mackenzie River, caused by the spring breakup. The hamlet is on the bank of the Peel Channel, which is fed by the Mackenzie River further upstream. Mayor Andrew Charlie told CBC News on Sunday morning that water levels had risen to 16.2 metres — the same height as the last significant flood in 2006. That's 1.1 metres below the highest record on file, according to the Northwest Territories government. Water has started to cover what Allen Kogiak describes as the hamlet's 𧮬k road.' (Submitted by Allen Kogiak) "Water is still coming up at the moment," he said. Residents will start being voluntarily evacuated to Inuvik — located about 55 kilometres northeast of Aklavik — by air, Charlie said. The two communities are connected only by ice road in the winter months. "I don't believe everybody is going to leave," the mayor said. "Most people want to stay here and protect what they have around their yards." 4 planes sent for evacuation efforts Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane tweeted Sunday afternoon that the government is helping with a full evacuation. "Four planes are making trips into the community to evacuate residents, starting with elders and families and children. Evacuees will stay at the Inuvik arena, and work is underway around recovery plans and financial support for those impacted," she wrote. Cochrane said an update would be provided on Monday and that "right now, our officials are focused on the safety of our residents." 'Hopeful but anxious' Allen Kogiak, who lives in Aklavik, said he doesn't plan to leave unless things get much worse. But his mother, who is in her 80s, is being evacuated. "Heading out probably on one of the first flights, I guess," he said. "I'm feeling hopeful but anxious at the same time," Kogiak said, adding it's the third time he's going through a flood. "This flood is kind of different for me this year, it's unlike other floods," he said. "Everybody's worried" but calm. Fuel and sewer tanks cause for concern The mayor said water has breached a few roads in the community, including access to the dump and sewage lagoon. However, the water and sewer trucks were still in service Sunday morning. "They'll go until they feel it's unsafe to do services in the community," he said. Charlie said most homes have been built on platforms that are lifted off the ground because of past floods. "There's a few homes that water has come up to . their stairs and whatnot. They still have access to their house," he said. The Hamlet of Aklavik rests on the west side of a bend in the Peel Channel in the Inuvik region of the N.W.T.(Kate Kyle/CBC) "The danger is our fuel tanks, chances of them toppling over. We have a few sewer tanks in the ground, sitting on the ground, they'll be able to float around, bust up people's houses." The other big concern, he said, is if water floods the hamlet's airstrip. "If that ever goes under water, there's no way a plane would land in Aklavik, so it would make it more difficult." About 26 elders and vulnerable people had already been evacuated from their homes as of Friday evening. "Everybody is on high alert," Charlie said. "But other than that, it's something we go through annually and we continue to do that. We're prepared."
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As pandemic wanes, Florida's DeSantis seizes national stage
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats readied to pounce. The state's economy was in tatters, infections and deaths were on the rise and there were doubts about the Republican's plan to lead Florida out of crisis. Now that the pandemic appears to be waning and DeSantis is heading into his reelection campaign next year, he has emerged from the political uncertainty as one of the most prominent Republican governors and an early White House front-runner in 2024 among Donald Trump's acolytes, if the former president doesn't run again. As DeSantis' national stature has risen, he has remained defiant in the face of continued attacks on his hard-line opposition to mask mandates and lockdowns. “Hold the line. Don’t back down,” he told a crowd at a party fundraiser in Pittsburgh on May 20. “And in the state of Florida, with me as governor, I have only begun to fight.” That fight will happen soon, as he campaigns for a second term and pressure builds on Florida Democrats to regain their footing in a state that has swung toward Republicans for several election cycles. Unless they find a new formula, Democrats could find themselves shut out of statewide office for the first time since Reconstruction. “This isn’t just one race — this is two races in one, given how Ron DeSantis is trying to use a reelection win as a slingshot to then be the odds on favorite" for the GOP nomination in 2024, said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster in Miami. “If they manage to prevent him from getting reelected, they almost certainly eliminate any possibility of him running for president.” DeSantis won in a nail-biter three years ago against Democrat Andrew Gillum, and Democrats worry whether they can field a candidate able to win back the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1994. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor who is now a Democrat, announced his campaign for governor this month. