Saturday, June 09, 2007

Living in the future -- plastic water bottles

If you live long enough, you begin to live in the future that you used to imagine. (And as a science-fiction reader since the age of ten, I've had a lot of help and practice.) Some of the things that happen in that future are unexpectedly good (the nearly bloodless collapse of European communism), some are bad surprises (name your genocide; global warming and the unwillingness of powerful people to do anything about it, or really even think about it). But it's the unexpectedness that gets me. Often this is most obvious in little things.

Yesterday, I had a "living in the future" experience at convocation. We faculty were sitting in a hot hall in front of the graduates and guests, slurping water from plastic bottles. When I was graduating from university that would just not have happened. First, there were very few plastic bottles of any kind. Second, buying water was seldom done (the current distrust of tap water strikes me as superstition -- bottled water comes out of a tap). Third, at least in my family, slurping from a bottle on a formal occasion was considered a slobby thing to do. Sure, drink out of a glass bottle at a picnic, or a picnic-like meal indoors, but at a graduation? Or, as recently, while delivering a paper at an academic conference?

Here's another smallshock from life in the future. Say you have to take a dog with you in the car on a sunny day. However careful you are you will want to have water for that dog. If you went out to the mall, both bowl and water are available. The bowl, if bought at a dollar store, has almost certainly come from China, may look quite attractive, and will last as long as a ceramic bowl does. Despite the fact that it has traveled half way around the world it will cost you a dollar plus tax. The water you put in that bowl is Canadian water from Ontario, is packaged in a disposable bottle made in Ontario, and costs a lot more.

Life in the future!

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