Virtual Water

WaterI had time to read several magazines during the flights and bus rides to, from, and around Costa Rica. One of the articles that caught my attention was “Better Planet” in this month’s Discover. Thomas Kostigen, the author, talks about calculating how much water is used in the creation of a product and using that as a measure of its environmental impact. This was the last straw for me!

I’ve been told that I need to worry about the carbon footprint of the things I use, and offered the option of purchasing carbon offsets, and asked to consider local vs organic vs genetic engineered vs who-knows-what-else. When will it stop? All of this reminds me of the old saying that “statistics lie.” People, you can’t measure anything as exactly as all of these experts are telling you. Just use good common sense, which will assure you that water placed into little plastic bottles in Fiji cannot possibly be carbon negative to the planet. Nor is it reasonable for me to believe that my morning cup of joe is really 37 gallons of water. Think about it!

Here’s a nice simple example of this fallacy of measuring precisely. In the NFL, a referee “eyeballs” the exact location from which a drive begins, then he, or more likely another referee, “eyeballs” the exact location where the play ends. After that, they bring out a set of chains and “eyeball” where the originally “eyeballed” start was so they can measure precisely ten yards to see if the team gets a first down or not. Place whatever tolerances you believe are reasonable for each of those “eyeballings” and you’ll see that it makes no sense for them to say the team missed by inches. Yet it happens multiple times each week in the NFL, and games are often decided by these “exact” measurements.

I guess that’s OK for football, but let’s not go crazy about what’s good for the planet using these artificial measures in lieu of good common sense. Virtual water indeed.


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