Recently I was in a large chain store, purchasing my usual array of personal items, along with a Snickers bar and some Scotch tape. As the cashier rang up my items, I watched as she loaded everything into a white plastic bag, and thought to myself "hmm, I thought these things were banned?"
As it turns out, many cities and municipalities are foregoing their own plastic bag bans, in favor of giving in to public response. For a small minority, bringing in their own paper or canvas bags is a more worthwhile solution than dealing with the apparent negative effects of using plastic shopping bags. But for most people, ecology is a time-consuming and expensive proposition. It's seen as a hassle.
Who can remember the big push to recycle? Everyone was on board with saving aluminum cans, paper and card board, and plastic milk jugs. On trash day you could look down your street and see huge boxes and bags full of recycling waste, ready to be cleaned, processed and reused. It made people feel good about saving the planet (cue white clouds across a blue sky, as a falcon glides by). We were obsessed with anything that could keep our waterways clean, our air smelling fresh, and our streets trash-free.
But, like with any other ideology, technology (and the greed that follows behind it) made ecology a business. All of the sudden there were costs and profits involved. Companies were leveraging the large amounts of recycling waste material, and recognizing that someone somewhere would pay good money for this stuff. Recycling was no longer about saving mother Earth -- it was about how much money a company could made processing other people's garbage. Even smog became a commodity, with the term "carbon footprint" becoming a profit buzzword. Who would have thought that pollution would become a multi-million dollar industry, with corporations paying huge sums of money to "offset their carbon footprint"?
Ecology was and is supposed to be about improving our world, reducing the amount of trash we as humans generate and the amount of pollution we put into the air. As more and more of the world yields to (or joins) capitalism, it becomes apparent that anything and everything that can be turned into money will eventually fall prey (cue same falcon, being captured and sold to a zoo).
Is nothing sacred?
So as I walked back to my pollution-generating car, with my banned white plastic bags full of stuff that will inevitably become trash, I started to wonder if ecology as a movement will ever have a real chance. Until society grasps onto the notion that the Earth is not a renewable commodity, greed will always have the upper hand.
One can only hope that our same society leverages technology, to save us from ourselves.