Updated: Dec 26, 2019
“thousands have lived without love, not one without water” W. H. Auden
Water is life. We depend on it in every conceivable way. Water scarcity is a global crisis affecting billions of people in every continent. Some parts of the world are seeing devastating droughts, especially with the advent of climate change. While others’ water supply is being poisoned by toxic wastes created and dumped by big corporations. If you are living in Canada — especially in urban areas like the major cities — consider yourself incredibly privileged.
Canada happens to be a water-rich country with 7% percent of the world’s renewable freshwater available to a population that is half a per cent of that of the world’s. In a nutshell, we have water and lots of it. Many of us think having access to sufficient and clean drinking water is easy for most Canadians.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, state of emergencies has been declared in various First Nations reserves all over the country for the past several years. Some First Nations communities have been boiling water to make it safe enough to consume for as long as 25 years.
One First Nations reserve known as Grassy Narrows in northwestern Ontario has ninety per cent of the population experiencing symptoms of mercury poisoning in their water, which include neurological problems ranging from numbness in fingers and toes to seizures and cognitive delays. Additionally, Canada is being grossly irresponsible and unethical by letting major companies extract water for extremely cheap.
One of those companies is Nestlé.
They are well known for Nestlé Waters, Nesquik, and Nestea. However, Nestlé’s footing in the food and drink industry is much bigger than most people realize. According to Forbes World’s Largest Companies of 2019 list, Nestlé reclaimed its title as #1 from last year's #2 spot. Nestlé has been coming in #1 for many years and was booted off the throne last year but they have come back on top.
Nestlé’s revenue for 2018 was 91 billion with a profit of 7.8 billion dollars and in 2017 the company generated 8.6 billion dollars. It’s safe to say Nestlé has come close to those numbers this year or may have even surpassed them. Nestlé’s reign won’t be coming to an end anytime soon. It’s surprising how the biggest food and drink company in the world slipped unnoticed.
Nestlé is shady. One of their more questionable activities that people are aware of is Nestlé Waters. The former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believed that water is not a human right. He believed that water is scarce and should be monitored or else we’ll run out of water faster than we’ll run out of oil.
Nestlé Waters has been making a profit by pumping groundwater all over the world for cheap. Although they’ve had a lot of opposition from people, they continue to relentlessly extract more water. For example, there are many reserves all over Canada whose residents don’t have access to clean water yet just miles away companies like Nestlé are extracting millions of litres of water every day.
In 2016 Nestlé was pumping 7.6M litres of water every day in Ontario with an expired permit. Citizens of Ontario took to the streets to protest this atrocity, and as of August 1st of 2017, Ontario raised the fee of pumping water to $503.71 from the $3.71 for every million litres.
You read that right.
Canada was allowing these water companies to extract one million litres of fresh groundwater for just $3.71.
Since 2016, Nestlé has pumped 1,620,905,190 litres of water from Aberfoyle, Ontario. That number rises every second.
The Canadian government needs to prioritize this crisis immediately, and everyone who has the privilege of accessing clean water is responsible to hold their elected government officials accountable. Living in a water-rich country where tens of thousands of — mainly Indigenous people — don’t have access to clean water while millions others are enjoying without interruption is offensive and unacceptable.
If you’ve read the list of all the products Nestlé owns, then you know that boycotting all Nestlé products won’t be easy. So start with the Nestlé Waters.