Opinion: Our environment deserves our common sense
Free Press Opinion Columnist
When Arizona legislators passed a bill recently, making it illegal for businesses or communities to ban plastic bags, I was struck by the affront to our young people. The law really serves no purpose other than to restrict our freedom and to squash hope for building a better future.
I’m reminded of a spring vacation several years ago when my family’s adventures took us to the east coast of Mexico as far off the beaten path as we could go. There were no resort hotels with hired hands to clean the beaches before the tourists awaken each morning. There were a few, scattered houses, but mostly just miles of desolate beaches.
With dazzling white sand and the surreal blue-green waters typical of the Caribbean, the scene looked like a postcard. The truth, however, was just the opposite. At the line in the sand where the waves stopped, the beach was buried in plastic. It was several inches deep and spanned 100 feet or more onto the shore until it was blocked by mangroves.
The mess wasn’t dangerous for us. The needles from syringes and the blades of disposable razors had rusted away long ago, and containers for oil and antifreeze had been scoured clean by the sea. There was just plastic … mile after mile of plastic.
Despite it all, the ocean still called us to play in its waves and to snorkel among its fish. With plenty of plastic around to use as scoops, we’d cleared a nice spot in the sand for picnicking and sunbathing in no time. Scattered throughout everything were the best seashells we’d ever found and plenty of plastic buckets and bowls to carry them in.
My kids were at a perfect age to find a game in everything, so no one complained. When we noticed an abundance of toy pigs scattered in the mess, we raced to collect the most. With the hundreds of flip-flops before us, I challenged everyone to a competition of assembling the most closely matched pairs, but they thought that was too gross. Everyone had fun, though, creating monster dolls from the thousands of dolls’ heads, torsos, arms and legs.
Snorkeling was a thrill for the kids with all the wondrous creatures to be discovered, but I quickly lost my sense of humor once I put my face in the water. Plastic was everywhere. Most of it had broken down into tiny shreds which floated at every depth, but I saw some of the bags, which turtles mistake for jellyfish. It was clearly impossible for anything to live in that water without consuming substantial quantities of plastic.
I think we’d laughed on the beach because we didn’t know what else to do. How can anyone explain to a child what we have done to the earth? How is it even possible to have destroyed so much? How do we move forward and give our children hope for a better world?
Arizona’s bill to ban restrictions on plastic bags and containers is surely not the answer. (Arizona Senate Bill 1241) North Carolina and Florida’s laws banning discussion of climate change don’t help either. (North Carolina HB-819 and Florida Department of Environmental Protection) Then, there’s Colorado Senator Ray Scott and Representative Dan Thurlow’s bill to increase fossil fuel emissions, which is just as absurd as anything Republicans have offered. (Colorado SB-44)
No one wants to destroy the environment. We have all been horrified to see the effects of BP’s millions of barrels of oil seeping into the ocean, and none of us really believe that everything we buy needs to be packaged in a plastic bag over layers of plastic wrapping and clamshell and styrofoam containers.
We owe it to our children and to our planet to start working for solutions. It’s gone beyond what consumers can change on our own, and the mega corporations that put us in this situation only profit through destruction. It’s imperative that we hold our elected officials to a standard of common sense and demand that they start taking responsibility for the very serious issues effecting us all.
A fourth generation Coloradan, Free Press columnist Robyn Parker is the former host of the progressive community radio show, Grand Valley Live. She is a stay-at-home mom, active community volunteer and board member for local environmental and social justice organizations. Robyn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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