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October 13th 2018 print

Christopher Akehurst

The Bag Snatchers

The prohibition enthusiasts of our age dislike just about everything invented after the Industrial Revolution -- though not Twitter and mobile phones, without which they could not run their campaigns to inflict cost and inconvenience on those less ostentatiously virtuous than themselves

green bag IIThere’s a line in the film The Graduate when Ben, the son of the house just home from college, is being paraded in front of his parents’ friends and one of them, Mr McGuire, gives him some advice on a career. “I just want to say one word, Ben. Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”

That was in 1967. He wouldn’t be saying that today. Not unless he meant that there was a great future in banning plastics and was advising Ben to be an environmental activist.

Banning things is certainly a booming industry. Of course there have always been misfits whose sole pleasure in life was stopping other people doing things, always allegedly for the greater good. In the more sedate society of yesteryear their principal objections were to gambling, pornography, and alcohol. But governments couldn’t get by without gambling nowadays, and since our cultural liberation in the Whitlam years pornography has become art. As to alcohol, its mass consumption by the descendants of old-fashioned Aussies who drank tea with their meal is considered a sign of urbane sophistication – though it still has its opponents in the health industry, who would ban it outright if they could but instead adopt the cunning strategy of telling you that if you drink anything more than you can pour into an eyebath it will wreck your health. This is just as effective as a ban, since if that’s all you’re allowed it’s hardly worth drinking at all. The other great ban of our time is on smoking, once considered OK and now a vice almost beyond naming. Careers have been made and millions of dollars spent in campaigns against it, though this has been ineffectual in persuading a younger generation not to light up. For the older, antidepressants now substitute for tobacco’s capacity to calm the nerves.

Like the late Evelyn Waugh (see Quadrant, October 2018) the prohibition enthusiasts of our age dislike just about everything invented in or after the Industrial Revolution (though not of course Twitter and mobile phones, without which they could not run their campaigns). This is because the manufacturing processes that give us these things are, supposedly, harming Gaia in some terrible way and contributing to “global warming”. Even the electric light that ended man’s terror of the darkness is frowned on because of the ‘light pollution’ that stops amateur stargazers getting their fix of the heavens. Green zealots use cars and planes but hypocritically inveigh against them. Now they’re against plastic, because, they say, it’s not ‘naturally’ disposable. Plastic supermarket bags, one suspects, have been singled out as a kind of symbol of plastic waste, as the most accessible form of plastic to ban. If the prohibitionists were consistent and tried to ban everything with plastic components such as toothpaste tubes, shampoo bottles, clothing, car parts, credit cards and so on, they would seriously inconvenience themselves since they too use these things.

The total bans on supermarket plastic bags that have now, after much shilly-shallying, come into force in most of Australia are justified, according to these activists, by the need to stop the bags ending up as part of a 150 million-tonne floating island nearly the size of Queensland, made up of plastic and other waste tangled up with abandoned fishing nets, and supposedly wallowing out there in the Pacific. As with the Flying Dutchman, few claim to have seen it, but the zealots from environmental pressure groups such as ‘The Ocean Cleanup’ insist that it’s been measured and photographed. Indeed, they say there are two of these floating tips cluttering up the Pacific and another four in other oceans, all ‘toxic’ for what Jane Bremmer, ‘chair’ of something called ‘Alliance for a Clean Environment, Australia’ tweely calls ‘our oceans and the marine creatures we love.’

Is this true? We only have it on the word of Jane and her friends, and frankly you wonder if they are to be trusted. They have a larger agenda in mind. It’s not surprising to discover from their myriad websites that the anti-baggers are also anti-fossil fuel, and lo and behold, coal is needed in the manufacture of plastic. This suggests that coal is their real target and that far being just ordinary public-spirited citizens who like clean beaches, they are another manifestation of the hydra-headed monster I shall call Greenpolice, the Left’s environmental Gestapo, which is at work throughout the world to ban coal in its crusade to cripple the capitalist system. To them, bag bans are merely a means to an end. So the cheap unbreakable plastic that was considered a benefit when first manufactured as an alternative to breakable glass or china is presented as an environmental curse, because Dow Chemicals and the other multinationals who make it are the sort of enterprise the Left wants to bring down.

