The beauty of living in a vast capitalist system such as ours is that there is never any shortage of ways for willing idiots to part with their cash for the privilege of poisoning themselves.
Raw water. Also known as the latest health craze sweeping the globe. Or at least those portions of the globe with more cash than sense. The Gwyneth Paltrow GOOP set, if you will.
Let’s run those words through again, slowly.
Like a lot of bollard-spanked stupid shitmonkey ideas that get flushed down the pipe in this day and age, raw water has the fingertips of Silicon Valley all over it. Specifically, in this case, entrepreneur Doug Evans, who is now investing in and espousing this radical new trend. Evans is also the bloke who gifted to the world a $700 Wi-Fi enabled juicer which attracted $120 million worth of investment before entirely justifiably collapsing in on itself last year in a singularity of spectacularly idiotic proportions that in any just world would have created a black hole that sucked the rest of the Silicon Valley into a parallel dimension of dumb. But we don’t live in that world. We live in this one, and here a $700 Wi-Fi juicer is just a precursor to raw fucking water. I can feel my brain leaking out of my ears in protest as we speak but let’s push on.
So what the hell is raw water? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s water that is unfiltered, unprocessed, and untreated. Completely untouched by humans, in other words, until it shoots down their stupid gullets. See that mountain spring of unknown origin? Dive right in and gulp. What about that picturesque rivulet in the woods? Shit, it looks good—go fucking nuts. Mainline it to your veins.
Here’s the thing. The periodic health crazes that sweep across the (mostly Western) world come from a good place: The desire to—duh—be healthy. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the crazes are very often exploitative in nature, desirous of nothing but a quick buck, and founded on nothing. They gain strength from a malaise inherent in our post-industrialist society wherein the ideal form of a human being is that of a consumer. And it’s easy to mould us thus because we really enjoy consuming, even when the endless tide occasionally brings in monumentally silly things to consume. But we are also alienated, and deep down we really feel this alienation, without always being able to put words to it. We are removed from the sources of things, from the meat we eat to the phones we buy and throw away after a year, and our lizard brain, no matter how dulled and conditioned it may be otherwise, can still tell that something is wrong. So we yearn for authenticity. If we must consume, we at least wish to consume authentically—whatever we may deem that to mean in the moment.
So the desire to buy things that come direct from the source, that have been as much as possible untouched by the machinery of the system, is fundamentally understandable, and even commendable. But desires create a market, and markets attract swindlers. And the health industry is full to the fucking brim of swindlers. Swindlers who like to conflate human intervention in nature with evil. Bill Hicks once called humanity a ‘virus with shoes’. Looking at the world and our effect on it, I find myself often agreeing with him. We poison, we kill, we burn. But it’s not all black and white. We have done good too. By sheer ingenuity and cooperation and strength of will we have, for example, eradicated numerous fatal diseases that once plagued our populations. Millions of lives have been saved this way. And you know what one of our biggest breakthroughs in the fight against virulent pathogens was?
Treating the motherfucking water!
While there are outliers such as Flint, Michigan—which count as the worst kind of criminality and which should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law—by and large public water supplies are as safe as it gets. Yes, there are risks to it, but we are constantly improving the methods of treating it and of making sure that it is safe to drink. Adherents of bottled water don’t realise that they are mostly just paying for repackaged tap water with fancy words on the label that mean nothing.
Essentially: When it comes to water, a robust regulatory framework is crucial to public health.
And the opposite of a robust regulatory framework is drinking shit that’s come straight out of the ground you dumb fucking twats. Typhoid, cholera, E. coli—pretty much anything can be swimming in water. In case the fact passed by without it being remarked upon enough: Water happens to be a liquid that is fairly hospitable to life.
But common sense and reason will not prevail here, and they are going to come out the woodwork, the snake oil salesmen peddling raw water. You will see this with increasing intensity in the coming months. Mr. Doug Evans, mentioned above, is not the only man interested in raw water. Recently the New York Times ran a piece which included a segment on a company called Live Water. Live Water’s belief is that treating water removes all the potential good bacteria that might be frolicking in it. The founder of Live Water is one Mukhande Singh (previously called Christopher Sanborn). As per the NYT:
Pure water can be obtained by using a reverse osmosis filter, the gold standard of home water treatment, but for Mr. Singh, the goal is not pristine water, per se. “You’re going to get 99 percent of the bad stuff out,” he said. “But now you have dead water.”
He said “real water” should expire after a few months. His does. “It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery,” he said. “If it sits around too long, it’ll turn green. People don’t even realize that because all their water’s dead, so they never see it turn green.”
Mr. Singh believes that public water has been poisoned. “Tap water? You’re drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them,” he said. “Chloramine, and on top of that they’re putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it’s a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health.” (There is no scientific evidence that fluoride is a mind-control drug, but plenty to show that it aids dental health.)
A recent Arstechnica article on Live Water goes into the almost comically shoddy ‘science’ that companies like this attempt to back up their claims. It says:
Through third-party testing, Live Water identified bacteria that it claims are probiotics with health benefits. On its website, Live Water attempts to back up this claim by linking to a study that, according to the raw water company, “prov[es] raw spring water has vast healing abilities.” However, the linked study does no such thing. In the authors’ own words, the study “provided only preliminary data” on the presence of certain nonpathogenic bacteria in water from a spring in Italy. The authors merely speculate that these bacteria may produce beneficial “molecular mediators” that “thus far, remain unknown.”
Additionally, the bacteria isolated from the Italian spring water are a different set than those found in Live Water’s water. The two water samples only have one bacterium in common, Pseudomonas putida, which has no established health benefits. P. putida is a species of soil bacteria well known for degrading organic solvents, such as toluene, which is found in coal tar and petroleum. As such, the species is thought of as a potential tool to clean up contaminated soils (aka, bioremediation).
In other words, out of all other possibilities, what raw water definitely does seem to be contaminated with is a mixture of bullshit, gibberish, and a particularly strong strain of hogwash.
The Arstechnica piece goes on:
Live Water also found Pseudomonas oleovorans in its water. This is an environmental bacterium and opportunistic pathogen. Lastly, the company reports unidentified Pseudomonas species and unidentified species in the Acidovorax genus. Without species-level identification, it’s not possible to know what these bacteria may be up to in water. Both genera contain well-known plant-associated bacteria, but Pseudomonas contains well-studied human pathogens, too, such as P. aeruginosa, which is drug resistant and tends to plague patients with cystic fibrosis.
Live Water goes further on its website, adding that “beneficial bacteria are also proven to have abilities to transform harmful bacteria.” This, a reader could infer, suggests that the bacteria present in the raw water may reduce or protect drinkers from bacterial pathogens. But to support that statement, Live Water links to a Wikipedia page about phage therapy, which uses viruses (not bacteria) to combat bacterial infections (phage or bacteriophage are terms for viruses that infect bacteria).
Here’s a completely unrelated fact: Live Water charges $27 for a glass orb containing one litre of their water. For a 2.5 gallon container, it’s $69.
And here, look: The World Health Organisation’s archive on water sanitation and health. Fun fact, according to the WHO: The consumption of contaminated water causes over half a million deaths every year due to diarrhoea alone.
In some ways, I can think of no greater visual metaphor for where we’ve ended up than someone paying $27 for a glass orb of diarrhoea fuel and shitting themselves to death because of it.