Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Giving the paper bag industry a boost

The readiness of politicians to act against the same citizens who they were elected to represent is a striking feature of contemporary government, but one that is not so surprising in a democracy of citizens always ready to act against each other as well. Nor is the facility and artlessness with which politicians pursue their antagonisms surprising — their powers to govern almost every aspect of private property and interests is effectively unbridled, and none of their laws, bans and injunctions come at any cost to themselves. Politicians have come to think nothing much of the exercise any more, and neither has anyone else for that matter.

Nevertheless, a fine patina of modesty is maintained by politicians by observing certain proprieties before issuing commands to gain, if not support, then at least resignation or acclimatization. A few London councillors, for example, are having "casual discussions" about banning plastic grocery bags, following the lead of San Francisco and Leaf Rapids, Manitoba. But it's an odd sort of casual discussion that is abetted by airing it in public, with input from a top city bureaucrat at that. Casualness is the obvious casualty of public record in The Londoner (archived only for one week). Consider it a prelude to more serious discussion instead. Like this:

"There are a bunch of things on our radar because we're developing options for our 60 per cent diversion from landfill program. We are at 40 per cent now, food scraps will be next and that should get us to 55 per cent but we know that there is more," [Division Manager of Environmental Programs Jay] Stanford says.
Mmm, hand-sorting food scraps… now there's an appealing idea, and probably a casual discussion itself at one time. Note that the "things" are "on our radar" to fulfill an arbitrary target set by another government for no purpose except that it cannot quite manage the politically-administered landfill disposal regime it imposes on Ontarians without allowing them any other recourse at the same time to administer their own methods. So we in turn will abide by arbitrary restrictions on what we may consume and what we may do with it.
"I think Londoners may be ready to think about switching to cloth bags for groceries," says Controller Gina Barber, who has been among a group of council members talking about the issue. "London was ahead of the curve on a smoking bylaw and a pesticide bylaw. My guess is we could learn to carry a cloth bag of knapsack. If San Franciscans can do it, why can't we?"
San Franciscans can do it because they are not allowed the option of not doing it. The Londoner article goes on to cite voluntary efforts to reduce plastic bag waste, including increased purchases of cloth bags and initiatives by grocery stores to increase recycling, as examples that we "can do it" in a clumsy, sideways attempt to suggest that we "must do it" will be no great inconvenience. But it begs the question: if we are already doing it, why must we do it? Answer: because politicians can make us do it, and it costs them nothing at all except the quick thoughtless exercise of a few cheap sentiments. And for some reason in London it's always the chicks that are at it:
Councilor Joni Baechler who says she uses cloth bags acknowledges, "Nancy Branscombe, Gina Barber, Judy Bryant and myself have been having an email conversation about this issue. We have received occasional emails concerning this issue."
PS: Quiet, Mayor, you'll just give them more ideas.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

we're developing options for our 60 per cent diversion from landfill program

An excellent idea. Let's divert all our rotten fruit from landfill by throwing it at politicians.