The California plastic ban that will be before voters in California next general election has been on my mind. Since I live in the only city that has repealed the ban after two years, I thought I would investigate the city council’s doings to earn such an honored historic distinction.
As usual, the war between environmentalists and big business wages. Environmentalists claim the plastic bags pollute and harm marine life. Big plastic says not so, and people will lose jobs if the ban is instituted.
No surprises in the world of politics. Both sides accuse one another of cheating, irresponsibility, and undue influence by monied folk, special interests. And so it goes.
In the end, it matters little the motivations–money or environment–behind the law so long as the law does what it is purported to do and people support it. The larger matter lies in individual responsibility to others, and not just with plastic.
When do we cross the line between a seemingly innocuous lack of consciousness of those around us–say, like my forgetting recycling bags–and conscious disregard of others? The “rugged individualism” (pride of this country’s founding generation and their progeny), pitted against the social contract based on a benevolence toward others with whom we live in society–an agreement to let live–always calls up that question. And not only for people.
Philosopher Peter Singer, in an interview with the New York Times opinionator blogger, George Yancy, earlier this year defined human disregard of animals’ as “speciesism,” when humans give “less weight to the interests of nonhuman animals than they give to the similar interests of human beings.”
Interests like survival in clean oceans, I imagine.
Whether we consider ourselves the shepherds of other species, a posture of assumed superiority, or we consider ourselves on par with other species and posit survival as the burden of each species, there is still a path that is neither too philosophical nor too patriotic.
When we teach ourselves good habits, the correlative benefits to all society reverberate small and large. And we are such trainable creatures, we humans, if we have the will, both personal and political.