As to ‘the marine creatures we love’ (does that include sharks, Jane?) no one wants to think of them choking on plastic, but who says it’s our plastic? I know no one who throws away plastic bags or any other rubbish into rivers or oceans. Many people actually re-use the bags to wrap rubbish. Why can’t we be trusted to dispose of them responsibly without Greenpolice talking up scare stories as an excuse to regulate our lives? Let them take their activism to Asia or somewhere, or to the Pacific island nations closer to the alleged floating rubbish dumps, where as anyone who has been to one of them knows, rubbish disposal is into the street or onto the beach –and which, rather than ourselves, are the most probable source of the rubbish islands.

Instead these busybodies stay here worming their way into government at every level, from Canberra to the local council, using their power to ban things that should never have been banned. Remember the backyard incinerator? One would have thought incineration an efficient and cost-free means of disposing of garden or paper rubbish (while giving harmless enjoyment to pyromaniacs, who otherwise might have been burning down the neighbour’s shed). But no, because it produced clouds of smoke, and smoke is environmental pollution (unless it’s from a greenie’s spliff or an ‘indigenous’ welcome ceremony) the domestic incinerator was banned, with the result that getting rid of rubbish became a time-consuming chore for the householder, with a classification procedure according to bin colour of Dewey-like complexity.

The absurdity is that, ban or no ban and the environment notwithstanding, you can still get the bags if you pay, in Victoria anyway.  Supermarkets are two-faced in this, issuing unctuous announcements about their concern for the planet while selling bags to customers at 15 cents (and to hell with the planet, one assumes). When asked if I want a bag, I apply my own quiet activism. ‘No,’ I say, ‘I am buying only essentials and only as much as I can carry in my hands. When bags were free I would have bought three times as much on impulse.’ If all customers reduced their purchases by two-thirds the supermarkets might stand up and use their economic clout to fight the plastic prohibitionists.

Christopher Akehurst lives in Melbourne contributes regularly to Quadrant.

 

There’s a line in the film The Graduate when Ben, the son of the house just home from college, is being paraded in front of his parents’ friends and one of them, Mr McGuire, gives him some advice on a career. “I just want to say one word, Ben. Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”

 

That was in 1967. He wouldn’t be saying that today. Not unless he meant that there was a great future in banning plastics and was advising Ben to be an environmental activist.

 

Banning things is certainly a booming industry. Of course there’ve always been misfits whose sole pleasure in life was stopping other people doing things, always allegedly for the greater good. In the more sedate society of yesteryear their principal objections were to gambling, pornography, and alcohol. But governments couldn’t get by without gambling nowadays, and since our cultural liberation in the Whitlam years pornography has become art. As to alcohol, its mass consumption by the descendants of old-fashioned Aussies who drank tea with their meal is considered a sign of urbane sophistication – though it still has its opponents in the health industry, who would ban it outright if they could but instead adopt the cunning strategy of telling you that if you drink anything more than you can pour into an eyebath it will wreck your health. This is just as effective as a ban, since if that’s all you’re allowed it’s hardly worth drinking at all. The other great ban of our time is on smoking, once considered OK and now a vice almost beyond naming. Careers have been made and millions of dollars spent in campaigns against it, though this has been ineffectual in persuading a younger generation not to light up. For the older, antidepressants now substitute for tobacco’s capacity to calm the nerves.

 

Like the late Evelyn Waugh (see Quadrant, October 2018) the prohibition enthusiasts of our age dislike just about everything invented in or after the Industrial Revolution (though not of course Twitter and mobile phones, without which they could not run their campaigns). This is because the manufacturing processes that give us these things are, supposedly, harming Gaia in some terrible way and contributing to “global warming”. Even the electric light that ended man’s terror of the darkness is frowned on because of the ‘light pollution’ that stops amateur stargazers from getting their fix of the heavens. Green zealots use cars and planes but hypocritically inveigh against them. Now they’re against plastic, because, they say, it’s not ‘naturally’ disposable. Plastic supermarket bags, one suspects, have been singled out as a kind of symbol of plastic waste, as the most accessible form of plastic to ban. If the prohibitionists were consistent and tried to ban everything with plastic components such as toothpaste tubes, shampoo bottles, clothing, car parts, credit cards and so on, they would seriously inconvenience themselves since they too use these things.

