Today's and tomorrow's rides are designed to set me up to look for Gray Vireo on Wednesday. I have some good leads on habitat that should not require too much of a detour from Route 17. I will search for the vireo (and Black-chinned sparrow and Juniper titmouse) around Camp Verde, AZ on Wednesday morning before heading north to Flagstaff that afternoon if I am successful. I plan to spend 2 days chasing down additional birds around Flagstaff before starting to make my way directly to Colorado. The exact route I will take is still be sorted out so stay tuned. Today's ride from Scottsdale to Black Canyon City was a short but very hot. It is now about 103F outside, so I am glad I am off the roads for the day! This heat is really killer. I have been totally wiped out after my rides the last few days.
52 miles today
OK, I told you a few weeks ago that as the birding slows down a bit, I hope to tackle some more controversial issues on quieter days. Today is going to be one of those days. I am going to discuss a modern convenience that we accept despite its incredibly negative environmental consequences: bottled water. Now, I know many people like bottled water, and I have stayed with many people who in fact drink only bottled water. I am not trying to pass judgement on their lifestyle, but I am trying to get folks to see how counterproductive the regular consumption of bottled water can be for the environment. I am just going to present some facts and it is up to you what to do with them. I will at the end offer a few ideas as to we might curb this runaway, bottled water trend.
To repeat: I am not telling people they must immediately stop drinking bottled water. I am just asking everyone to understand the high environmental cost of doing this on a regular basis.
To start, it takes 3-5 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water. Bottled water is 1,000-10,000 times more expensive than an equivalent amount of tap water. It takes petroleum to make the bottles into which the purified water is bottled, and it takes petroleum to move the bottled water from where it is bottled to where it is sold. Only 1 in 5 of these plastic bottles is recycled, so 80% of them end up in landfills or the oceans where they will take hundreds if not thousands of years to degrade. Many of the bottles end up in the huge plastic wastelands called plastic gyres on which our oceans are currently choking. The bottom line is that we pay a huge environmental cost for a resource we can obtain with much less impact just by turning the tap. Here are a few articles that discuss this further.
I understand that for some people it is about taste and convenience. Admittedly, my sense of taste is terrible so to me it's all the same. I have been drinking water out of Burger King bathrooms this whole year and I am still going strong (fans of the 1980's hip hop group 'Digital Underground' should appreciate that reference). Bottled water certainly tastes better to some, but that does not change the fact that there is a huge cost associated with this preference. Other people seem also to think that there is something biologically or chemically wrong with the water supply in this country. This is generally a charge leveled by bottled water companies to scare consumers off of tap water (It IS all about the Benjamins, baby). Here is a debate on the pros and cons of bottled water. Notice a spokesperson for the water industry penned the second position. That's like a tobacco representative saying smoking is healthy! Lastly, in some extreme circles, bottled water is just another form of social currency, a status symbol that proclaims the wealth of the consumer. Think I'm joking? Read this.
My point is this: we all should think twice about the amount of bottled water we consume. Clearly, bottled water is imperative for emergencies, but we must find a way to bottle and use less of it on a day-to-day basis. Bottled water is a very environmentally inefficient way of obtaining what is otherwise a very renewable resource. I am not trying to judge. I am trying to inform, and if what I have written makes some of you feel a bit uncomfortable, I can live with that. Change does not happen when people are comfortable.
With that being said, I will offer one idea for those unable to part with bottled water: substitute a water cooler instead. Many folks with whom I have stayed this year have done just this in their homes. It's the same water that comes in the individual bottles without the waste of the billions of bottles. I do realize that the individual 16-ounce plastic bottles can be recycled by my very environmentally conscious audience, but it's much better not to use them to start with, agreed?
Just to nip this in the bud now, I will drink bottled water from time to time when there is not a tap option. If I am severely dehydrated on the road and someone has a Dasani for me, you better believe I am going to drink it!