Today’s paper greeted me with a diametrically opposed mixture of ideas typical of a day on our quirky planet Earth. Our lives are characterised mostly by flux, by variety and change, with a spider’s thin thread of continuity running through. How frustrating and exhausting this can be sometimes! But ultimately how fascinating and exciting it is to experience this conflictive state of being that we call human existence. Todays example of this strange and wonderful state of affairs comes in the shape of two vastly different projects underway in two cities on two different sides of the globe, completely unrelated except for one thing; water.
In Sydney, the story is business as usual..
Rio Tinto, Apex Energy, Peabody Energy and the NSW Department of Planning have been engaged in some of the regular heavy petting, at a safe distance from the public eye. The trio are getting themselves geared up to begin a government approved assault on Sydney’s underground coal gas seams. Heroically they march on, fearless in the face of overwhelming evidence against the sanity of their expansion into more finite, greenhouse gas emitting resource extraction. Like the Polish cavalry on the last horseback charge of the 20th century, they will have their moment. Climate change, bah! They will not be intimidated by environmental doomsayers or those children from the renewable industry! Nevermind all of the hippy hoo ha about water contamination due to the toxic nature of methods involved in coal gas extraction. They will drill on, unperturbed by the fact that some of these coal gas seams are located underneath Sydney’s main drinking water catchment at Metropolitan Colliery. Chaaarge!
In Paris, the story is business as unusual..
In an attempt to wean citizens off their highly wasteful addiction to bottled fizzy water, the French government has installed their first ever chilled, carbonated public drinking fountain in the Jardin de Reuilly. The charmingly named La Petillante (literally, she who sparkles) was installed by Eau de Paris, the city’s public water supplier. (can you imagine Sydney Water doing this? bit of a stretch, isn’t it?). Anne Le Strat, chairman of Eau de Paris, said endearingly simply that the main thing stopping people from changing is that tap water is still. ”Lots of Parisians have told me that they would consume more [tap] water if it were fizzy,” she told interviewers, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. The eighth biggest consumer of bottled water, France is estimated to have produced more than 262,000 tonnes of plastic waste during 2009. But, watch out Perrier, there’s a new girl in town, and she’ll be followed by a crowd of her sparkly type. Viva la revolution!
What a contrast. Two bodies of water, two communities of residents, two beautiful cities. One is gifted with free sparkling water to tempt citizens away from the profitable disaster that is bottled water. The other is betrayed by the toxic greed and short sightedness of it’s guardians and power brokers. Who knows what other delightfully bizarre combinations of events tomorrow will bring. I can only say how lucky we are that we will be here to drink it all in..