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The shame of Harrods' Arctic ice water


Flickr user Lorenzo G under a Creative Commons Licence under a Creative Commons Licence

Depression is so debilitating. I wish I could turn it into creativity, like the artists whose melancholy we seem to romanticize. Sylvia Plath wrote so many heart-rending poems. Rachmaninov composed music of such beauty. The best thing I’ve done when depression hit was to draw a sad face in some ice cream and then have a lie down for 48 hours. At peak performance I might even write a tweet. As a body of work, it somehow doesn’t feel quite as profound. And I suspect, unlike Plath and Rachmaninov, it won’t last through the ages. The ice cream keeps melting, for a start. Also, I keep eating it.

It is hard to work out whether you’re medically depressed when the world is actually awful. I mean, with the state of things in 2017, it would be weirder NOT to be permanently sad, right? For example, in February hyper-luxury tat purveyors Harrods started stocking bottles of water – for £80 ($100). Eighty pounds. Eighty. EIGHTY! Why aren’t you screaming yet? Eighty poxy pounds. Eighty!! (Wow, this is a great way to meet my word count. Journalism is so easy!)

Why, you might wonder, does it command such a high price? Is the water haunted? Did the Queen shower in it? Does the water have a degree in applied mathematics? The actual answer is arguably even stupider: this water is bottled from Arctic ice. You know: the ice that is depleting thanks to climate change – caused, ironically, by extravagant consumerism.

The brand describes itself as ‘Limited Edition Bottled Water’. Limited Edition! That is some way to dress up the fact that they are stealing depleted Arctic ice. ‘What makes it a limited edition?’ ‘Well, soon the planet will be so hot there’ll be no ice left!’

‘And hey: if you like that, why not try our new limited-edition courgettes!* Get them while you can! No, really, get them while you can – we’re 10 years away from the food wars.’

To add extra salt to the wound, their website offers this tasting guide: ‘With an exceptionally light mouthfeel, [the brand] has a unique terroir – perfect for pairing with fine foods.’ Any fine food in particular? Nope – any food, as long as it’s fine. And do you know why this food pairs well with literally any food? BECAUSE IT’S WATER.

In a world where WaterAid says that 663 million people live without safe water, there are people who will pay £80 for one bottle of melted ice. Shame on every single person who buys this truly needless ‘luxury’. I hope every sip burns onto your retinas a permanent image of the villages your selfishness could have helped.

In a tiny act of defiance, we did a fundraiser at Lolitics (my London comedy club – you should come some time!) where we raised exactly £80 – and we gave it all to WaterAid. I can’t tell you what a boost it gave me to remember that actually, on the whole, people aren’t dreadful. For every person that makes you hate humanity, there are a dozen more with kindness in their hearts; they just rarely make it into a news cycle hell-bent on making us miserable. When things get tough, it can be easy to forget that actually, on the whole, people are pretty awesome.

* Zucchini for our North American readers.

Chris Coltrane is a comedian and activist. Follow him on Twitter: @chris_coltrane. Download his Lolitics Podcast at chriscoltrane.com for regular brilliant political stand-up comedy, for free.

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