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Mobilizing members to protect national parks from interference by the bottled-water industry

Lauren DeRusha Florez

“It broke my heart when I visited the Grand Canyon,” says long-time Corporate Accountability International member and Maryland resident Stan Boyd. “When I was a kid you could see all the way down to the Colorado River, but now it’s so polluted.” Boyd’s love of the country’s vast parks system is what led him to visit about half of the national parks in his lifetime. It is also what is motivating him to protect our national parks from the interference of the bottled-water industry.

 

The National Park Service welcomes more than 305 million visitors a year, and many of them leave behind single-use plastic water bottles -- one of largest sources of trash in park units. By eliminating the sale of plastic water bottles, parks can cut down significantly on their waste streams and educate visitors about sustainable alternatives like water stations and affordable, reusable bottles.

Unsurprisingly, parks going bottled-water free are a nightmare for the bottled-water industry. That’s why water corporations like Nestlé used the International Bottled Water Association, the industry’s trade group, to lobby for language in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that would make it illegal for parks to use their funding to pursue alternatives to bottled water.

 

That water corporations use their influence to protect their profits over the environment neither surprises nor fazes Stan, who has witnessed corporations exercise power and influence for decades. When Stan graduated from college in 1964, the civil rights movement was reaching a peak. For his Master’s thesis, Stan researched who actually held the most power and influence over segregation and racial discrimination in one Mississippi Delta town. Through his research, Stan uncovered that the local newspaper would list the names of blacks who registered to vote each week. Those voters were then denied loans from banks and reportedly had their welfare assistance discontinued. In denying this essential economic opportunity to black families, these banks furthered systemic racism and prevented people from registering to vote.

After earning his Master’s degree, Stan moved to Washington, D.C. to teach American history and government. As a government teacher in the nation’s capital, Stan “could not ignore the influence major corporations had on American politics and government.”

Stan has stayed up to date on current events across the world. He has realized how large corporations wield too much power over policy-making across the globe by “harming public health and exploiting resources of underdeveloped countries.” After hearing about Corporate Accountability International’s work to secure the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control -- the world’s first corporate accountability treaty -- Stan became a member of Corporate Accountability International by voting in our Corporate Hall of Shame, an initiative that pressures some of the most dangerous global corporations to end life-threatening abuses. From there, Stan learned more about Corporate Accountability International’s work challenging global water corporations, the food industry, and big polluters.

This fall, Stan received a call from Corporate Accountability International’s campaign to Think Outside the Bottle asking him to lead a delegation to Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski’s office. As Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski’s support was particularly important in defending national parks from bottled-water industry interference. After hearing that the bottled-water industry was dangerously close to successfully lobbying to include language in this year’s spending bill that would make it illegal for national parks to go bottled-water free, Stan knew he needed to take action to protect our parks from industry interference. “It’s really terrible how the bottled-water industry is making people afraid to use the water in their faucets,” says Stan. “I knew this policy would create great harm on our efforts to cut down on waste in parks and on bottled water.”

Stan is one of many members who contacted their representatives, asking them to prevent bottled-water industry attempts to sabotage a common sense bottled-water free policy in parks.

Knowing what was at stake, Stan quickly mobilized members from his networks. With allies from Food and Water Watch and the Sierra Club, he helped to amplify the voices of more than 1,300 Maryland residents by delivering a petition to Senator Mikulski’s office urging her to support national parks’ efforts to buck the bottle.

To Stan, the national parks system serves a dual purpose: to protect our public lands for environmental conservation and enjoyment, but also to teach future generations how to become environmental stewards. “When I got married and had children we went across the country visiting many of these national parks, from big to small,” says Stan. “It’s amazing how beautiful this country is and I wish everyone could see the grandeur that is protected in these parks.”

Stan believes that being an environmental steward means more than simply spending time outdoors. It means ensuring that our most sacred land and resources are protected for generations to come. Debunking the industry-perpetuated myth that bottled water is the only source for clean water is one critical part of furthering that mission. This vision leaves no room for bottled-water industry influence in our parks.  

 

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