Today’s the day when Seattle voters will decide whether to put their money--a little loose change, actually--where their mouth is.
You may have heard about the horrific, Alaska-sized mass of plastics and other human-made debris now circulating in the Pacific Ocean. Deadly to aquatic birds, turtles, marine mammals, and fish, this obscene mess is largely the shameful result of millions of bad decisions on the part of consumers, who use billions of plastic bags each year and can be careless about throwing them away.
Estimates vary regarding the actual number of plastic bags used each year, in the U.S. and elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the number is very, very, very large--large enough to be making bag manufacturers a lot of money, and of course therein lies the problem. When the interests of people making money cross with the interests of dolphins, the dolphins will lose every time.
Some optimistic and environmentally responsible people came up with a modest proposal: charging a 20-cent fee at stores for the privilege of using plastic bags. People who bring back their plastic (or, better, cloth) bags for reuse would of course avoid the modest charge--perhaps $1 for a week’s worth of groceries per person.
Here’s the point: nobody would have to “buy” bags! There would merely be a positive incentive to remember to bring reusable bags along on shopping trips.
To date, according to NPR, about $1.5 million has been spent in an effort to defeat this measure. Even those who don't profit from the consumption of billions of bags every year seem to be iffy about actually making a modest commitment to the health of the planet--a commitment Europeans made almost two decades ago, to their credit.
Seattle is allegedly one of the most environmentally aware communities in the country; if those who care can't turn out in numbers great enough to pass this measure, then there may be little hope for preserving what's left of the natural environment.