Betsy Bitner – Times Union
Contrary to what my children will tell you, I do not enjoy repeating myself. But there are times when the world refuses to bend to my will and I have no recourse but to share the wisdom of my opinion on a subject a second time.
I’ve written before on the single-use plastic bag ban, arguing that it’s an important step in protecting the environment and that people can make the switch to reusable bags without the world coming to an end. Despite that pithy piece of rhetoric, however, there still seems to be a lot of handwringing on the subject. So listen up, because — like I tell my kids — if I have to say it one more time, there will be consequences.
I’ve been anxiously awaiting the ban to take effect March 1, a feeling that becomes particularly acute as I stand behind someone using enough plastic bags at the grocery checkout to choke a whale. And they probably will. That’s because only one percent of the approximately 100 billion plastic bags used in this country each year get recycled. The rest end up littering our roadsides, or filling up our landfills and oceans, where the aforementioned whales happen to live.
So I was dismayed to learn that there is a push to delay the ban on single-use plastic bags because of concerns that it will take us all by surprise. But cashiers, who will bear the brunt of any public dissatisfaction, have been telling customers who insist on plastic that those bags won’t be available much longer. And people are slowly catching on. I’m a professional procrastinator and even I have made the switch to reusable shopping bags well before the deadline.
There’s also a lot of talk that the public isn’t ready for the change. Searching “plastic bag ban” on the Internet will convince anyone that the only possible outcome is chaos, confusion and the breakdown of civilization as we know it. Which seems like a bit of an overreaction to asking people to remember to carry reusable bags into the store with them. I think we’d be better off if we reserved our energy for something that really will cause chaos and that the public definitely isn’t ready for — like a zombie apocalypse.
It’s easy to spot the parallels between the single-use plastic bag ban and a zombie apocalypse. According to the naysayers, no matter how many opportunities you’ve been given to buy reusable shopping bags, finding a plastic-free checkout on March 1 will result in widespread mayhem. Similarly, no matter how many opportunities you have to stock up on crossbows and grenade launchers, you’re never truly prepared for an onslaught of reanimated corpses. And a zombie apocalypse would be incredibly inconvenient. But even though an invasion by the living dead would be a hassle, the public would find a way to deal with it because, well, zombies.
Before you dismiss the idea that a zombie apocalypse is as likely as a smooth transition to a ban on single-use plastic bags, I direct your attention to the Zombie Research Society. Founded in 2007, the society maintains a website that provides a wealth of tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse and the resulting societal collapse. And if you’re wondering if this is some kind of fake science, you’ll be happy to know that, according to its website, the society’s Advisory Board “consists of scientists, authors, and academics committed to the real-life research of zombies and the living dead.” What a relief.
Still, those of us who support the bag ban and other measures to combat climate change might want to take a page or two from the zombie apocalypse PR team’s playbook. Or at least mark your calendars, because May is Zombie Awareness Month filled with events, activities and conventions designed to help us prepare for the inevitable invasion. Maybe we should have declared a Drowning In Plastic Awareness Month to help us prepare for lifeless oceans. I’m sure the whales would have chipped in to defray the costs.
Much like a zombie apocalypse, the need to change our habits to combat climate change is not a matter of if, but of when. It would be nice if we could convince the zombies to eat our plastic waste instead of brains, but don’t bet our planet’s future on it. We need to take serious action, and the ban on single-use bags is a small step in the right direction. Don’t make me say it again.
Betsy Bitner is a Capital Region writer. firstname.lastname@example.org