Reading between the lines
and the negative cultural impacts of marketing in rural Maine within the fight for control of our groundwater sources.
Rural Mainers have great challenges with many mega-corporations who spin narratives, which infiltrate our local media, schools, environmental boards, state house and communities.
"Stolen Spring" was born from the need to take our narrative back from Nestlé, as they market their #1 selling spring water brand (our water commons) "Poland Spring".
What people don't consider when they buy bottled water is not only where it is sourced, but how it is acquired and its impacts. The people within the Fryeburg Water District were taken off their long-time water source without notification and given up to Nestlé for export, and were moved onto to a nearby water source not of the same quality.
Nestlé (as other extractive industries) build key relationships with power holders or elected / appointed officials in a community, and have illustrated a pattern of making deals behind closed doors. This tactic is how "Shared Values" are assured for their advancement but creates controversy and mistrust amongst residents of the town not sharing the same vision.
Here, a young resident speaks out being aware of the exploitative nature of this business and wants better for her community.
A common Nestlé advertisement seen in Maine news sources:
Let's break this down
Bottled water is a business that brings in billions to private corporations and effectively funnels wealth and health from our communities. In order to convince the uninformed that this is beneficial for us, Nestlé lays claim to things that are not theirs- to both our water sources and 172.86 years of operating in this state which are false narratives. Perrier bought Poland Spring in 1980 when the Maine-based operation had fewer than two dozen employees and then Nestlé purchased Perrier in 1992. Nestlé hides behind this brand and lays claim to history that is not their making. Poland Spring only drew from one site prior to this acquisition.
Here is what their "roots in Maine" look like from citizens' perspective:
“How do you oppose this company that has the resources to sue a town into insolvency if they care to?” said Jake Pitcher of Andover. “There is a concern that it is a massive, global corporation. It’s not an abstract, unfounded hatred of a company simply because it is a successful business.”
This imbalance of power our communities are faced with puts us on guard. Nestlé filed a lawsuit and four appeals in an attempt to force their 24/7 truck loading station into a residentially zoned part of Fryeburg. Nestlé lost the lawsuit and first three appeals, but finally found the legal loophole so they could load and export additional fifty 8,500 gallon tankers per day, in addition to the existing loading station in another part of town.
A lawyer who was advising for Nestlé's advancement encouraged the Rumford Water District to change their charter, removing the citizens ability to vote on how their water allocations will go, effectively decreasing their democracy. Most of these type discussions happen in executive session, keeping these types of negotiations hidden from public scrutiny. Herein lies a significant advantage, that allows Nestlé an upper hand in negotiating behind closed doors. We shouldn't allow private brokering with our water commons, no matter who is doing the talking.
Rural communities don't have the financial, scientific, nor legal resources to continually keep a corporation as Nestlé 'in check'. Watch-dogging can easily become a full-time job. They have access to the industry experts, legal and otherwise at their disposal.
The jobs that they promise appear to never come to fruition - as many of the jobs they promise go to people who are not local which is less a 'fair exchange' for exporting a community's water source t workers. When asked for a breakdown of these numbers, our requests have gone unanswered. That goes also for the
Bottom line: for the wealth that Nestlé extracts from our communities, a relative pittance is put back.
Good Science Scholarship: They give out $1000 college scholarships to a few students per year in each of the schools where their major extraction sites are located. In 2016, a Fryeburg student refused the scholarship to not allow the largest food and beverage corporation in the world use her as a tool for "bluewashing" and the community turned around and raised over $7,000 for her principled decision.
Good Neighbor Grant Program: No breakdown of these gifts are made available to the public and citizens have been refused access to this information, so it's not verifiable. Nestlé would prefer to create the appearance of being a 'local hero' by offering social welfare at their discretion than to give Maine communities equitable compensation for the legalized theft of their groundwater. There is a calculus to it and they do it to maintain their takings for profit, not responsibility.
Environmental Education Program:
Water Donation Program: How nice of them to donate our water back to us, with the added burden of plastic waste?
The people of Maine need assurance that our best interests are being represented in our state house. The imbalance of power between the state of Maine and a corporation that boasts a market capitalization of $247 billion is not something to take lightly. Maine has water, and Nestle/Poland Spring employees are tasked with securing it – not protecting it. Their responsibility as a corporation is to increase profits for their shareholders, not protection of our local sources.
The bottled water industry is not a sustainable business in the way they are leading us. They are committed to sustainable business profits not in responsibility to our environment. We have incomplete science that informs our community about their water mining and displacement from our local hydrological cycles.
We often find closed-loop reporting and uncomfortable relationships with 'third party' reporters.
They promote that they "strictly adhere to state regulation and oversight"
A consultant to the United Nations (and well known water advocate) who knows the company's business well, stated that "Nestlé is a predator, a water hunter, looking for the last pure water in the world", due to their troublesome global record. We know well that greatness springs from the earth and not from a predatory corporation. In this lifetime, we are tasked with the great responsibility to protect our water commons; our life.