In a fiercely divided America, there’s one thing that the usually-correct Left shares with the almost-never Right. Both love to tell other people what to do.
My side thinks this bossy quality is the exclusive preserve of conservatives.
Indeed, the Right is forever barging into our bedrooms, hospital rooms, classrooms, and bathrooms with instructions on appropriate sex, prayer, end-of-life decisions, and proper foot-shuffling in the adjacent stall.
But the Left has its army of finger-waggers, too. No driving certain cars, no packing heat, no hunting, no eating anything that tastes good, no praying in public (or private), no wind turbines in front of summer beach homes.
Yet it’s the latest addition to the Liberal List of Forbidden Fruits that I find particularly hard to swallow: bottled water.
What? Water is bad? All this time, I thought it was Coke or Pepsi. Sugar water bad. Bad for your teeth. Water good. Drink eight glasses daily.
So you could have hit me upside the head with a .5-liter Poland Spring Sparkling Raspberry-lime when I learned they’d put the whammy on bottled water. Suddenly, the newspapers, the Internet, and the airwaves were awash in bad bottled water. Bad for the environment. Bad for municipal waterworks. Bad for Fiji.
How stupid to pay so much for it. Bottled water saps public support for municipal water supplies. Discarded bottles — 38 billion a year — clog landfills. Bottled water wastes oil needed to make bottles, filter the water, and run the trucks and trains that get the evil swill from one place to another.
There’s an excellent roundup about this in the Web-accessible July issue of Fast Company magazine, by Charles Fishman. The $16 billion industry earns more than the iPod, he says. A modern factory in Fiji exports a million bottles of water a day to the First World, while more than half of Fiji’s residents can’t even get safe municipal water. To all of this I say, leave me and my Poland Spring-swilling kind alone.
You think tap water is as tasty as tap? Then come on down to my hometown, Newport. There have been times when it’s been an act of daring to take a shower in the stuff, to say nothing of taking a sip.
To my fellow finger-waggers, if you’re concerned about those bottles piling up in the national landfill, do what liberals do best: pass laws, mandate recycling. Want Fiji to get potable water? Tax the bottlers and use the revenues to build a good municipal system — that’s the liberal way.
Concerned about the environment? Me too. But let’s go hunting for big game.
Let’s worry about coal-fired power plants, especially as China reruns the Industrial Revolution. Let’s deal with radioactive waste before nuclear power plants come back into fashion. And get those SUV beasts off the tail of my gas-stingy Civic.
But leave me and my cool, sparking Poland Spring alone. Get off my case, get out of my refrigerator, and get back to doing something that really will save the Earth.

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