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat currently holding statewide office, has teased a June 1 date to publicly announce whether she will run. Some Democrats had hoped U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who helped manage the first Trump impeachment and was considered as President Joe Biden's running mate, would join the race. Instead, she is considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Marco Rubio. Regardless of who gets in the Democratic contest, toppling DeSantis will be “a tall order,” said Ryan Tyson, a Tallahassee-based Republican pollster. “The Democrats fail to understand that the state of Florida is changing under their very noses.” Florida’s population continues to boom, but many of the state’s new residents are older and come from parts of the country friendlier toward Republicans. Before last November’s presidential election, Republicans had narrowed the registration gap with Democrats to about 117,000. On Election Day four years earlier, Democrats had a 327,000 voter registration lead. Since then, Republicans have continued to gain — with the Democratic advantage now barely over 100,000. Both sides will try to nationalize the race, partly to draw support from big-money donors from outside the state. For DeSantis, it’s also about raising his national profile. That of course, probably will become a line of attack for Crist and Fried, who accuse DeSantis of being more interested in pursuing his political ambitions than in tackling the concerns of Floridians. “Just like our former president, he always takes credit but never takes responsibility,” Crist said when he announced his bid for governor. In a video hinting at her possible entry into the race, Fried called DeSantis an “authoritarian dictator.” Appealing to Trump supporters might be smart as the Republican Party deepens its allegiance to the former president, whose shadow will no doubt loom over high-profile races like the one about to unfold in Florida. During his Pittsburgh visit, DeSantis applauded Trump for recognizing the military and economic threats posed by China and sympathized with him over his battles against social media companies such as Twitter, which banned him from its platform. The governor is “definitely made efforts to to appeal to the Trump base. The disadvantage to that, of course, is that the former president is so polarizing,” said Kevin Wagner, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University. ”But in the state of Florida, where the former president did really well, appealing to his base of voters seems like a pretty prudent move.” DeSantis’ ambitions could become muddled if Trump runs in 2024. That would force DeSantis and other hopefuls to wait it out or begin redefining themselves beyond Trump's shadow. Democrats thought the pandemic would be a strong line of attack against DeSantis. In November, Floridians were about evenly divided about the governor's handling of the pandemic, with 49% approving and 50% disapproving, according to AP VoteCast. In that same poll, 48% had a favorable opinion of DeSantis while 45% viewed him unfavorably. But with about 18 months before the November 2022 election, it remains to be seen how the pandemic might play out in the campaign. The pandemic has become a key talking point against what DeSantis called “the militant left.” “We’ve saved millions of livelihoods from the brunt of lockdowns," he said in Pittsburgh. "All I can say to any state that has not followed suit: Open your state, open your schools, take off these mask mandates, let people live and thrive.” While he spent his first years as Florida governor casting himself as a defender of the environment, including the state’s cherished Everglades and imperiled coastlines, and even as a booster for his state’s underpaid teachers, DeSantis has more recently taken a sharper turn to the right. During Florida’s just-completed legislative session, DeSantis successfully pushed for an “anti-riot” law that countered the Black Lives Matter movement. He won legislation that excoriated social media companies that, the governor charged, censor conservative thought. On a recent appearance on Fox News — one of many — DeSantis showcased a freshly signed law that tightens voting rules amid unproven claims among Trump followers that Trump was denied a second term because of election irregularities. “The governor’s priorities certainly got through, and that can only be good for him,” said Susie Wiles, a Republican strategist who helped Trump win Florida last year and continues to work for him. “What is good for him has proven to be good for the state, which in turn makes his fortunes good going into reelection next year.” ___ Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report. Bobby Caina Calvan, The Associated Press
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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Sunday, May 30
Recent developments: Ottawa reported 52 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths Sunday. Kingston's top doctor will replace Dr. David Williams as Ontario's chief medical officer of health. What's the latest? Another 52 COVID-19 cases were confirmed Sunday by Ottawa Public Health (OPH) as various pandemic indicators continue their gradual decline. Another two deaths were also recorded. In western Quebec, health officials reported another 17 cases, while zero cases were recorded in the Kingston, Ont., area. Dr. David Williams is retiring as Ontario's chief medical officer of health. He'll be replaced by Dr. Kieran Moore, the medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health. The Ontario government is extending its ban on non-essential travel across its land borders with Quebec and Manitoba until June 16. Residents of an Old Ottawa South street have come together to save a massive boulder unearthed during recent infrastructure work — in part because the unexpected discovery has brought them all back together during the pandemic. How many cases are there? The region is coming down from a record-breaking peak of the pandemic's third wave, one that has included more dangerous coronavirus variants. As of Sunday, 27,019 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 709 known active cases, 25,741 resolved cases and 569 deaths. Public health officials have reported close to 49,100 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 47,000 resolved cases. Elsewhere in eastern Ontario, 185 people have died. In western Quebec, the death toll is 214. Akwesasne has had nearly 700 residents test positive, with four known active cases, and 10 deaths between its northern and southern sections. Kitigan Zibi has had 34 cases. Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had 11, with one death. Pikwakanagan hasn't had any. The transfer of COVID-19 patients from other regions to Ottawa hospitals continues. As of Friday, there were 21 COVID-19 patients from other communities in Ottawa ICUs. Some patients are even coming from Manitoba. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If youɽ like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do? Eastern Ontario: Ontario is under a stay-at-home order until at least Wednesday. Its reopening plan leans on rates of spread and vaccination the province plans to take the next step in mid-June. Many closed outdoor recreation venues can now reopen. Ontario's outdoor distanced gathering limit has now risen to five people, including people from different households. Most non-essential businesses can only offer curbside pickup. Access to malls is restricted and big-box stores can only sell essential items. Gyms and personal care services are closed, while restaurants are only available for takeout and delivery. Ontario has moved to online learning. Daycares remain open and summer camps should eventually open as well. Officers in Ontario have the power to stop and question people if they believe they've gathered illegally. Local health units and communities can also set their own rules, as Ottawa is doing around playgrounds and the Belleville area is doing for the agriculture industry. Western Quebec Western Quebec is under red zone rules. People can eat outside at restaurants. Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people are also allowed, as is travel throughout the province. As many as 2,500 people can gather in a large theatre or arena. There is no longer a curfew. More rules lift on Monday, allowing indoor dining and gyms to reopen. Non-essential travel is not allowed between Ontario and Quebec. Police checkpoints are not running 24/7 on either end. Distancing and isolating The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets that can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms, even after getting a vaccine. Coronavirus variants of concern are more contagious and are now established. This means it is important to take precautions now and in the future like staying home while sick — and getting help with costs if needed — keeping hands and surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don't live with, even with a mask on. A young man and woman wait for the lights to cross at the intersection of Montreal and North River roads in Ottawa on May 28, 2021.(Trevor Pritchard/CBC) Masks, preferably ones that fit snugly and have three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec. OPH says residents should wear masks outside their homes whenever possible. People have to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada by land without a fine and have to pay for their stay in a quarantine hotel if entering by air. Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions get help with errands. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Quebec and Ontario. Vaccines Four COVID-19 vaccines have been deemed safe and approved in Canada. Canada's task force said first doses offer such strong protection that people can wait up to four months to get a second. About 1,200,000 doses have been given out in the Ottawa-Gatineau region since mid-December. Eastern Ontario Ontario is now vaccinating anyone age 12 or older. People can look for provincial first dose appointments opening up online or over the phone at 1-833-943-3900. Pharmacies continue to offer vaccines through their own booking systems as supply allows. The first people who got an AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine March 10 to 19 can now book a second dose. There's a list of locations offering them in the Kingston area. WATCH | Health Canada extends AstraZeneca expiry date to start of July The province's goal is a second AstraZeneca dose 12 weeks after the first, with more details to come on other recipients. It's speeding up other kinds of second dose appointments, starting by allowing people in their 80s to rebook if they wish as of Monday at 8 a.m. Health officials continue to tell people who got a first dose before a second dose was automatically booked they won't be forgotten. Local health units have flexibility in the larger framework, including around booking, so check their websites for details. Some offer standby lists for first doses. Western Quebec Quebec is now giving a first dose to anyone 12 and older. People who qualify can make an appointment online or over the phone. Starting today, there are walk-in clinics for first doses in Buckingham, Hull and Wakefield and six walk-in clinics for second AstraZeneca doses. The province expects to have given a first dose to 75 per cent of adults by June 15 and is looking at 75 per cent of people age 12 and up getting their second dose by the end of August. Its goal is second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine eight weeks after the first. People may be able to get an earlier second dose appointment for other types of vaccines starting June 7. Symptoms and testing COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children tend to have an upset stomach and/or a rash. If you have severe symptoms, call 911. Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help. In eastern Ontario: Anyone seeking a test should make an appointment. Check with your health unit for clinic locations and hours. Ontario recommends only getting tested if you fit certain criteria, such as having symptoms, exposure or a certain job. People without symptoms but who are part of the province's targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Shoppers Drug Mart stores can now offer rapid tests. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one. Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit will become Ontario's next chief medical officer of health, replacing the retiring Dr. David Williams.(Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press) In western Quebec: Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts. People can make an appointment and check wait times online. Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby. First Nations, Inuit and Métis: First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, or someone travelling to work in a remote Indigenous community, are eligible for a test in Ontario. Akwesasne has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only and a curfew of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-1175. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603 and in Kitigan Zibi, 819-449-5593. Tyendinaga's council is asking people not to travel there to camp or fish. Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing and vaccines, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays. For more information
In Mexico, cartels are hunting down police at their homes
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The notoriously violent Jalisco cartel has responded to Mexico’s “hugs, not bullets” policy with a policy of its own: The cartel kidnapped several members of an elite police force in the state of Guanajuato, tortured them to obtain names and addresses of fellow officers and is now hunting down and killing police at their homes, on their days off, in front of their families. It is a type of direct attack on officers seldom seen outside of the most gang-plagued nations of Central America and poses the most direct challenge yet to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's policy of avoiding violence and rejecting any war on the cartels. But the cartel has already declared war on the government, aiming to eradicate an elite state force known as the Tactical Group which the gang accuses of treating its members unfairly. “If you want war, you'll get a war. We have already shown that we know where you are. We are coming for all of you,” reads a professionally printed banner signed by the cartel and hung on a building in Guanajuato in May. “For each member of our firm (CJNG) that you arrest, we are going to kill two of your Tacticals, wherever they are, at their homes, in their patrol vehicles,” the banner read, referring to the cartel by its Spanish initials. Officials in Guanajuato — Mexico's most violent state, where Jalisco is fighting local gangs backed by the rival Sinaloa cartel — refused to comment on how many members of the elite group have been murdered so far. But state police publicly acknowledged the latest case, an officer who was kidnapped from his home on Thursday, killed and his body dumped on a highway. Guanajuato-based security analyst David Saucedo said there have been many cases. “A lot of them (officers) have decided to desert. They took their families, abandoned their homes and they are fleeing and in hiding,” Saucedo said. “The CJNG is hunting the elite police force of Guanajuato.” Numbers of victims are hard to come by, but Poplab, a news cooperative in Guanajuato, said at least seven police officers have been killed on their days off so far this year. In January, gunmen went to the home of a female state police officer, killed her husband, dragged her away, tortured her and dumped her bullet-ridden body. Guanajuato has had the highest number of police killed of any Mexican state since at least 2018, according to Poplab. Between 2018 and May 12, a total of 262 police have been killed, or an average of about 75 officers each year — more than are killed by gunfire or other assaults on average each year in the entire United States, which has 50 times Guanajuato’s population. The problem in Guanajuato has gotten so bad that the state government published a special decree on May 17 to provide an unspecified amount of funding for protection mechanisms for police and prison officials. “Unfortunately, organized crime groups have shown up at the homes of police officers, which poses a threat and a greater risk of loss of life, not just for them, but for members of their families,” according to the decree. “They have been forced to quickly leave their homes and move, so that organized crimes groups cannot find them,” it reads. State officials refused to describe the protection measures, or comment on whether officers were to be paid to rent new homes, or if there were plans to