Imagine your shock to find that in this world private car use continues to grow by 10% each year and that car manufacturers are making huge profits. How can this industry possibly be flourishing? Perhaps they have run scare campaigns spreading misinformation about the dangers of public transport (when in fact, it poses the same or fewer dangers than regular use of a private automobile). Perhaps they have successfully branded car use with a variety of attractive identities - healthy, natural, convenient - despite the actual facts about the situation.
I imagine you might be worried. Not only are your fellow citizens being duped out of their money and helping to unnecessarily destroy the environment, but if more and more people switch to their own (far more expensive, far more polluting, far more oil-dependent) car, the government will have less reason to maintain the excellent public transport system at its present standard. What of those who can't afford a car and rely on the public system?
Oh, and imagine that in this world, using public transport actually improved your teeth.
Now stop imagining, because in Sydney, this is world in which we live. Except rather than transport, I'm talking about drinking water.
Bottled water makes no sense. Tap water is just as safe (if not safer), comes in at about 1/2400th of the price, uses very little energy and produces very little pollution. Bottled water costs about as much for a bottle as you spend on drinking tap water for a year: one tonne of tap water costs about $1.20, while the same amount of bottled water costs around $3,000. Water is heavy (and thus energy-intensive) to transport (and refrigerate) in bottles, compared with Sydney's tap water, which is largely gravity-fed, or occasionally pumped, through an amazing pipe system that connects to almost every building in the city. The bottles themselves are energy-intensive to produce (being plastic, an oil-based synthetic product), and in Australia only about one third are recycled (with the exception of South Australia, whose enlightened policies manage to get a recycling rate around 70%), while the rest make their way into landfill, where they take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose. The production of a plastic bottle ironically uses about seven times more water than will ever be able to fit into it, and results in about one hundred times more carbon emissions than the production of a glass bottle.
And all this is entirely unnecessary, yet sales of bottled water continue their astonishing growth (180 billion litres sold last year and growing at 10% p.a.): a testimony to the victory of consumerism over common sense.
A friend of mine has done the logical thing and started a Facebook 'cause': Reject Plastic Drink Bottles.
Having been cynical about The Daily Telegraph in my previous post, I applaud them for running a story the SMH seems to have missed on this topic.
This site summarises the pros of tap water and the cons of bottled water, encouraging us to "think global, drink local".