walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Bottlemania_, Elizabeth Royte

Subtitled: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It

Royte's earlier _Garbage Land_ is one of my less favorite books on the subject of waste. It says horrifying things about me as a person, even thinking about how many books about waste I have read over the years. (Next up on that subject is _The Big Necessity_, which is specifically about human waste, a subset of the topic I have also read several books about.) _Bottlemania_ reviews the development of bottled water as a consumable, using Fryeberg, ME and Poland Springs as a microcosmic framework. Royte hangs out with a bottle water aficionado. She samples bottles from around the world. She briefly discusses the "story" used to sell the bottles, the aesthetics of the bottles themselves, the technological developments that made the industry possible over the decades (century, plus) and the more recent scientific discoveries that threaten it (pthalates are bad for you). But she has an agenda: she thinks tap is better. She likes tap herself (but runs it through a big Brita). She is worried about the privatization of water supplies, and the threat to watersheds when companies remove large volumes of water from them over time. She is really worried about the effects of large corporations on small communities and the threat to local democracy -- in Maine and around the world.

I don't disagree with her. I will note that I followed her general trajectory (Nalgene replaced by Sigg) but that I now prefer stainless steel (Klean Kanteen and similar). And I drink a lot less water now than I used to, since I quit pushing water once I read the same research she tracked down on the you-must-drink-so-much-a-day crap. That said, we do still occasionally have Pellegrino around the house (I feel guilty every time), and my concern about single/few use containers has extended itself to beer and wine as well, which is a little sad, but not terribly. Hell, I buy canned soup so who am I to complain?

I had some problems with the prose style. Her authorial voice is pleasantly idiomatic, but at times, she uses an idiom in a way that is jarring. At one point, she says some people think the bar is still set too high, because problems occur with a contaminant at even lower levels. I know what she means, and it's not obvious how that should be corrected. This wasn't an isolated example, either. I feel like this should be blamed on an editor somewhere.

A very timely, enjoyable and fast (once you get past those hiccups) read. It'll be out in paper in about six months and, unfortunately, is not yet out on kindle. I got it hardback for Christmas. :-)
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