There are various ways that corporate greed is destroying America, and Americans’ well-being, and it is seriously disturbing that the nation’s regulatory agencies have been hampered by Republican budget cuts that prevent them from protecting the people. When the people are aware they are being fleeced and harmed by corporate greed, and it appears that the government is not doing its job no matter the reason, they can either take matters into their own hands and exact physical retribution, or take matters to the judicial system for redress.
In California this week, a group of environmental organizations filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service because it has failed to stop the $248 billion Nestlé corporation from stealing millions and millions of gallons of California’s rapidly vanishing groundwater. This particular water theft is going on in the San Bernardino National Forest where Nestlé at one time had the right to take Californian’s water, bottle it, and resell it to Californians. However, because California is in the midst of an historic drought, an investigation in March of this year revealed that the company’s permit to ‘divert water’ to its bottling plant had expired 27 years ago.
After the investigation’s results were forwarded to the Forest Service, along with over 200,000 California residents’ signatures demanding action, the agency announced it was going to investigate the expired permit to resolve the problem. It is unclear how long it takes for a Forest Service investigation after Republicans have cut the agency budget to shreds, but with the severity of the drought and damage to the environment from Nestlé stealing water, six months was too long to wait.
The plaintiffs filing suit, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Story of Stuff Project, and the Courage Campaign Institute are demanding that the Forest Service shut down Nestlé’s access to an illegal pipeline and conduct a full environmental review immediately. The environmental groups contend that by “allowing Nestlé the freedom to continue siphoning water from the already depleted source of water, it is breaking its own policies.”
In a statement, the plaintiffs indicated that water levels at Strawberry Creek, like water levels across California, are at record lows and it is insane that during an historic drought Nestlé is being allowed to pilfer Californian’s water at all; much less illegally. The plaintiffs also noted that “In exchange for allowing Nestlé to continue siphoning millions of gallons of water a day from the Creek, the Forest Service receives just $524 a year; an amount far less than the average Californian’s water bill.” For the majority of Californians it is not that Nestlé is stealing over 2 million gallons of water daily from one creek and paying a pittance, but that they are profiting from water the population, wildlife, and agriculture depends on and they are doing it illegally.
When Nestlé CEO Tim Brown was asked earlier this year if the company would stop bottling what little water California has left, he said “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would!” According to Brown, the company’s permit is not really expired because the Forest Service is just in the beginning stages of investigating the expired permit review. However, Brown failed to explain why the company failed to renew the permit for the past 26 years that it has, indeed, been expired.
Brown also basically told Californians to get over their drought because according to him, stealing 2 million gallons daily is not contributing to California’s water shortage. To demonstrate the difference between how corporations consider the plight of their customers, last year when an investigation revealed that Starbucks was bottling water from the super-severely drought-stricken Central Valley, the company immediately announced it was moving its operations out of state due to the drought conditions.
Earlier this year, Nestlé’s CEO Brown was disgusted that California residents were concerned and upset that what little water is left was being squandered for a highly-profitable international corporation’s profits while Nestlé is seeking more. In fact, Brown was livid, and claimed that it was “just plain wrong” that 200,000 California residents appealed to the Forest Service to put a stop to Nestlé pumping precious groundwater out of a national forest while the state is parched with no end in sight.
Brown has been asked on more than one occasion if his international corporation would ever even entertain “halting the company’s unprecedented water extraction during an historic severe drought,” and he consistently replies, “Absolutely not! In fact, if I could increase it, I would!” The idea of stealing water and reselling it in a bottle, and then looking for more to steal is not out of character for the Nestlé corporation.
The former CEO and now Chairman of the largest food product manufacturer in the world believes corporations own the rights to every drop of water on the planet, and that “water is not a basic human right.” If human beings get thirsty, they can just die of thirst or pay Nestlé for water the corporation stole from them and put in a plastic bottle. Nestlé is intent on privatizing a natural resource that falls from the sky and seeps into the Earth for man to use for survival all over the world, not just in drought-stricken California. In the case of California, and many other regions around the world, what precious little water remains for basic survival is being stolen by a filthy corporation to sell to those who can afford to survive.
It is a sad state of affairs indeed when instead of getting relief from a corporation that should have a semblance of regard for their customer base, people have to file a lawsuit against the agency tasked with enforcing regulations. The Nestlé corporation is well aware that California is suffering an historic drought, and that in many areas of the state the water is either gone or vanishing rapidly. Instead of following Starbucks’ lead and relocating out of state where water is more plentiful, Nestlé is thumbing their corporate nose at the people and boasting they would take more if they could get away with it.
What the Nestlé CEO should take to heart is that water is a precious resource that sustains life, and when human beings believe their lives are in jeopardy they are unlikely to see judicial relief as a viable option. Those pipelines stealing precious water from California’s rivers, streams, creeks, and aquifers are not immune from destruction and although it is an extreme action, even liberal Californians will take matters into their own hands to stop a thief.
With no permit to steal Californians’ water, coupled with the cavalier “I don’t give a shit” attitude about your precious water, the Nestlé corporation had better understand that their biggest threat is not from the U.S. Forest Service regulations or licensing issues. The imminent danger to Nestlé, and the oil industry for that matter, is desperate Californians who are sick and tired of international corporations illegally sucking up what little of their life-giving water they have left just to satisfy their corporate greed.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.