Nestle Waters of North America has long been in the practice of imposing their water extraction business template on small rural communities, typically without much protest. And in truth, water and resource laws rarely offered residents the ability to say “no” to corporations like Nestle.
That reality is changing fast, and in fact, Nestle’s projects across
the United States are coming under fire from residents are agitating
for more local control (and local benefits) from the extraction of
As noted in a recent NPR story, Maine’s small town residents are collecting signatures, forcing special town meetings and saying “yes” to ordinances which retain local control of water:
The Alliance For Democracy – Wells, Maine, residents vote this weekend on local versus corporate power
In a recent story on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Defending Water for Life organizer Emily Posner defended the ordinance and the thinking behind it: “This type of approach is reflective of a paradigm change that’s happening in our society and our culture around how we want to interface with the economy and the environment and the future,” she said. “We’re seeing people moving away from big box stores and trying to revitalize their local economy, and this is a similar type of approach that’s happening through the political sphere, where we’re trying to re-localize our political infastructure so that we as communities have the right to decide what will actually happen within our town borders.”
Nestle tries to pretend it’s a “local” company by offering up a refrain of “we’re Poland Spring – a local company,” others have noted that Poland Spring isn’t even a corporation in the state of Maine.
Chaffee County’s Sustainability Group
In Chaffee County (CO), Nestle’s water extraction project – which initially promised nothing more to the community than free bottled water to the school – is now facing determined opposition, and to avoid an embarrassing (and precedent-setting) defeat in their first attempt at an extraction project in Colorado, Nestle’s whipping out the checkbook.
Still smarting from a embarrassing series of “errors” in their 1041 application which grossly overstated the economic benefits to the area, Nestle’s also being confronted by a Chaffee County Sustainability Group, who realize that Nestle’s tapping an important resource, delivers few benefits, and could likely harm the formation of local, sustainable businesses.
Suddenly, the “we’ll do what we please” multinational is making noises about a community endowment and announcing local construction contracts right before meetings, and even if Chaffee County’s residents lose the fight against Nestle’s water extraction project, it’s interesting to note how far Nestle’s willing to go (or needs to) just to stay in the ballgame.
McCloud’s Local First Group
Meanwhile, the long-suffering former timber town of McCloud (CA) is still being intentionally factionalized by Nestle’s attempts to build a water bottling plant there, and in fact, Nestle’s operative Dave Palais marginalized opposition at a nearby Rotary Club meeting by saying “There is a small group that is opposed to the project and many are from out of town.”
The “wealthy San Francisco fly fishermen” refrain has been trotted out numerous times by Nestle’s operative, and it’s a pattern that repeats itself often enough elsewhere (including Maine) that it must be simply considered a divisive part of the Nestle playbook.
Belying that claim is the recent formation of a McCloud Local First group whose goal is:
The McCloud Local First Network is dedicated to strengthening McCloud and the local economy by promoting, preserving, and protecting local, independently owned businesses.
We’d humbly suggest that’s not the manifesto you’d expect from a bunch of “wealthy” out-of-towners.
Sustainable Use of Local Resources
While Nestle’s water bottling operations are under assault on both the economic and environmental fronts, it’s likely their biggest fear is playing out right before their eyes: We’re seeing the formation of local citizens groups dedicated to the development of sustainable businesses.
Multinationals which tap local resources (essentially for free) and send all the profits overseas aren’t exactly a part of that picture, and we can expect Nestle to deny that reality with a wave of PR-driven “community” projects.
Those, sadly, will not alter the fundamentally unsustainable nature of Nestle’s water bottling business (extract, truck, bottle, truck, truck, sell, throw away) – nor the multinationals impacts on local communities.