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IN THEORY:Against bottled water

December 23, 2006

Some religious groups, such as the National Coalition of American Nuns, are calling for followers to refrain from drinking bottled water. They say a God-given resource such as water is not something to be packaged and sold while access to drinking water is so scarce in the poorest regions of the world. Water should be free for all, they say. Bottled-water advocates say targeting bottled-water companies is misguided, given the many products that use water, and will not lead to solutions to resource scarcity in poor regions of the world. What do you think?

I disagree that God-given resources should not be "packaged and sold," since ultimately everything in this world is a God-given resource with spiritual significance. Of course, we have a responsibility to safeguard the resources entrusted to us, but I believe that God expects us to enjoy and partake in the bounty of the world He created. So long as we behave responsibly, we have a right to capitalize on any particular resource, make an honest living, and provide for our families.

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The lack of water in many Third World countries is largely caused by the lack of the proper infrastructure to make water drinkable and then transport it to where it's needed. Also, many of these countries are ruled by dictators who are more concerned with power and self-aggrandizement than with the welfare of their citizens. Rather than making the necessary investments to meet their people's basic needs, they instigate ethnic and religious strife to deflect criticism from their shortcomings as leaders.

Attacking water bottlers will not bring water to those who need it most. We would be better served to look at the root cause of regional water scarcity and address the issue boldly. Simply put, our planet has enough water to meet everyone's needs, but we lack leaders who are caring or competent enough to get it to them.

When appropriate, wealthy nations can help less-developed states to build better infrastructure. And we should also be ready to bring international censure and sanctions against those corrupt dictators who, through their callous neglect, inflict such tragic suffering on their own people.

RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN

Chabad Jewish Center

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