Letter to the Editor: Sipping from a bottle of hypocrisy

In light of this week's Live Green Expo, we, on behalf of the Geneseo Environmental Organization (GEO), would like to address an ongoing practice of the Admissions Office.

It has come to our attention that bottled water is being distributed to prospective students and their families as a welcoming gesture. While we understand the importance of creating a hospitable environment for guests, we feel that given the disastrous political, social and environmental impacts of bottled water and water privatization, we must ask ourselves if this is how we wish to represent our community.

Our Office of Admissions is the initial representation of Geneseo. By offering bottled water, we are sending a message to visitors that despite the presence of clean, safe water fountains in every building, we lack faith in our drinkable tap water. If the Admissions Office does not believe that our water system is good enough for prospective students, then they should encourage Geneseo to improve our public water infrastructure, not tacitly hide it.

Bottled water represents a global trend of water privatization that has disastrous implications. In places like Cochabamba, Bolivia and Kerala, India, companies like Coca-Cola have created a for-profit water system that denies the impoverished a basic human right of access to clean, safe drinking water. The World Bank has predicted a coming water crisis; currently one out of every six people lack immediate access to clean water, and in the year 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will also lack the same access so that in the future, wars will be fought over water as they are today over oil.

From an environmental perspective, Americans' taste for bottled water has resulted in the consumption of more than 450 million gallons of oil per year to transport water from bottling plants to stores. New York State has acknowledged the detrimental environmental impact bottled water has on the environment, and is taking a stand.

Last May, Gov. David Paterson signed an executive order directing state agencies to phase out the purchase and use of bottled water at government workplaces. Paterson emphasized the importance of using the clean drinking water that taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to implement. "If we are going to make such significant investments," Paterson stated, "we should reap the benefits of that water."

These issues regarding the privatization of water pose a grave threat to the future of our planet. By building, supporting, and using a public water system, we can easily avert the dilemmas we face now and will face in the future.

While the Admissions Office is the only Geneseo department exempt from Paterson's executive order, we still feel that providing bottled water does not accurately represent our community.

Do we expect prospective students to rely on private water sources for all four years if they choose to attend Geneseo? And, if we are aware of - and choose to ignore - the dangerous implications of water privatization and bottled water, what does that say about our community?

We would like to offer the Admissions Office our assistance in creating a presentation to educate prospective students why we do not provide bottled water. This is an excellent opportunity to represent Geneseo as a proactive, principled and educated community.