construct special secure housing compounds for them and their families. “This is an open war against the security forces of the state government,” Saucedo noted. López Obrador campaigned on trying to deescalate the drug conflict, describing a “hugs, not bullets” approach to tackle the root causes of crime. Since taking office in late 2018, he has avoided openly confronting cartels, and even released one capo to avoid bloodshed, saying he preferred a long-range policy of addressing social problems like youth unemployment that contribute to gang membership. But former U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau said in April that López Obrador views the fight against drug cartels “as a distraction . So he has basically adopted an agenda of a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards them, which is pretty troubling to our government, obviously.” Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press
'You can't even go outside': Alberta's Pigeon Lake overrun with midges
In Alberta's Pigeon Lake, cabins and cars are blanketed in quivering clumps. The midges have taken over in swarms of almost biblical proportions and unlike anything some longtime residents say they've ever seen. "You can't even go outside," said Allan Eliasson, who said the non-biting midges are the largest seasonal swarms he has seen in his two decades living near the central Alberta hamlet of Mulhurst. "It's just so annoying out there. It's overwhelming. It's like a horror movie out there." Albertans looking to get away to a lakeside cabin or camping spot might be in for a rude surprise. Lake flies are hatching en masse around Pigeon Lake, about 100 kilometres southwest of Edmonton this week. The insect invasion may be a nuisance for some on a summer-like weekend, but others see it as a stunning natural phenomenon. With over 2,000 species in North America and over 600 in the Edmonton area alone, the symphony of midges is a sweet sound to an entomologist's ear. "This is wonderful opportunity to see what great biodiversity we have," said Janet Sperling, entomologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alberta. Entomologist Janet Sperling says the midges are a sign of a healthy lake.(Submitted by Janet Sperling) The adults live for only a few days, dying shortly after mating. The swarming, which started about 10 days ago, will not likely last for much longer. Most residents just call these non-biting midges annoying. But Sperling, who expects the swarms to die off in the coming days, hopes they might attract more curiosity than contempt. She says it's likely spring conditions were primed for the insects to surface from the lake en masse. The insects drive the local ecosystem, feeding fish and birds with their abundance a sign of a healthy lake, Sperling added. "It's just basically showing us that it's a clean lake," Sperling said. "And I'm not sure if you can hear all the birds but the birds that eat insects are just having a great time. They just open their mouth, fly along and they've got themselves a whole collection of insects to eat. "Some people go to the Serengeti and they want to see zebras and wildebeest," Sperling added. "But as an entomologist I don't have to go anywhere, I just have to go into my own backyard and see this incredible number of non-biting midges." Eggs are laid on the lake top with larvae feeding on tiny lake bed particles over the winter. Sperling says the size of this spring swarm is likely a matter of timing, with conditions rife for pupae to emerge over a few days, rather than several weeks. With insect appreciation day on June 8, Sperling says she hopes what might at first glance appear nightmarish, could inspire dreams of entomology for the next generation of curious insect appreciators.
In music and film, a new Korean wave is challenging Asian stereotypes
A new wave of Korean music and cinema can play a powerful role in changing perceptions and stereotypes of Asian people.
UK PM Boris Johnson marries fiancee in private ceremony
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has married his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, in a small private ceremony that came at the end of a tumultuous week during which a former top aide said he was unfit for office. The couple wed Saturday at the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral in front of a small group of friends and family, Johnson's office said Sunday, confirming newspaper reports that were published overnight. Photos taken after the ceremony in the garden of the prime minister's residence showed Symonds in a long white dress and floral headband. Johnson wore a dark suit. “The Prime Minister and Ms. Symonds were married yesterday afternoon in a small ceremony at Westminster Cathedral,'' Downing Street said. “The couple will celebrate their wedding with family and friends next summer.” The couple have reportedly sent save-the-date cards to family and friends for a celebration on July 30, 2022. Under current coronavirus restrictions in England, no more than 30 people can attend a wedding. Johnson, 56, and Symonds, a 33-year-old Conservative Party insider and environmental advocate, announced their engagement in February 2020. Their son, Wilfred, was born in April last year. The marriage is Johnson’s third. He has at least five other children from previous relationships. Johnson's previous marriages would not have stopped him from having a Catholic wedding because they didn't take place in the Catholic church, Matt Chinery, an ecclesiastical and canon lawyer, told Times Radio. “In the eyes