Editorial: Water, business and the moral imperative

Immortan Joe from "Mad Max: Fury Road."

Immortan Joe from “Mad Max: Fury Road.”


Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence.’ — Immortan Joe

Much has been made of the feminist themes running through the thoroughly fantastic movie Mad Max: Fury Road, and rightfully so: the major theme of the film was, in my editorial estimation, the struggle for gender equality and human dignity in a dystopian world where strength is virtually the only virtue that matters.

(And yeah, I know the movie got ripped to shreds in Almanac Weekly. All I can say is two things: there’s truly no accounting for taste, and Almanac’s movie reviewer, while we respect her intellect and perspective, in no way speaks for the editorial movie opinion of the Kingston Times. That is to say, both Jesse and I thought it kicked utter ass. As I wrote on Facebook, “it was a quantum leap in post-apocalyptic balls-out vehicular-based mayhem. It will also prove, I predict, as a watershed moment for the rat-rod community — whoever designed and built the cars/trucks/bikes in the movie [Colin Gibson; thanks Aaron Morris!] is the absolute [expletive] Michelangelo of rat rods.”)


But not as much has been made of the ecological themes, specifically the water-related themes, carried within the film. In the early part of the film, the afore-quoted Immortan Joe doles out the water he controls to the wretches he rules sparingly and with great ceremony, as if to underline how much the wretches’ lives depend on his whim in dispensing it.

I’ll be damned if seeing that scene didn’t immediately remind me of what’s been happening over the last year or so here in town with the water. It is of course a stretch, and perhaps an unfair one at that, to draw a direct comparison between mutant albino evil water-hoarders and water bottling companies. But let’s recall what Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman and former CEO of Nestlé, said in 2005: “Water is of course the most important raw material we have today in the world. It’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. This means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

Take that attitude, refresh it with water bottlers in California in the face of a Biblically awful drought basically saying: “FU we’re going to keep on bottling water because we’re making money here!” and you can see from where Immortan Joe, or some figure like him, might one very dry day arise. It’s not that Nestlé, or Niagara Bottling, or Poland Spring or any of these companies are setting out to be evil. But should epic drought become a real thing here — the parched May we just had gave a hint of such a state, did it not? — the imperative to make money/retain power may be too powerful for them to resist. Spoke Brabeck-Letmathe, “I’m still of the opinion that the biggest social responsibility of any CEO is to maintain and ensure the successful and profitable future of his enterprise.” Uh-huh.

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton.

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton.

So, I’m all in favor of the referendum (and its passage by voters in November) that would make water sales outside of the City of Kingston subject to Common Council approval. I agree with Kingston Board of Water Commissioners Chairman Joe DeCicco when he points out his board has been a responsible steward of the city’s water. Truly, Kingston’s excellent system is a tremendous plus for both businesses and regular folk. But the board’s willingness last year to sell anywhere from a quarter to a third of it, in a time when climate change is rendering all previous models of precipitation prediction less relevant every day, indicates that he and his board are behind the curve. Some ideas are eternal but the idea from 1895 that the water board be immune from direct public feedback has run its course.

Simply put, clean drinking water is indeed a human right, just like clean air, wholesome food and health care are human rights. As the Common Council is as direct a representative of the people’s will as we have in the city, it’s a moral imperative that the council have veto power over any scheme that would privatize so much of an essential public asset.

There are 3 comments

  1. gberke

    The California example was and is poorly cited… It said “What, you want to continue using water for bottling, selling drinking and I can’t wash my car, water my lawn, wash down my driveway…”
    Yes, people insisted on their right to take drinking water use it in any way and in any quantities they want…
    Nah, I want a green lawn in the desert: shut down your bottling plant.
    And the farmers, they get to keep their water too… and they gulp scads of water…. some of the trees (almonds?) use huge amounts.
    There is a difference between having a right to access and having a right to use it any goddam way you want.
    That is not the way you manage a Commons resource. That’s exactly the way you screw it up. And oh, look!
    Elinor Ostrum (on the Commons) got the Nobel Prize for telling you what you really already knew… but you were waiting for enforcement.
    And great review on Mad Max! thanks… now I’m gonna see it.

  2. nopolitics

    Amazing tome in favor of the Draconian, knee-jerk, extremist environmentalist reaction to the plan to actually make the Kingston area a semi-real place again. And not a word on how the movie industry bastardizes its own resources to create films that ultimately serve scant to no useful social purpose. Hmm….a bit unbalanced, me says…..And “yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of Gallo-layan ideas, this was not among the worst of them by a longshot….”

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