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Good intentions bad balloons

Following My Muse
Robert T. Nanninga
Beach Breakers
July 2, 2008


Allow me please to speak the obvious. Litter on the beach, garbage in the ocean, and colorful bits of latex floating in the food chain do not a healthy environment make. Wanton waste and squandered resources is hardly sensible stewardship. Balloons, as "festive" as they may be, are ecological damaging.

From the jungles of Brazil and the rubber plantations of Malaysia, the, oils, polymers, and coloring agents of the balloon production process and marketing, to the digestive tracks of starving whales and turtles and the strings and ribbons wrapped around the necks of seals and shorebirds, balloons give short term pleasure and long term environmental impact.

Presented with Greenpeace's Rise Above Plastics Campaign, single use plastics, and the threat plastic shopping bags have on marine species who mistake them for food my thoughts went immediately to the non plastic pollution discarded into the environment after one use.

What goes up must come down.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it is time for humans to move beyond balloons. Party balloons regardless of shape size, or color are pollution waiting to happen. The more balloons, the more pollution, the deeper the ecological consequences.

Deep Ecology and the Beach Dharma Theory require citizens to consider all aspects of all consumer goods being purchased. Where they come from is as important as where they go, once the natural resource is converted into a "product." Why, what for, and for how much should also be asked.

The first consideration should revolve around the necessity of balloons in the greater scheme of things. I have spent hours pondering the social, cultural, and economic value of balloons. Unable to find any evolutionary or ecological benefit resulting from the production of latex ans mylar balloons I am comfortable saying balloons have no redeeming value.

Tough love? Not really. Environmental stewardship requires unsentimental pragmatism to see beyond the brief amusement derived from brightly colored bits of floating rubber. Perhaps in the 20th century balloons could be justified with ignorance and novelty. That is no longer the case. We the people know better.

We know that if the balloon doesn't end up in the ocean as part of the food chain, it is destined for a landfill along with all the other castaways of consumer culture.

Instead of balloons parents and love ones, could festoon birthday parties with reusable ribbons and bunting. Sitting with someone when they are ill or injured says more the a "get well soon" balloon ever could. Cheap sentimentality is not so cheap when the ecological impacts are factored in to the used balloon conversation.

I write this in hope of seeing less balloons, and more ecologically mind Southern Californians. Saying no to balloons and other wasteful one use consumer novelties is an easy first step beyond the consumer trap of want and waste. Saying no to balloons will also help keep beaches clean and sea life safe from death by garbage.

By saying no to balloons you say yes to ecological restraint and stewardship.

Thank you.

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