Bottled Water: A Symbol of U.S. Commerce, Culture

The bottled water business in the United States is booming. People increasingly are willing to pay for something they can just as easily have for free. Yet many people around the world have no dependable, safe drinking water. Charles Fishman of Fast Company magazine talks about his article "Message in a Bottle" with Robert Siegel.

In the article, Fishman calls a plastic bottle of water in a store's cooler "the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel."

He writes that when an industry that supplies something people don't need — an industry "built on the packaging and the presentation" — grows and thrives like the bottled-water industry, it's important to ask how that happened and what the impact is.

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