June 04, 2010
Add "Garbage Patch Skepticism" to my long list of sins
Another day, another heresy.
California is on the verge of banning "single use" plastic bags in all stores.
California would be the first state to ban plastic and most paper bags from grocery, convenience and other stores under a proposal that appears headed for a major legislative victory this week.Etc.
While this is not the biggest deal in the world, it occurs to me that maybe I should defend my right to keep and bear this foul and toxic substance against people who mainly seem interested in cranking out feelgood legislation which seems designed mainly to inconvenience ordinary people.
Reading the text of the legislation, I was somewhat relieved that it does not make a crime out of simple possession or use of plastic bags. (Not yet, at least.) But as these things tend to become trends, I simply imagined how I would adjust if they did the same thing here. As it is now, I like to get in a little exercise when I go grocery shopping, and as my local supermarket is a half a mile away, I walk there and then back with my groceries -- something that is only possible because of the very convenient plastic bags. Offered the choice between plastic and paper, I always choose plastic, because I simply can't carry two or three paper bags full of groceries that distance. No, not even the ones that have the little handles, as they are very prone to break off. But the plastic bags are perfect. They weigh nothing, they envelop themselves around whatever is in them, and I have never had a handle break.
Best of all, they do double duty for doggy doo! Perfect for picking up Coco's droppings, and long enough to easily tie the mess up into a knot before throwing it away. (Which is what the powers that be want all us peons to do with our dog droppings, lest they cause outbreaks of "E Coli.") Anyway, for me the plastic grocery bags are not "single use." I stuff them in my pockets whenever I walk dogs. They're also handy for carrying other stuff I might encounter, such as nightcrawlers which I bring home for the fish.
If Michigan adopted a similar ordinance, I would simply be inconvenienced, which I suspect is the whole idea. Make people feel as if they're criminals against the environment. I notice that the text of the law does not ban the sale of these bags inside the stores, though, nor does it prohibit people like me from carrying and using them. But I have a feeling that if I did walk into a California store with one of my bags to use as a tote bag, some busybody might object. Because it's plastic, and plastic is evil! What they want is for me to do what all nice little environmentalists do and lug around a heavy canvas (or hemp) bag, and use that for my groceries. Sorry, but I won't. I don't carry around canvas tote bags when I walk about in my daily business, and I don't plan to start. They are ridiculous and inconvenient. The plastic ones work better, crumple into nothing and fit in my pocket.
Besides the heavy canvas bags are no good for picking up dogshit. For that you need plastic.
And plastic is the enemy -- make no mistake about it.
As the legislation itself declares, there's a huge patch of floating plastic (aka "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch"), and it is now said to be larger than the United States:
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:OK, right there, I'm skeptical. And I am not alone. Some environmentalists are skeptical that wild claims are being made. Skeptoid calls the claim "ripe for scientific inquiry" and notes that descriptions of the area claimed to be full of floating plastic had morphed from two football fields to an area the size of Texas, and to an area bigger than Texas, and he concludes,
Bringing attention to the issue is good; presenting an overdramatized representation of the facts to do so, not so much.Except the claimed area has continued to grow exponentially, from larger than Texas to the size of the United States, and finally to a size much bigger than the United States.
Who does the verifying? And how? Aren't these claims supposed to be independently verified before they're written into laws? Or are we just to accept the claims of "experts"? Who might they be?
The discoverer (I'd hate to say "inventor") of Great Pacific Garbage Patch Theory is a man named Captain Charles Moore. Here he is talking about the patch, and I admit, he has a great flair for the dramatic.
But who is this guy? Virtually every discussion of the Patch cites him; the Wiki page on the Patch cites him as a leading authority, but little seems to be known about him (not even a date of birth) other than the fact that he was a boat racing enthusiast who became a committed environmentalist after finding the Patch.
What is known but doesn't seem widely publicized is that he's an heir to oil money, and more of an activist than independent oceanographer:
The patch of garbage, which has actually expanded into two connecting areas known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches, was first discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who was "taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race."Is it not possible that such a man might have ample reason to exaggerate his claims?
Who checks this stuff? Has it been independently verified that the Patch is now the size of the United States and getting ever larger? How do we know? I mean, at its present rate of growth, pretty soon the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be larger than the Pacific Ocean itself.
Where are the layers of MSM fact checkers when you need them?
How do we know this isn't just "garbage in, garbage out"?
posted by Eric on 06.04.10 at 04:30 PM
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