There is a public water spring near my home in the rolling hills of Québec. The village of Wakefield, where the spring resides, is the bohemian hub of the region. It’s a place where you encounter all sorts of people: hunters, hippies, yuppies, truckers, farmers, dentists, emissaries, hockey players, commuters and grandparents. Advertisements are occasionally posted on the walls of the spring’s enclosure: daycare; butter chicken poutine; and – of course -- Save Our Spring (SOS) protest announcements, as the industrialized world extends its tendrils ever closer to the quiet hamlet.
The last time I filled up my water bottle, I ran into an eloquent and professional-looking 30-something man with an Ontario license plate.
“You come up from Ottawa just for the water?” I asked, initiating small talk.
“It’s worth the 25-minute drive” he replied, surprisingly curt.
Then something unusual caught my eye. On each of his bottles was a piece of masking tape, with “Gratitude and Love” handwritten on it.
Ignoring the social cues to leave him alone, I asked him what this signified.
He rolled his eyes with an “oh great here we go” expression, predicting a negative reaction from my conservatively dressed appearance.
He explained that displaying a positive attitude towards water would bring about health benefits in the affected liquid. When I didn’t give him the blank-stare objection, he sighed with relief and expounded a little more.
“There was literally research done that shows if you project positive messages to water, the water will be healthier,” now wearing his conviction on his sleeve with enthusiastic banter.
Though a skeptic, I didn’t feel it was my place to show it. I helped him along by adding that my experience is that “99.9% of the universe is the part that we don’t understand.”
He smiled with the relief that he hadn’t come across someone who was typically critical or dismissive, particularly on such a beautiful day.
As we bade our goodbyes and he piled his full bottles into the car, I wished him well and summed up my take on the encounter: “Maybe you telling me the story of being positive towards water will have a positive effect on our day!”
Curious about the verity of this phenomenon, I did some Googling.
The research that our water-stranger is referring to appears to be that of Masaru Emoto, a Japanese entrepreneur who claims that human consciousness has an affect on the molecular structure of water. In short, beautiful and intricate ice crystals form with positive water, and difficult malformed crystals form with negative water. Not surprisingly, the research methodology and results have been dismissed numerous times as pseudo-science.
But, that’s not the point. The water-stranger wants to believe in this sacred ritual, in order to foster a more intimate connection to his natural world. Like most people, his narrative may involve illusory, irrational, or unproven assumptions.
Very often, green marketing debates drill down prematurely to hard facts. Marketers and manufacturers have a moral and legal responsibility to tell the truth. This is obvious.
But the issue of green attachment, like the one of the water-stranger is a deeper one. Yes, people do hold certain green beliefs irrationally. Understandably so, because the natural world gives us the basics of what we require for sustenance, and most of us (dare I say “all”), have a special ritual or place that involve nature. Dare I say, most people have a spiritual connection to nature. These “green narratives” are rational, irrational, passionate, personal, public, genuine, disgenuine, good, evil, and universal. In other words, these beliefs are human, all too human.