Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seattle's Shame

Well, folks, here's the outcome of Tuesday's election--Seattle's answer to the challenge to commit to making a small change in behalf of the environment.

Regardless of our political affiliation, it behooves us all to ask how we can move this country toward a rational approach to problem solving rather than the status quo; namely,masses of non-thinkers motivated by emotional manipulation by special interests.


Idna said...

I have been a contentious recycler for as long as recycling has been around ... 35+ years. I’ve lived in a lot of places and different townships had different recycling programs. When there was no pick up at my house, I lugged it to the recycling center. Having said that, I’m glad the bag tax failed.

I see this new tax as nothing more that a sneaky way for local government to squeeze a little more out of the population in the name of saving the Earth.

Jane, you used the example of the huge plastic junk yard swirling around in the Pacific. Why don't we try to be "thinkers" about why this problem exists? A significant amount comes from ships throwing junk into the ocean. A greater amount has been washing in from shore all around the world for years and years. And have you ever seen the Garbage Barges of New York? Do West-coast cities and Asia-Pacific countries dispose of their trash this way? Lots of questions that need to be looked into. And of course, recycling and melting down existing plastic would be a good business if it could make money somehow.

Let's not be non-thinkers, motivated by emotional manipulation by government and environmental entities whose programs have often had the opposite of intended results. Let's really examine the problem, see how it came about and try to solve it logically.

As I mentioned in my last post, we use so many plastic bags because of the 'environmentalists' emotional arguments about killing trees for paper bags. I resent having a lot of our policies dictated by uninformed, unwashed, tattooed, body pierced know-nothings, just because it's fashionable at a certain given time.

Have you ever driven on the west side of the Olympic Penninsula, Jane? There are acres and acres of tree farms. They are labeled as to what year they were planted. What a wonderful business! Growing a product that a)is good for our air quality b)employs people c)is a renewable product d) is biodegradable, etc.

Maybe paper bags will be OK to use again.

Idna said...

Whoops! My spell check put in 'contentious' instead of 'conscientious' in the first sentence of my response above. Yes, I have been conscientious, scrupulous and meticulous! But cant' spell conscientious.

Six said...

Well said Idna - on every point! I've spent time over in Europe (Czech Rep) and sadly the fee for the bags didn't appear to me to stop anyone from buying more or less bags (shamefully myself included). I did notice however, the bags they did sell were of much higher quality, a thicker, stronger plastic with reinforced handles. Not sure how this is relevant, but I honestly felt like I was getting something for my 5 crowns!

Citizen Jane said...

Idna, your commitment to recycling is commendable--and Six, so are your good intentions. However, it hardly needs to be said that the vast majority of people in this country are sadly lacking in both--commitment and good intentions.

Although it would hardly have put a dent in the problem to improve Seattle's position with respect to waste of resources and environmental impacts, it would have been a start. If we all wait for everyone else to act responsibly or for a means of solving every problem at once, we'll continue to do what we've always done--mark time while the damage continues unabated.

I don't know about central Europe, but when I was in France and Switzerland in 1992, stores did not supply bags. You could have one if you asked, but not without getting the feeling that you were hopelessly out of touch with the modern world--much as a sensitive smoker might feel now asking to buy a pack of cigarettes. Everyone carried sturdy, reusable cloth bags--or at least reused the same plastic ones many times over.

I stayed with a family of four in Geneva who generated perhaps one cubic foot of trash per week. Like all their neighbors, this family had a compost pile for organic waste. Packaging was minimal and often biodegradable, and just about everything else was reusable. If the world had been as advanced as Western Europe--or at least parts of it--were then, the world would be much better for it.

Sue said...

So where's the "shame" in democracy working? The people of Seattle decided they didn't want to be controlled by the few idealists who wanted to mandate their lifestyle choices for everyone. I'll bet lots of people who voted against the fee are responsible shoppers who reduce their use of bags where and as possible. But free choice is different from government mandate!

Here in Spokane County, where I live, we've endured the loss of phosphates in our dishwasher detergent. So dishes don't come out as clean, we have to re-wash them and use more of the detergent we can get (I use about twice as much as I did the previous kind) and run them with hotter water -- all of which come with their own environmental costs. But here's the kicker: according to a recent article in the local paper, it's not the people who are on sewers (the vast majority of county residents) who were contributing to the phosphate levels in the water, it's the small percentage who are on septic systems. Sewage treatment removes the phosphate. But instead of getting the majority of people hooked up to sewers or developing some sort of treatment for septic tanks that would reduce phosphate output, we are all penalized. But, hey, don't feel bad for us! A government-mandated phosphate ban is coming soon to your area!

The point is, I have yet to see a government-mandated program give absolute benefits. There are always tradeoffs and unless and until individuals are willing to take responsibility for their actions, laws won't make much difference. kSo let's not mandate the behavior we want, let's model and encourage it. We'll get a lot farther that way.

Anonymous said...

It amuses me, having lived in Seattle for 13 years, and having recently migrated to eastern Washington (Tri-cities) to observe this from the outside.
*Indna*, I am one of those "unwashed, tattooed, body pierced" people you refer to, or I used to be, anyway, and unfortunately, I must respectfully disagree with you.
You make great points about how the plastic in the pacific is not necessarily our fault, how we originally got into using plastic bags to save trees, etc. and I agree with most of those points.
However, the bottom line is, we need to be using cloth bags, period. The tax may not be the answer, but I would have voted for it (if I still lived over there). If the sting of the tax reduces the huge pile of bags we use, even by a small percentage, I believe it's worth it (because it equals LESS BAGS IN THE DUMP/OCEAN/Blocking the storm sewer drain, take your pick)
If we are serious about changing community behavior with respect to energy use, a spank is sometimes required.

Out here in the more "conservative" zone of eastern washington, the trashcans in my neighborhood are full of recyclable material, despite Kennewick having a curbside recycling program. Why is that? Because they can. If Kennewick wants to get heavy-handed about making people do it, either through taxation or penalties, I fully support it. Otherwise, there will be no change in behavior, and the landfill will continue to expand at it's present rate.
So, to Sue's point about modeling and encouraging behavior working better than mandates, REALLY??? Are you serious? Group punishment sucks, but hey, I could suggest to you some great green phosphate free dishwashing soap that I use, but then you'd probably complain that it costs more, and why should you have to pay for it because of those other people who are the real problem, you are not the problem, so why should you be responsible?
"Houston, WE have a problem" WE, all of us, we sink together or we swim together, we all need to be using cloth bags, and while the voters have spoken on the tax, everytime you see a disposable plastic bag dispensed, think about where it will end up, and what you would do about it if you were in charge.
I know what I would do.


Tanya said...

Also out here in the Tri-Cities. There are not many people on this planet who value others more than themselves. So everyone compromises on the benefit of others including their future selves. If we regarded our future selves with a sliver of the cherishing we lavish on our selves of the moment, we would all bike to work, turn off the TV, devote time to organically growing our own food and saving most of our $ for our old age. We would eat,drink and vote intelligently.

So everybody buy your Chico bags ( and keep them in your purse or backpack and use them instead of plastic bags. I always forgot my canvas bags in the car, when I went shopping but now I have them in my purse all the time. I collect almost no bags at all now. Remember plastic bags are #2 and recyclable where ever plastic is recycled.