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Mini riot over bottled water

By arthur Weinreb

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Canada's west coast has been deluged with rain since late last week. The heavy rains resulted in high levels of silt being found in two Lower Mainland area reservoirs, leaving the water with a brownish colour. authorities issued a boil-water advisory last Thursday and then all hell broke loose.

at one Vancouver area Costco store, hundreds of people lined up, beginning at 4 a.m. to await the store's opening six hours later so that they could purchase bottled water. as the store placed no limits on the amount that customers could buy, supplies ran out quickly. Other stores in the Vancouver area saw their supplies of bottled water leave the shelves just as quickly. Fights and scuffles broke out as people fought to get their hands on the apparently much needed product. Shortly after Costco opened, police had to be called to keep the peace.

and after the last bottle of water flew off the shelf, the Costco shoppers did what people all over the world do when they have no potable water. They whipped out their debit cards and began buying Perrier. and when the Perrier was gone, they turned to coloured mineral water. But alas, that too ran out. This truly was a crisis the likes of which has not been seen in Canada since Ontario Minister of Health, George Smitherman, threatened to prohibit the sale of previously frozen sushi from the shelves of Ontario establishments. The horror of it all!

Now we haven't seen violence like this in North america since early last week when Sony released its Play Station 3. In the United States there were fights, robberies and a shooting over the newly-released game. But that violence at least had some logic to it. To increase the hype, Sony released a number of Play Stations that was far below the demand for the product. Being the capitalistic society that we are, owners of the game had a ready market on Ebay and elsewhere that could see them sell their units for two, three or four times what they paid for them. People have been beaten and shot for much less. But in the Vancouver case, it seemed to be a matter of pure survival of the trendy.

a boil-water advisory is just what it is. People are advised to boil their tap water and then put it in the fridge until its cold before drinking or otherwise using it. You can boil a lot of water in the six hours that some people spent lining up waiting for Costco to open. But rather than do what has been an age old practice, many people decided to brave the pouring rain and do an imitation of people in third world famine-ridden countries who are forced to push and shove to obtain a little food to prevent their babies from dying.

What happened that morning at Costco was nothing less than a disgusting exhibition of an over pampered society who can't deal with the mere inconvenience of having to boil their water before drinking it. Sure bottled water might be preferable to boiling their own, but to line up for hours and then fight over short supplies really says something about human nature. In spite of the fiasco, there was the odd voice of sanity. a woman who was shopping at Costco but not for water was quoted in the National Post as saying, "It's raining outside. Put out a bucket”. It's hard to believe that in today's society, many people would have thought to do that. at the time of writing, there have been no reports of death or illness from the water from the affected reservoirs.

Last summer, the United Church of Canada advised their parishioners not to purchase bottled water on the theory that water belongs to God and should not be bought and sold. The Church even considered starting a country wide boycott of bottled water. If what happened on the Lower Mainland last week is any indication, good luck UCC.

at least the boil-water advisory is not the worst thing that could have happened on Canada's left coast. all the Starbucks could have been required to close forcing caffeine addicts to have to go to Tim Horton's and mingle with the riff raff.

Now that would have been a real crisis.

Canada Free Press, CFP Editor Judi McLeod