[Marxism] Goodbye and good riddance to Fiji water?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 29 20:55:37 MST 2010

(Fiji water is one of the main businesses of Bard College board of 
trustee Stewart Resnick and his limousine liberal wife Linda Resnick. 
Truly dreadful people.)

Goodbye Fiji Water? Bottling Company Announces it Is Shutting Down
By Tara Lohan, AlterNet
Posted on November 29, 2010, Printed on November 29, 2010

It seems there is trouble in paradise. The boutique bottled water brand 
Fiji Water has announced that it is shutting down its operations in Fiji 
after the nation's government proposed a tax hike -- from 1/3 of a cent 
to 15 cents a liter. This comes just a week after one of the company's 
top executives, David Roth, was deported.

Fiji is run by a military junta that has imposed martial law on the 
country, something that Fiji Water never seemed to have a problem with, 
until the rogue government went for the company's pocketbook. Since the 
founding of the bottled water company in 1995, Fiji Water has worked to 
brand itself as the premiere bottled water brand (and its sales have now 
bested Perrier and Evian for the top bottled water import in the U.S.) 
and even one that is "green," despite the fact that it's shipped 
thousands of miles and sold in single-use plastic bottles, which mainly 
end up in landfills. The celebrity favorite, Fiji Water, is the baby of 
Stewart and Lynda Resnick, co-owners of the company, and well-known 
'limousine liberals' and agribusiness billionaires, who rake in millions 
in water subsidies from the U.S. government.

In reaction to the announcement that Fiji Water was shutting its doors, 
Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, said she 
hoped it was a permanent closure. "Fiji Water exports bottled water to 
the U.S., which enjoys clean and safe water from the tap, while half of 
Fijians lack access to safe water," said Hauter. "There is something 
wrong with this picture. Water must be managed as a common resource, not 
as a market commodity. Unfortunately, celebrities, sports figures and 
American consumers pay a premium for the Fiji Water brand, buying it at 
approximately 3,300 times the cost of U.S. tap water. According to the 
EPA, a gallon of tap water costs consumers anywhere from .002 to .003 
cents. A liter of Fiji Water costs approximately $2.19."

Of course if you ask Lynda Resnick about the quality of U.S. water 
you'll get a different response. Anna Lenzer, in an investigative story 
on Mother Jones last year shared a quote from one of Resnick's books 
where she said, "You can no longer trust public or private water 
supplies," which I guess doesn't leave people with too many options, 
other than importing water from halfway across the globe from an 
impoverished nation run by a corrupt military junta, in which the 
nation's own people are desperate for drinkable water. As Lenzer reports 
about the town of Rakiraki, near Fiji Water's bottling plant:

     Rakiraki has experienced the full range of Fiji's water 
problems--crumbling pipes, a lack of adequate wells, dysfunctional or 
flooded water treatment plants, and droughts that are expected to get 
worse with climate change. Half the country has at times relied on 
emergency water supplies, with rations as low as four gallons a week per 
family; dirty water has led to outbreaks of typhoid and parasitic 
infections. Patients have reportedly had to cart their own water to 
hospitals, and schoolchildren complain about their pipes spewing shells, 
leaves, and frogs. Some Fijians have taken to smashing open fire 
hydrants and bribing water truck drivers for a regular supply.

Not exactly the image that Fiji Water has tried to project of their 
company, but that's the nature of water commodification. "Like oil in 
the 20th century, water has become increasingly managed by corporate 
cartels that move it around the globe, where it flows out of communities 
and towards money," said Hauter. "The commodification of water will 
continue to contribute to human rights abuses around the world, whether 
it helps bolster undemocratic governments or drives water from a 
community where it is needed."

Whether or not this closure of Fiji Water is truly permanent or just a 
little business posturing to negotiate a better deal, remains to be 
seen. A few years ago the company temporarily shut down its operations 
in protest to tax hikes as well. If the shut down is permanent, it's 
likely that the company's owners will be on the hunt for new sources of 
water to exploit for profit, and according to Lenzer, that could be in 
New Zealand. As long as consumers continue to buy bottled water and give 
in to marketing gimmicks from boutique brands bottled in faraway places, 
there will always be companies hoping to cash in on our folly and there 
will likely be local populations getting the short end of the stick.

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet. You can follow her on Twitter 

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