of the Catholic church, Boris Johnson woke up last week as somebody who wasn’t married and had never been married and so was free to marry in the cathedral this weekend,” he said. Johnson was baptized as a Catholic but he was confirmed as a member of the Church of England as a teenager. The last British prime minister to marry in office was Lord Liverpool in 1822. The wedding followed a difficult political week for Johnson. His former top aide, Dominic Cummings, on Wednesday told lawmakers that Johnson had bungled the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and said he was “unfit for the job.” Britain has Europe's highest coronavirus death toll, at over 128,000 people, but it has also produced one of the world's most successful vaccination programs, inoculating 74% of its adults. Daily deaths have plummeted to single digits of late, compared to over 1,800 one day in January. On Friday, a government ethics adviser released his long-awaited findings on the “cash for curtains" scandal in which Johnson was criticized for failing to disclose that a wealthy Conservative Party donor had paid for the redecoration of the prime minister's official residence in London. Although Johnson later settled the bill, the inquiry found that Johnson had acted “unwisely” in carrying out the work without knowing where the money had come from. He was cleared of misconduct. The opposition Labour Party was not giving Johnson any space for a honeymoon, with one Labour lawmaker, Jon Trickett, suggesting that the weekend wedding was “a good way to bury this week’s bad news.” Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Squamish husband and wife who died hours apart from COVID-19 honoured at truck rally
Two long-term residents of Squamish, B.C., who recently died hours apart of COVID-19 were honoured at a truck rally on Saturday. Margaret (Gail) Ross and Harvey (Merrill) Ross died 17 hours apart on May 5 and 6, respectively, of complications from COVID-19 after a month-long battle with the disease, according to their obituary. Merrill was 76 and Gail was 73. "This is not the way Merrill and Gail's story was supposed to end," said JR Transport owner Darren Doak, who organized the rally. "I miss them every day." Beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, Doak says, thousands of locals came out to watch about 90 trucks meander through Squamish and onto the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Hard worker and team mom Doak says he had known Merrill for 50 years from their shared careers in the trucking and logging industry. According to their obituary, Gail and Merrill Doak were married for 54 years and had moved to Squamish from Montague, P.E.I, in 1969. Merrill was known to many for his "old-school work ethic." "Merrill was an extremely hard worker, whether he was going to work for five minutes, one load, or whether it was going to be a 15-hour day," Doak said, adding that Merrill worked right up until he became ill. His wife, Gail, was known in town as "the ultimate team mom" who volunteered with hockey, soccer, baseball and ringette youth teams in the community. She often travelled with her husband on his trips. Doak says the couple were sent to the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver shortly after they fell ill. He doesn't know if they had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The pair leave behind four children and seven grandchildren.
Military's diversity, inclusion efforts plagued by shortcomings: internal review
OTTAWA — An internal Defence Department audit completed last fall but only recently released has uncovered significant problems in the military’s attempts to promote diversity and inclusion in the ranks. Those problems included a lack of leadership and insufficient resources and time to push real change, with auditors suggesting the entire effort was poorly defined and planned from the start. The military also failed to set up any ways to measure whether the work they were doing was having any success aside from trying to recruit more women, Indigenous Canadians and people of colour. The audit was completed before the recent rash of allegations of sexual misconduct involving several top commanders, which has cast a harsh light on the military’s failure to eradicate such behaviour despite years of promises. The government has since asked retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to come up with ways to finally eliminate inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces. A senior female officer, Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan, has also been officially tapped to lead the military’s efforts to change its culture, which will include implementing Arbour’s recommendations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canadian telecoms regulator's latest ruling spells ⟚rk period' for smaller operators
Two recent decisions by Canada's telecom regulator are freezing out competition in the country's highly concentrated industry, critics argue, making it even harder to bring down prices for mobile and internet service. For years, Canadian consumers have complained about high cellular bills, which rank among the steepest in the world, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers failed to cut bills by 25%. On Thursday the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that it would not significantly lower the rates that small companies must pay to access the high-speed broadband networks of larger rivals, including BCE Inc, Telus Corp and Rogers Communications Inc, known as the Big Three.
