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It turns out that Californians have successfully made their lives less comfortable by banning plastic bags. As you surely know this is yet another feel good policy that will accomplish almost nothing in the way of real environmental benefits.  Now, I have no problem with people making poor choices especially with their own funds, and when we are fabulously wealthy we can do lots and lots of symbolic stuff that makes us feel good. But the problem with the bag banning is the meta-question, and it is a serious one. How can you expend so much political and emotional energy on trying to get “bag policy” right while your state suffers from unprecedented droughts and is also said to be in a precarious budget position?

Seriously, California is doing nothing serious to address its drought problem, and even making a cursory attempt to deal with that would do more good for the environment and for people than ANY possible method of getting optimal plastic bag policy. Figure out a way to make end users feel the real costs of their water consumption. Figure out a way to make people who are dipping into depleting aquifers to feel the external costs they are imposing on others. Even a rudimentary system that priced marginal water use at real scarcity rates would go a huge way to dealing with the problem. But when you are so obsessed with the symbolic feel good politics of plastic bags and other things that fit onto a nice bumper sticker or email tag line, you end up rearranging deck chairs, nicely perhaps, on the real Titanic.

So, I don’t give a crap about the ban. Fine. Have a nice time people. But I don’t want to see a single complaint, ever, about your water problem – which is entirely self-inflicted and simply solved. The drought has almost nothing to do with a lack of water, no different than the famines of the past had very little to do with lack of food.

Have a nice day.

3 Responses to “We’re All Pretty Damn Stupid”

  1. alex says:

    Looking for data on impacts on marine life (ideally compared to other things). Know of any?

    • wintercow20 says:

      You wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is not much data out there.

      I read the book “Garbology” by Edward Humes and there are a few references in the back that might be helpful.

      Then there’s this piece I ran across in my feed reader not too long ago: http://grist.org/news/look-whos-eating-your-plastic-now-a-whole-unprecedented-ecosystem/

      Here’s a quote from Greenpeace that made the rounds a few years ago:

      “David Santillo, a marine biologist at Greenpeace, told the Times that bad science was undermining the government’s case for banning the bags. “It’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags,” he said. “The evidence shows just the opposite. We are not going to solve the problem of waste by focusing on plastic bags.

      “It doesn’t do the government’s case any favours if you’ve got statements being made that aren’t supported by the scientific literature that’s out there. With larger mammals it’s fishing gear that’s the big problem. On a global basis plastic bags aren’t an issue. It would be great if statements like these weren’t made.”

      But as I’ve looked into the literature, there is little in there that really addresses the impact that bags may have on marine life.

  2. Harry says:

    How about the ban on 100-watt and 75-watt incandescent light bulbs? I know that California did not originate that great idea — that one started in Europe, and in the spirit of international cooperation, the US Congress did it, and, like CAFE standards and ObamaCare, deferred the more odious regulations to be phased in slowly, using the boiling a frog strategy.

    Never mind that the scientific justification for doing this was a thin thread to begin with. The important thing was to assert the power of the Progressive experts, using their tools on the big problems, like saving the planet.

    So now one cannot buy a cheap 100-watt bulb to read by. For me, this will become a problem when my stash in the garage runs out. For the Californians, they now have to put their coily bulbs they buy at the Safeway into reusable bags of woven polyester. When we run out of oil, the bags will be woven bamboo.

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