WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Water makes up almost 70 (seventy) percent of the human body and without it, it has been said that the body cannot be sustained and would therefore perish. Every nutrition class or article that I have ever read, has always touted water as the “elixir of life”. In my humble opinion that makes water a basic necessity for the sustainment of life and the access to free water a basic right for all people. However, if the water was on pre-owned property then it would not be considered free. “As the world’s water supply dwindles, communities in the United States and all over the world are organizing to take public control of their water systems and defend their human right to safe, affordable and accessible water” (Food & Water Watch, 2009).
In recent years, there has been an ongoing battle over water between local communities and the Nestle Corporation. According to several articles, including the Case Study 3.2, Battling over bottled water (Barry and Shaw, 2010, 2007, p139). Nestle has been taking over the water in small communities often using unfair practices. Several of these communities have in turn fought the company stating that among other things, Nestle is harming the environment and charging local citizens for their own water which would otherwise have been free. There are countless articles on the internet pertaining to Nestles’s acquisition of water sources and as far as I could find, none are favorable to the company or its practices.
The Sierra Club, a U.S.-based environmental organization and shareholder in Nestlé and Corporate Accountability International, led a gathering of concerned citizens at Nestlé's North American headquarters in the north-eastern city of Greenwich, Connecticut to call on the company to "respect the right of local communities to exercise democratic control over the use of their water."
"Water is essential to life on this earth and to the viability of local communities," said Ruth Caplan, chair of the Sierra Club's Water Privatization Task Force. "Nestlé is bottling Communities spring water without their informed consent. Nestlé profits while consumers pay more than a thousand times the cost of their local water" (Eli Clifton, 2007).
Amazingly, I can see both sides of the story and if I did not allow my bias over a non-based U. S. company owning parts of the U.S. I would probably be very torn in who has the better case, the communities or Nestle; however, if I were evaluating this case from a libertarian perspective, I would say that Nestle is in violation of the civil liberties of the individuals of the communities where they seek to obtain water rights. Even if I attempt to use Nozick’s theory and first principle of entitlement theory, I would still as a libertarian say the water belongs to the communities where it is located and that said water is a state owned natural resource, a basic necessity of life. Since this water was not discovered by Nestle, nor was the bottled version made out of something that they already possessed then they have not justly acquired the holding.
John Locke stated that property rights were limited not only by the requirement that one not waste what one claimed but also by the restriction that “enough and as good” be left for others or that one’s appropriation not make others worse off (John Locke, 1690). In her statement concerning Nestle the National Director of the Think Outside the Bottle Campaign had this to say “Nestlé’s water grab ruins streams, ponds, wells and aquifers” (Gigi Kellett, 2008). Environmental group the Sierra Club also states that Nestle is damaging the environment and many web articles on the process of bottling water show that there are water wastes involved in the making of bottled water. This to me does not indicate that they are not making others worse off. What bout the people who live off the fish in the streams?...
References: Locke, John, 1690, The Second Treatise of Government, ed. C.B. MacPerson,
Indianapolis: Hackett 1980
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