Grizzly believed to have killed Alberta woman is caught and will be euthanized
WATER VALLEY, Alta. — Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement officers have captured a grizzly bear they say fatally attacked a woman while she went for an evening stroll on her property last week. The government agency says the animal will be euthanized. The agency says in a Facebook post that officers captured two large, mature female grizzlies on Saturday near the site of the attack near Water Valley, Alta. on May 25. The post says one of the bears was lactating, but did not appear to be actively nursing due to the minimal volume of milk, and officers do not believe that she had cubs with her. The other bear is a mature sow that was not lactating, and her teeth are extremely worn, which the post says suggests means she is an older and post-prime bear. The post says officers obtained DNA samples from both bears, which were analyzed and confirmed that the older female grizzly with the worn teeth was responsible for the attack. It also concluded that the bear was not the same animal involved in the fatal attack on a man in the Waiparous Village area earlier in May, about 25 kilometres south of where the woman was killed. "The bear that killed the woman will be euthanized later today, in accordance with the grizzly bear response guide," the Facebook post stated. "This decision is never made lightly, and when it is made, it is to prevent more attacks by that particular bear." The post says the second bear will be released at a to-be-determined location. It says all traps will be removed from the area. The woman's body was found partly buried, initially causing wildlife officers to fear the attack was predatory. However, wildlife officer Paul Frame said Friday that was not the case, as the behavior is similar to what is generally seen with a defensive attack. Bear attacks are infrequent in Alberta, rarely totalling more than one a year, although there were three in 2005. The Facebook post from Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement says due to the unusually large number of bears still in the area, residents are urged to observe bear safety rules and guidelines. "Doing so will help keep everyone safe by avoiding human wildlife conflict and prevent a similar tragedy from occurring," the post stated. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2021. The Canadian Press
Ukrainian ambassador in Thailand dies on resort island
BANGKOK (AP) — The Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand collapsed and died on Sunday while on a resort island with his family, authorities said. Andrii Beshta, 44, was declared dead on Lipe Island in southern Satun province, Gov. Ekkarat Leesen told The Associated Press. Police quoted his teenage son, who was staying in the same hotel room, as saying his father vomited and fainted early Sunday. He said he was feeling fine before. Police said they suspect he may have suffered a heart failure. Leesen said the body was sent to the police hospital for an autopsy. Beshta had assumed the post of ambassador in January 2016. He is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, according to a bio on the embassy's website. The Associated Press
Tennis-Osaka fined for media boycott, could face expulsion from French Open
Japan's Naomi Osaka could be thrown out of the French Open if she continues to boycott post-match news conferences at the tournament, the board of Grand Slam tennis tournaments said on Sunday. Osaka, who was fined 15,000 dollars for skipping the news conference after her first-round victory at Roland Garros, could also face suspension from other Grand Slam tournaments, the board added. The four-times Grand Slam champion said earlier this week she would not face the media during the French Open, citing mental health reasons.
North Korea slams end to U.S. guidelines limiting South Korea missile range
North Korea's state media on Monday criticised the recent termination of a pact between the United States and South Korea that capped the development of South Korea's ballistic missiles, calling it a sign of Washington's "shameful double-dealing." South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced the abolishment of the joint missile guidelines that had limited the country's development of ballistic missiles to a range of 800 km (500 miles) after his first summit with U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month. North Korea's official KCNA news agency carried an article by Kim Myong Chol, who it described as an "international affairs critic," to accuse the United States of applying a double standard as it sought to ban Pyongyang from developing ballistic missiles.
Naftali Bennett: The right-wing millionaire who may end Netanyahu era
Naftali Bennett, Israel's likely next prime minister, is a self-made tech millionaire who dreams of annexing most of the occupied West Bank. Bennett has said that creation of a Palestinian state would be suicide for Israel, citing security reasons. But the standard-bearer of Israel's religious right and staunch supporter of Jewish settlements said on Sunday he was joining forces with his political opponents to save the country from political disaster.
Coca-Cola: drinking the world dry
Coca-Cola has been accused of dehydrating communities in its pursuit of water resources to feed its own plants, drying up farmers' wells and destroying local agriculture. The company has also violated workers' rights in countries such as Colombia, Turkey, Guatemala and Russia. Only through its multi-million dollar marketing campaigns can Coca-Cola sustain the clean image it craves.
The company admits that without water it would have no business at all. Coca-Cola's operations rely on access to vast supplies of water, as it takes almost three litres of water to make one litre of Coca-Cola. In order to satisfy this need, Coca-Cola is increasingly taking over control of aquifers in communities around the world. These vast subterranean chambers hold water resources collected over many hundreds of years. As such they the represent the heritage of entire communities.
Coca-Cola's operations have particularly been blamed for exacerbating water shortages in regions that suffer from a lack of water resources and rainfall. Nowhere has this been better documented than in India, where there are now community campaigns against the company in several states. research carried out by War on Want in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh affirms the findings from Kerala and Maharastra that Coca-Cola's activities are having a serious negative impact on farmers and local communities.
