By Briana Brady—Asst. Features Editor
Within the past couple of weeks, Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee decided to sign a bill that would ban the banning of plastic bags by local governments within the state. Yes, you read that right. Not ban plastic bags. Ban the banning of them. So basically, make sure that shopping carts remain full of those feeble, noisy plastic bags for years to come. I’m sorry, but what?! This logic is one I cannot fathom. I always do my best to seek both sides of the issues that arise in political arenas, but this ban does not fit into the category of a political issue, nor does it make any logical sense whatsoever.
Firstly, the environment is something that affects every moment of every individual’s time on Earth, no matter what political party or ideology with which one aligns. It should not be a political decision, because with the exception of the fact that this bill is an example of a state government regulating local government, this is a moral issue. I imagine that those who support this bill see this ban on plastic bags as an infringement on personal liberty, but that seems plainly selfish and a bit lazy to me. If the government feels the need to protect one’s ability to use plastic bags rather than require a reusable, sustainable alternative, then perhaps we need to consider our privilege in this country.
This week, the New York Times reported that—according to the World Wildlife Fund—a pregnant whale was found dead off the coast of Italy with more than 48 pounds of plastic inside its body. A few weeks earlier, another whale was found dead in the Philippines with more than 88 pounds of plastic in its body. Plastic seriously affects the survival of marine life; moreover, it affects the survival of the very people who refuse to try to lessen their usage of it. Moreover, when plastics are placed in sunlight, they also release greenhouse gases, which warms the environment even further. As frustrating as this ban on banning makes me, especially seeing that so many Americans are so self-concerned, blind to their privilege, and unwilling to perhaps be the slightest bit inconvenienced at the cost of the future and the common good, what makes me even more upset is the politicization of environmental issues in general.
The effects of climate change in the future will cost the nation and the world billions of dollars and will further socioeconomic inequality due to uneven development across territories, job discrepancies, and as a result, will yield unequal access to safety and preventative measures. This reality should be a moral issue, not a political one. Can’t we all agree that the decisions we make today should not be so selfish that they negatively determine the lives of our posterity? We may have shaped our societies, but no matter your beliefs, I think we all can certainly agree that we did not create our environment. Those who are unwilling to comply with a reduction in plastic usage could not exist without the environment they are subsequently harming. We are killing that which is needed for our own sustenance. I hope that we can all examine the actions we can take to preserve our environment, a gift we so often take for granted, and encourage the state of Tennessee to do and be better.