Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Fight’s Not Over for Water Watchers

The Wellington Water Watchers celebrated not just a year of existence, but a year of triumph last Tuesday night as members gathered at Norfolk United Church for the group’s first AGM. The WWW started making waves last summer (pun intended) by coming out strong against the Aberfoyle Nestle Bottled Water plant’s application for a five-year renewal of their contract.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of the Environment announced that they would only be renewing Nestle’s contract for only two-years and part of the new contract is the requirement for better monitoring of the Mill Creek, from which Nestle pulls it water. As well, the Ontario government is considering making the Galt-Paris moraine protected land. “We’ve had some real successes and we have some really ambitious plans too,” WWW Board member James Gordon told the crowd.

Amongst WWW’s ambitious plans is to expand its “Klean Kanteen” program. The stainless steel canteen is free to everyone when they buy a membership in the WWW, which includes over 750 Guelph and area residents. But now, the group is looking at putting their canteens into the hands of every kid in the county as part of an overall campaign to promote tap water over bottled.

Two other components of the plan are “Emergency Use Only” and “L’Eau Municipal.” The former is a guerrilla promotion gimmick wherein WWW is encouraging members to really enforce the idea of bottled water being reserved for emergency purposes; bottled water being of primary importance in situations where the tap water’s been compromised. The second part, “L’Eau Municipal,” will be a campaign working with local restaurants to push the serving of tap water over bottled in their establishment.

Basically, the group is going to throw their focus on reversing the trend, pervasive in this generation, that carrying around and drinking water out of a plastic bottle is cool. Beyond that, the notion that bottled water is cleaner and safer than what comes out of the tap is a popular myth that WWW wants to dispel. One member held up a plastic water bottle and said that he considers the contents “plastic water” and reinforced the toxic effects these bottles have on our environment.

The evening was rounded out with a speech by activist, author and Blue Planet co-founder Maude Barlow, who had high praise for the group she calls part of a growing movement of “water warriors” and that WWW is an example she cites in her speeches worldwide. She reinforced the need to protect water from encroaching elements who want to see its commoditization, particularly NAFTA. Barlow’s speech was followed by a screening of the new documentary FLOW: For the Love Of Water.

Greens got a plan

Following-up to my interview with Elizabeth May in last week’s Echo, here are some details of the Green meeting at Guelph Youth Music Centre on May 26. The main point of the event was a kind of rally to garner local support and get May into the next televised leaders debate in the eventual Federal election.

Drawing on history, May hopes that if Guelph Green candidate Mike Nagy were to make it to the House of Commons via a by-election, than a sitting Green MP would force the hand of all those keeping May out of the debate. The same strategy worked for Preston Manning when, as Reform leader, he was invited to the 1993 debates after Deborah Grey was seated in a by-election in Alberta.

May also spent the day canvassing in Guelph neighbourhoods along with Nagy and former Green leader Jim Harris. Harris remains a consultant for the Green Party and participated in the event by enthusiastically getting members to commit to 40 hours of campaigning for Nagy when the writ is dropped.

Still no sign of that happening though.

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