June 9th, 2012
’ve recently made the switch on my alarm clock: from the classic beep-beep-beep to the radio function. My hope was that I could start my day by listening to some wonderful folks at CBC Radio rather than waking up annoyed by a loudly beeping machine. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn’t been successful in getting me out of bed. But on Friday June 8th this was not the case. I woke up to The Current, a CBC Radio show that features hot topics with guests to represent both sides of the issue. The issue of the day? Toronto’s Plastic Bag Ban. I immediately came to full consciousness as I listened to Matt Welch protest Toronto’s Plastic Bag Ban.
I’ve been on the anti-plastic-bag train for a while now. An alumnus from my undergrad program is Plastic Manners, a lady who swore off plastics for life. I’ve seen photos of dead albatrosses, their stomachs filled with plastic. I was fortunate enough to meet Captain Moore and hear him speak about his discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Since being exposed to the anti-plastic movement, I’ve made significant efforts to minimize my consumption of single-use-plastic. Furthermore, I’ve come to believe that governments should exercise their power to ban plastic bags.
So on The Current, Matt Welch was arguing that it was not the government’s job to eliminate citizens’ right to choose between plastic and non-plastic bags. I have to strongly disagree. Government intervention is absolutely necessary in order to move towards sustainability. Welch’s view that governments should provide information then leave the decision-making to individual citizens, is a cop-out. It’s making it too easy for governments to play it safe. As my favorite Poli Sci Prof has taught me, information sharing/public education is the safest bet for governments: it does not disrupt the economy as much as a tax or a subsidy would, yet it gives the citizens the perception that the government is trying to change the status quo. But these voluntary-information-campaigns are not very effective in incentivizing environmentally sustainable behaviors. When it comes to climate action, governments should not be able to play the cop-out-card anymore. Giving Average Joe all the information about plastic pollution is not going to get him to refuse plastic bags when caught in the moment between short-term-convenience and long-term-sustainability. I know this because I’ve been in this situation and I’ve bagged my groceries in plastic, lined with guilt.
As a Torontonian, all I can say is…. Hey Vancouver, you find yourself behind Toronto again: 13 Stanley Cups and a bag-ban!
Kyuwon Kim (@kimkyuwon) is a BSc Natural Resources Conservation student. In 2011/12, she was the Assistant Director of Common Energy UBC (@CommonEnergyUBC), the largest and most active student sustainability group on UBC campus. She advocates for meaningful government climate action with UBCC350 (@UBCC350).