Coca-Cola established a bottling plant in the village of Kaladera in Rajasthan at the end of 1999. Rajasthan is well known as a desert state, and Kaladera is a small, impoverished village characterised by semi-arid conditions. Farmers rely on access to groundwater for the cultivation of their crops. but since Coca-Cola's arrival, they have been confronted with a serious decline in water levels. Locals are increasingly unable to irrigate their lands and sustain their crops, putting whole families at risk of losing their livelihoods.
Local villagers testify that Coca-Cola's arrival exacerbated an already precarious situation. Official documents from the government's water ministry show that water levels remained stable from 1995 until 2000, when the Coca-Cola plant became operational. Water levels then dropped by almost 10 metres over the following five years. Locals fear Kaladera could become a 'dark zone', the term used to describe areas that are abandoned due to depleted water resources.
Other communities in India that live and work around Coca-Cola's bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages as well as environmental damage. Local villagers near the holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh complain that the company's over-exploitation of water resources has taken a heavy toll on their harvests and led to the drying up of wells. As in Rajasthan and Kerala, villagers have held protests against the local Coca-Cola plant for its appropriation of valuable water resources.
In the now infamous case of Plachimada in the southern state of Kerala, Coca-Cola's plant was forced to close down in March 2004 after the village council refused to renew the company's licence, on the grounds that it had over-used and contaminated local water resources. Four months earlier, the Kerala High Court had ruled that Coca-Cola's heavy extraction from the common groundwater resource was illegal, and ordered it to seek alternative sources for its production.
In 2003 the independent Centre for Science and Environment tested Coca-Cola beverages and found levels of pesticides around 30 times higher than European Union standards. Levels of DDT, which is banned in agriculture in India, were nine times higher than the EU limit. In February 2004 Indian MPs who investigated CSE's studies upheld these findings and the Parliament went on to ban Coca-Cola from its cafeterias.
Besides these issues, War on Want's Alternative Report on Coca-Cola also details how Coca-Cola is having a devastating impact of water resources elsewhere. In El Salvador, the company has been accused of exhausting water resources over a 25-year period. In Chiapas, Coca-Cola is positioning itself to take control of the water resources. The Mexican government under Vicente Fox - himself a former President of Coca-Cola Mexico - has given the company concessions to exploit community water resources.
Coca-Cola's own workers have also suffered and the company is being increasingly associated with anti-union activities. The most notable case is in Colombia, where paramilitaries have killed eight Coca-Cola workers since 1990. The main Coca-Cola trade union Sinaltrainal is seeking to hold Coca-Cola liable for using paramilitaries to engage in anti-union violence.
Coca-Cola is being sued on behalf of transport workers and their families for its part in the alleged intimidation and torture of trade unionists and their families by special branch police in Turkey. In Nicaragua, workers of the main Coca-Cola union SUTEC have been denied the right to organise and the General Secretary of SUTEC, Daniel Reyes, believes the objective of this ongoing and escalating campaign is to crush the union.
Guatemalan workers have been struggling against Coca-Cola since the 1970s. In the years between 1976 and 1985, three general secretaries of the main union were assassinated and members of their families, friends and legal advisers were threatened, arrested, kidnapped, shot, tortured and forced into exile. The violations of workers' rights continue. And Coca-Cola workers and their family members, with ties to unions, have reportedly been subjected to death threats. Elsewhere in countries such as Peru, Russia and Chile, Coca-Cola workers have been protesting against the company's anti-union policies. Coca-Cola claims to exist "to benefit and refresh everyone it touches" and to try to sustain this positive image, the company spends $2 billion a year on advertising alone. Yet there are signs that the image is beginning to crumble. The relay carrying the Olympic flame was repeatedly disrupted by protests at Coca-Cola's role as the principal sponsor, with the Turin council actually declaring the city a no-go zone for the company (a decision subsequently overruled by the mayor).
University campuses throughout the USA and Europe have voted to cancel contracts with Coca-Cola in protest at its operations, and in solidarity with the community resistance which has escalated in many countries across the world. It is up to us to keep up the pressure on Coca-Cola and also send a strong message to our elected leaders to rein in irresponsible business practices.