Messages in bottles
I'll take the bait that Charles Sykes waved around in his article "Come Hell or Bottled Water" (1/25/08). Sykes' rant against Madison's proposed ban on bottled water at public events could have been stated in one sentence: "Banning bottled water is a bad idea because it puts undue limitations on people's free choice and may have greater unintended consequences than the problem being addressed."
There, see? That we can talk about. I'd really like to see a well-researched article on this topic, and on the energy used for production and recycling, how little gets recycled, etc.
But please don't waste page space or my time with these sorts of masturbatory frothings. If Mr. Sykes doesn't think there's a problem, perhaps he has some space to store Madison's bottles?
It's not clear from which psychic center of pain Charles Sykes unleashes his belittlement of yet another community's efforts to stanch the flood of refuse choking our ever-more-difficult-to-site landfills. What is clear is that the efforts pain him deeply, and strike fear in his heart that other trash might come, someday, under scrutiny.
Perhaps he's right. Perhaps "none of this will make an iota of difference to the planetary ecosystem." Perhaps these community efforts are as pathetic as he would like them to appear. Perhaps the only difference will be in the final act, when we are standing on the fiery lake around our broken basket. Will we be saying, "Wow! How did this happen?" Or can we be saying, "Well, we gave it our best shot"?
Sykes' essay is not about the potential ban on bottled water in Madison. Rather, it is about the swollen ego he suggests Madison residents exude. There is no need to dig any deeper: He resents intelligence. He detests that Madison's streets are filled with people who listen to scientists, think critically about the news they hear, and drive cars that are less harmful to the environment.
Madison residents should take this column as a compliment. The fact that Sykes is so angry suggests we must be doing something right.
At both the newly renovated Lambeau Field and at Camp Randall, fans are not allowed to bring in their own water. Lambeau Field was designed to have no drinking fountains, and at Camp Randall bubblers have been turned off. One has to wonder, who do these policies benefit?
At an airport, at least, one can carry an empty bottle through security and fill it with water at drinking fountains on the other side before boarding the plane, thus saving both the manufacture of plastic bottles and a couple of dollars.
I hate to agree with Charles Sykes on anything, but I'm coming out against the bottled water ban.
If this were a ban on all beverages in plastic bottles - including the often nonrecyclable plastic glasses used for draft beverages - I'd say okay. But that's not the case.
Drinking water spigots at almost all events - indoor and outdoor - are few and inconveniently located. And you can't always bring in beverages, containers or water bottles. So if bottled water is not sold, you'd basically be stuck buying soda or beer (probably in plastic bottles and cups).
Groups that run festivals as fund-raisers depend on beverage sales, including bottled water. Those who want water are not going to buy soda instead. Ask the volunteers: If you're out of water, folks walk away. Will the city make up this shortfall in funds?
Ah, Charles.... At 8.3 pounds per gallon, I wonder how much fossil fuel is required to deliver those exotic waters which you so wittily convert into such poignant insight? Silly boy, it's not just the plastic! But no matter, your wisdom can't be measured in mere carbon footprint assessments.
Pray tell, Charles, from whom will we learn of the impact of unfettered consumption if not from thee? And while we're free associating on the relationship between events, might I connect our current economic problems with blowing up a trillion dollars in Iraq, or is that too far-fetched?
Charles Sykes reveals blindness to the wastefulness of the single-use convenience economy. We do not have a God-given right to things like beverage bottles, paper tissues and fast-food meals that come in disposable containers. There are real, compelling, scientifically backed arguments for pulling away - quickly - from these usage patterns, and Madison is not out on the fringes of rationality for considering such a ban.
Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute, notes in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization: "The production, processing, and disposal of material in our modern throwaway economy wastes not only material but energy as well."
In this country, with the world's cleanest and safest tap water, we consume 17 million barrels of oil to manufacture the plastic bottles used for water. That does not include the energy used for transporting all those bottles to the point of sale, or for refrigeration.
To answer Sykes' question, "Where will the bottled water banners be in 20 years?," it depends on our collective response to the environmental challenges we face today. I hope to be living in an energy- and water-efficient society, eating locally grown organic food and teaching my children about moderation, humility, self-sacrifice and care for others. I welcome Sykes to join me.
Kelly C. Kingsbury
I was intrigued by state Rep. Leah Vukmir saying, "Health care is so expensive because it is so 'cheap'" ("Impasse Likely on Health-Care Plans," 1/25/08). Since she is a proponent of Health Savings Accounts, I wonder if she one of her own?
As a self-employed person, I opened a Health Savings Account a couple years ago so that I could lower my monthly health insurance bill. I soon found out a couple things: You kind of have insurance and you kind of don't with an HSA, and the health-care system is not set up to deal with people with HSAs.
This summer I had the unfortunate experience of going to the emergency room at UW Hospital. I spent about three hours there. I had what can only be described as an extreme migraine. The doctor felt that it was necessary for me to get a CT scan because he wanted to determine if I had had an aneurysm. I asked what the CT scan would cost. He had no idea. Nobody at the ER had any idea. I had the CT scan for safety's sake.
The invoices started coming in. Over the next few months I paid approximately $2,000. The invoices were coded and difficult to understand. Then the invoices stopped, and I figured I was done. Two more months went by and I received another invoice, this one for $1,600. The only description on the invoice was the word "balance."
Three hours in the ER and a CT scan had completely wiped out my Health Savings Account. The benefits of having the account were largely a myth. When Vukmir or any other politician demonstrates that he or she has a Health Savings Account, then I will be impressed.
Doug Normington, Verona
Nuts to CBS
Dean Robbins' review of Jericho was not only way off-base, he missed the real story (Television, 2/8/08). Jericho was rescued from cancellation by its fans. It all started with a few fans finding an Internet nut seller in Kansas (where the mythical town is located), and sending a few pounds of peanuts to CBS management.
Eventually the nut seller found out what was going on and started a site called "Nuts for Jericho" (www.nutsonline.com/jericho). This not only gave Jericho fans a base to say "nuts" to CBS management, but the nut sellers also donated 10 cents per pound to tornado victims in Kansas.
I urge everyone to give Jericho a chance. There will only be seven episodes this season. Please help us save that rarest of art forms: good television.