Today's conversation at NiT about disposable shopping bags is hitting home with me in a big way.
Right there, in that whole conversation, is hidden the two Achilles Heels of modern environmentalism. (Yes, I know Achilles was only wounded in the one heel, but whatever.)
The conversation is about yet another municipality wanting to ban yet another thing in order to protect us from our miserable adulthood and the responsibilites and privileges thereof. In this case it's San Francisco (surprise!) wanting to ban plastic shopping bags.
As I said over there I remember clearly about 20 years ago when plastic bags became all the rage. They were to save the rainforests, as all of the cute little monkeys and toucans and life-saving wetland bacteria were being destroyed by the felling of trees for Kroger sacks. We could all do our part for the poor tall trees by getting plastic bags. Now caring for the wetlands is old and busted, while worrying over the state of the world's oil fields is the new hotness. So we're back to hating on plastic. So there's Achilles Heel #1. Environmentalism is not seeming very consistant, and at least to me looks like it gives into the latest trends.
Achilles heel #2 is the elitist expense of it all. Nearly everyone agrees that the most environmentally friendly way to carry your groceries home is in a cloth bag of some sort. When I was in school in London I loved the string bags. I try to be as environmentally-conscious as possible without getting an ulcer over the whole thing, so a few years back I went looking for those bags. The good news is that you can order them over the internet. The bad news is that the cheapest seem to hover right around the thirty-dollar mark. I don't know about you, but for me, thirty bucks is hovering in on 'six days' worth of groceries' territory. The plastic doohickies at Food Lion are a whopping 'free'. They'll set you back nothin'. Basically if you've got some extra cash to throw at the dogoodism gods, you're in good shape. You can get you some of those nifty earth-saving bags. But the rest of us down here on the ground are forced to roll a different way.
And yeah, part of me resents that part of the environmental movement in the same way that I resented the kids who wore Jordache in sixth grade. It's as though they think that flashing their money somehow makes them better, more saintly, cooler. It's enough to make me want to ban environmentalism.