I had it all lined up: I was going to do a story today about a new study on how future beverages will create emotional states. The study was done by Sparks & Honey with PepsiCo's Creator Team. It involves some fascinating flavor-testing toward making drinking a holistic multi-sensory, 360 experience; the beverage version of so-called molecular cuisine.
But, apologies to all, I just can't bring myself to write about it after having seen this item about California’s rain forest in flames yesterday.
With the juxtaposition of that and our huge downpour and storm here in New York, I was thinking about water, and how much I take it for granted. I emptied my dehumidifier bucket down the bathtub drain three or four times yesterday. The air was like a wet blanket. How easy it is to forget what it's like when it doesn't rain for weeks. We haven't had that hereabouts for five years, maybe more. Humans forget discomfort fast.
There's the cliche about how water is sweet when you're thirsty. We all know that it's true. When I don't need water, I not only don't think about it, I don't want to drink it. Coffee, soda, beer, wine, anything but water. But, as Ben Franklin wrote, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick's harrowing story of the Essex, you get a look at what it is like to be thirsty unto death. Water everywhere and not a drop to drink. If you don't have water you'll die in about a week. Three days in some circumstances. Less in others.
California notwithstanding, we in the U.S. don't quite have to worry, or think about, the fact that water is going to trade places with oil on the value scales kind of soon. Still, water is a crisis situation in many places right now, and even in this country, the signs aren't wonderful. There are serious problems and not just on the drought-strangled West Coast. The Atlantic coastal aquifer, for example, is at historic low levels. Most of the global aquifers are, in fact, running low. In some places they are running on empty.
The U.S. Forest Service, likely to pretty much be defunded, hasn’t had the resources to keep beverage giants like Nestle, who tap aquifers for bottled water in a devil-may-care manner, in line. Nestle is under the lens now for water siphoning in California of all places, but they are the ones we know about. There are some Wall Street operators, and billionaires in China and elsewhere around this globe buying up water rights like there's no tomorrow (so to speak).
And this does not even get into the issue of clean water. The Water Project, a not-for-profit that funds wells and programs to make it easier for people to get to wells, points out that right now 783 million people have no access to clean water and that in sub-Saharan Africa, people spend a mind-boggling 40 billion hours per year just on procuring clean water.
We are lucky in the Northeast these days. Currently our aquifers are at over 100%, unprecedented in a region that has had chronically low reservoir levels in the Croton system for the past few years (I’m basing this on my neurotic interest in the weekly water level charts over the years. Always a nail biter.)
Maybe beverage marketing stories henceforth should go with some mention of where we stand, globally, on this issue. As for the above study, and how marketers and beverage makers are trying to one-up each other to create new, evocative flavors, allow me one more quote:
“Water, thou hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself, thou fillest us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.” — pilot extraordinaire Antoine de Saint-Exupery