On World Ocean Day 2008 I had the blue sky privilege of spending Sunday in the park with individuals committed to doing right by the planet and the species that share it with us. There was music raw food, social and environmental consciousness, hoops, worms, green business, and Home Depot promoting eco-friendly renovation.. There was even an armadillo.
Adding gravitas to this day of growth and goodwill, San Diego County Surfrider, along with earth steward Russ Levan of Greencinitas, brought the Rise Above Plastics Campaign to Encinitas for the Cottonwood Creek Environmental Film Festival and Encinitas Environment Day.
At noon in the park Surf rider held a press conference to publicize announce Mr. Levan would present at the next scheduled meeting of the Encinitas City Council a citizens petition asking for a citywide ban on plastic shopping bags.
Next to the podium was a graphic of plastic bags floating on an open sea. Appearing as ghostlike jellyfish in the ocean, plastic shopping bags pollute the food chain at all levels causing the suffering and death once ingested. Days later the image still haunts me.
I can't help but fell guilty. For years I have answered the "paper or plastic?" question with plastic. Looking back it's clear the real question is "trees or turtles?" Why I didn't say "neither" was a matter of compliance and convenience. Those days are over.
Hence begins the challenge of rising above.
Signing petitions is one thing, actually doing the hard part of changing behavior and consumption patterns is another. Saying no to plastic shopping bags is just the beginning. The hard part is saying no to plastic.
Plastic comes from petroleum, petroleum comes from oil, and oil pollutes. Plastic production pollutes, plastic recycling pollutes, plastic packaging pollutes, as does all post consumer plastic waste. All plastic pollutes. One could even say plastic is pollution.
Just say no to plastic.
Plastic bags are the just tip of ethical iceberg. Supermarkets and stores are landfills waiting to happen. Store shelves are littered with plastic products and packing, all of which come at an unfathomable biological cost. A price we all pay.
Encinitas is not the first, and certainly not the last, community being asked to confront the monster of consumer waste. Residents who signed the petition, and those that are presenting them to the Encinitas City Council are asking for change and a move beyond business as usual.
Now that the impact of plastic pollution is documented, and understood to be a catastrophe of consumption, using plastic bags is no longer acceptable. Citizens stepping forward to ask elected officials to help lead the way beyond carry out carnage should be recognized and their requests granted. Rising above plastics is pro-life. Rising above plastics is pro-economy. Rising above plastics is pro-environment. Rising above plastics is progress.
It's time to ban plastic shopping bags.