 

The total bans on supermarket plastic bags that have now, after much silly-shallying, come into force in most of Australia are justified, according to these activists, by the need to stop the bags ending up as part of a 150 million-tonne floating island nearly the size of Queensland, made up of plastic and other waste tangled up with abandoned fishing nets, and supposedly wallowing out there in the Pacific. As with the Flying Dutchman, few claim to have seen it, but the zealots from environmental pressure groups such as ‘The Ocean Cleanup’ insist that it’s been measured and photographed. Indeed, they say there are two of these floating tips cluttering up the Pacific and another four in other oceans, all ‘toxic’ for what Jane Bremmer, ‘chair’ of something called ‘Alliance for a Clean Environment, Australia’ tweely callsour oceans and the marine creatures we love.’

 

Is this true? We only have it on the word of Jane and her friends, and frankly you wonder if they are to be trusted. They have a larger agenda in mind. It’s not surprising to discover from their myriad websites that the anti-baggers are also anti-fossil fuel, and lo and behold, coal is needed in the manufacture of plastic. This suggests that coal is their real target and that far being just ordinary public-spirited citizens who like clean beaches, they are another manifestation of the hydra-headed monster I shall call Greenpolice, the Left’s environmental Gestapo, which is at work throughout the world to ban coal in its crusade to cripple the capitalist system. To them, bag bans are merely a means to an end. So the cheap unbreakable plastic that was considered a benefit when first manufactured as an alternative to breakable glass or china is presented as an environmental curse, because Dow Chemicals and the other multinationals who make it are the sort of enterprise the Left wants to bring down.

 

As to ‘the marine creatures we love’ (does that include sharks, Jane?) no one wants to think of them choking on plastic, but who says it’s our plastic? I know no one who throws away plastic bags or any other rubbish into rivers or oceans. Many people actually re-use the bags to wrap rubbish. Why can’t we be trusted to dispose of them responsibly without Greenpolice talking up scare stories as an excuse to regulate our lives? Let them take their activism to Asia or somewhere, or to the Pacific island nations closer to the alleged floating rubbish dumps, where as anyone who has been to one of them knows, rubbish disposal is into the street or onto the beach –and which, rather than ourselves, are the most probable source of the rubbish islands.

 

Instead these busybodies stay here worming their way into government at every level, from Canberra to the local council, using their power to ban things that should never have been banned. Remember the backyard incinerator? One would have thought incineration an efficient and cost-free means of disposing of garden or paper rubbish (while giving harmless enjoyment to pyromaniacs, who otherwise might have been burning down the neighbour’s shed). But no, because it produced clouds of smoke, and smoke is environmental pollution (unless it’s from a greenie’s spliff or an ‘indigenous’ welcome ceremony) the domestic incinerator was banned, with the result that getting rid of rubbish became a time-consuming chore for the householder, with a classification procedure according to bin colour of Dewey-like complexity.

 

The absurdity is that, ban or no ban and the environment notwithstanding, you can still get the bags if you pay, in Victoria anyway.  Supermarkets are two-faced in this, issuing unctuous announcements about their concern for the planet while selling bags to customers at 15 cents (and to hell with the planet, one assumes). When asked if I want a bag, I apply my own quiet activism. ‘No,’ I say, ‘I am buying only essentials and only as much as I can carry in my hands. When bags were free I would have bought three times as much on impulse.’ If all customers reduced their purchases by two thirds the supermarkets might stand up and use their economic clout to fight the plastic prohibitionists.

