Kissing Paradise Goodbye

One of my favorite aspects of being an avid bike commuter is being able to experience firsthand the subtle changes in the seasons. Needless to say, a temperature variation from a low of 14 degrees F to to a high of 92 degrees F in 2010 was more noticeable on a bicycle than in a motor vehicle. Related to watching the seasons change is observing the annual life cycle of many plants throughout the year.

From their stark, frozen sleep, spring sunshine and warmth breathes new life into the natural world, awakening the plant life from its long slumber. Summer heralds a cornucopia of sights, sounds, and smells that tease the senses, while autumn is full of vibrant colors and leaves drifting aimlessly toward the ground or a fortunate pair of hands.

However, both spring and fall bring a less pleasing aspect to my bike commute. A depressing array of leftover trash scattered upon fields, woods, wetlands, and other natural enclaves. The sight of this leftover crap takes much of the enjoyment out of the ride and beckons several questions:

  • Do we care this little about our community or planet?
  • Do we like looking at this junk along the roadside?
  • Why don’t people or businesses show more pride in their community?
  • Why can’t someone at least throw it in a trash can?
  • Do we really want Earth to resemble its depiction in the movie Wall-E?
  • Are we slowly kissing our planet goodbye out of indifference?

The single most common trash item seen is the deplorable plastic bag. These disgusting synthetic inventions can be seen virtually everywhere in the spring after a snow melt or in the fall as plant growth starts to fade back for the winter. Despite the recent increased use of re-usable shopping bags, plastic is all too often the default choice of stores and patrons, making up 80 percent of the bags used. At least paper bags are compostable, unlike plastic bags that take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Paper bags also do not suffocate animals like plastic bags. Estimates are that nearly 100,000 animals a year die from plastic bags.

I will be the first to admit that I use plastic bags too, especially at the self-checkout line when I have forgotten my reusable bag(s).  But, at least they are reused to line household trash cans or carry lunch. I also do not let plastic bags scatter hither and yon across the wild blue yonder from shopping center parking lots. At a minimum, I make sure they at least make it into a trash can.

So, how do we address this problem of defiled landscapes? I doubt many places will adopt outright bans, though that would be my personal choice for a solution. What about charging a fee per plastic bag to cover the cost of cleaning up the stupid things? It worked in Ireland where their use has been cut by 90 percent. I can hear the Tea Party having apoplexy over that idea already. Recycling programs? Already being done at numerous small and large stores, but it does not seem to make a significant dent in the accumulation of plasticized litter along roadways and bike paths. Data indicates only five percent of all plastic bags are recycled.

Instead, how about an all-out education campaign in elementary and secondary schools? Recycling would not be nearly as popular today if it had not been for the efforts of students and their teachers to educate parents on the benefits of recycling. The other option is guilt. The famous 1970’s pollution commercial with the image of a crying Native American sure got people’s attention.

Perhaps an advertising campaign showing images of dead animals from plastic bags could have the same effect, though many people could and would be turned off by such images.

I am sure there are great ideas floating around out there. If you have one or have heard of one, please leave a comment listing the idea. Who knows, we might come up with a solution that can cut our plastic bag ties forever. All it takes is one good idea.

In “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchell noted how we wouldn’t know what we had until it was gone. Similarly, in the last few lines of the song “The Last Resort” by the Eagles seems to be appropriate for our disrespectful attitude towards our planet:

“They call it paradise

I don’t know why

You call someplace paradise,

kiss it goodbye.”

With the holiday season upon us, what better time is there than now to start lessening our use and dependence on plastic bags, as a gift back to the Earth.

This entry was posted in Alternative transportation, pollution and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Kissing Paradise Goodbye

  1. Uncle Dave says:

    We are too quick to use up the gifts from Mother Earth; and then, too slow to mend the damage that we
    often cause. Remember we only have one Earth to enjoy; let’s be as gentle with Her as possible !


  2. Pingback: Six trillion reasons to turn the tide « Progressive Blogic

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