According to the United Nations, 783 million people lack access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people worldwide have inadequate sanitation. At the same time, the cataclysm of climate change grows ever nearer as the narcissistic complacency of our species prevents the collective action necessary to head off future degradation.
Meanwhile over in Belfast, according to the city's Telegraph newspaper, the five-star Merchant Hotel is pushing us closer to what some people call "late capitalism", as it has announced a new "water menu", offering a choice of 13 different types of bottled water.
The commoditisation of humanity's most essential need starts at £4.95 for a bottle of Whitehole Springs from the Mendip Hills in Somerset, and goes up to £26.45 for a bottle of Iceberg from the Canadian Arctic Ice Shelf in Newfoundland. Water connoisseurs say that you can almost hear the polar bears weeping as the ice caps melt.
Other containers of hydrogen and oxygen molecules, arranged with marginally different mineral contents includes water from the Fiji Island Rain Forest, and water from Frosinone in Italy.
To help customers maintain the illusion that the dogma choice will bring them happiness, the hotel has employed a couple of "water butlers" who will advise customers on the "unique benefits, tastes and attributes of the different brands", as though it actually matters.
Hotel general manager Gavin Carroll is quoted as saying that "the ethos behind the new water menu is to allow our guests to have the chance and choice to curate their own bespoke food and beverage experience", as if that isn't a completely meaningless thing to say.
The good news is that if you visit the hotel and despair to much to want something from the "water menu", you can still get, as per the hotel's legal responsibilities, tap water for free. [Belfast Telegraph]