 

1186 words

10 October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments [14]

  1. en passant says:

    Christopher,
    Your article of 1,186 words is doubly valuable …

    In June 2004, National Geographic published a photo of the plastics used bu a dingle household. Have a look at the photo contained in Page 6 (or Page 44 of the complete series of articles) of Viv Forbes excellent website: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/oil-spills-6.pdf

  2. Salome says:

    The old so-called ‘single use’ bags (which actually got used twice at least, their ultimate use being as a kitchen bin liner) were made from 15 micron plastic. The new ones are from 50 micron plastic and only have one use–carrying things around by the handles. They won’t fit in a kitchen bin, and I wonder how many people of the kind who forget to take more durable bags to the supermarket will remember to take them back, or whether their ultimate ‘use’ will be simple landfill disposal. In other matters, we’re not Switzerland yet–where 20 years ago I understand they already had 7 bins in which to sort their waste. That’s one mercy to be thankful for.

    • LBLoveday says:

      On my last visit “home”, I accumulated 25-30 of the heavy duty 15c bags which will likely end up as landfill. I do not “forget to take more durable bags to the supermarket” (petrol station more usually), rather I choose not to. When I left SA 5 years ago, the old bags were still available at checkouts and I was happy to pay 10c from memory per new, clean bag.

    • Lewis P Buckingham says:

      Not only that but the supermarket will not sell the ‘old single use’ bags.
      One can buy rolls of bags with handles on them, but they are so thin they tear when you pack the groceries.
      The ‘old’ bags almost always were reused.
      One excellent use was picking up dog droppings, a noble cause.
      Binning these definitely reduced a dog’s carbon footprint.
      The old bags were very clean, unlike reused shopping bags.
      Does anyone know of an ‘old’ bag equivalent?
      On line will do. It might help break the duopoly.

      • ianl says:

        I left that information here a few months ago.

        It’s extraordinarily cheap and easy. Just search for “plastic singlet bags” (the term “singlet” refers to the handles, like an old Chesty Bond cartoon).

        An example from many choices: https://www.ozepac.com.au/retail-packaging/checkout-bags.html

        These bags cost less than 2c each, just choose size and thickness to suit you, and cartons sell with 1600 bags. That equates to over 6x the value of bags offered for sale by the virtue-signalling supermarkets.

        I just leave a flatpack in the car boot and pack the groceries from out of the trolley in the car park. Then, like most people, I re-use them as bin liners (and most recently, clearing my backyard of roo-poo left by a visiting big grey).

        No fuss, no bother, infinitesimal cost and a middle finger for the greenie nanny state.

      • Lewis P Buckingham says:

        Thanks, usefull.

  3. Salome says:

    Back before this greenie stuff became very official, I waited and waited at the greengrocer behind a woman who wouldn’t use any plastic bags at all, with the result that all her fruit and veg had to be fetched out of the trolley, organised, weighed and then transferred loose to the large cardboard box she was going to carry it home in. Somehow, I don’t think she was intending to walk any further to the carpark with it.

  4. padraic says:

    I can remember when there was a big fuss some years back and an attempted ban over paper bags. Apparently the world was on the cusp of being denuded of trees and the tree huggers were out in force. Today, it appears paper bags are back in so as to save the planet from plastic. The latest banning stunt is the weedkiller glyphosate. The ABC are really hammering this one. The data package supporting the registration of glyphosate shows clearly that it is not carcinogenic, but the ABC tries to denigrate the scientists in the regulatory authority by quoting “activists” who claim it is carcinogenic. Those bird brain activists do not have access to the data concerned. This move against glyphosate also occurred about 8 to 10 years ago at the same time as authorities were spraying marihuana crops in northern NSW with glyphosate with great effect. That’s probably the cause of opposition to glyphosate today or possibly that spraying did not deter the activists from smoking the sprayed weed and when some got cancer from inhaling the carcinogenic particles in the smoke from their joints (just like cigarettes) they blamed glyphosate contamination. Drug abusers will never admit that their brain damage and other mental health issues are caused by the drug – its always something else. I noticed in the paper recently that a wealthy pot smoker has given up red meat and has become a vegan. Sorry pal, but it’s too late for that – it won’t help.

  5. Jody says:

    Do you ever get the tiniest impression there are just too many people on the planet? Telling us all to avoid meat because of methane is a red herring; what we need is LESS CONSUMERS overall. If we’re serious about the planet and the environment. If not, this is all fluff.

  6. Keith Kennelly says:

    So Jody

    Do you wish to rid the world of its excess people or merely stop peoples Le from reproducing?

    Is this your final solution to overpopulation?