Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Aquatic Ambivalence and Antipathy

According to this article Toronto plans to "ban the sale of plastic water bottles on municipal premises by 2011." On the one hand, if I were a Torontonian, I would welcome the potential reduction in waste floating about the city. On the other hand, the law is heading in the direction of banning the sale of things that I don't think ought to be banned, and in places I don't think they ought to be banned from being sold at. I'll start to whine when they extend the ban beyond municipal premises (if I happen to be living in Toronto, or if the place I happen to be living tries to do Toronto one better). This is not to say that I've ever been a big part of the bottled water craze. Most of the bottled water I drink is given to me, and most of the bottled water that is given to me, I don't drink. Tap water is just fine. Mostly I think you should just buy a decent reusable water bottle and use that [1]. It'll probably save you money in the long run anyway.

The ban doesn't stop at water bottles on municipal premises, however. There are a number of other things that will be banned, in phases of increasing annoyance, starting with a five-cent charge on shopping bags and culminating in a request that retailers have to provide boxes or paper bags as an alternative to paying for plastic bags. This would be good if there were some sort of agreement among the various studies that paper bags are definitively better. Apparently, there is not [2]. Besides, if people aren't going to reduce, reuse, or recycle their plastic bags (or even throw them in the garbage), they're probably not going do that for paper bags either. As for cardboard box vs. paper bags, all that I could find (not that I looked very hard) was a homespun youtube video[3]. I wonder if this was the basis for Toronto's decision? Certainly if they had a more scientific basis than this guy, the internet is keeping it well hidden. There you go. The city council is making people's lives more complicated, for no apparent reason.

Such is the nature of politics, I suppose. Even if you have no power to change what the people think you ought to be trying to change, the least you can do is waste your time enacting laws to make the people waste their time, as long as it looks like you're trying to change whatever it is you think the people think you ought to be trying to change. The net benefit to society or the environment, or whatever it is your trying to provide net benefit to, may be nil by the end of your term, but at least you'll stand a better chance of getting reelected.

[1] He says, offering you advice that he has himself only recently followed, though he's been known (mostly by himself) to reuse bottles from drinks purchased at the nearest Mac's Milk.

[2] The statement about the lack of consensus appears somewhere near the bottom.

[3] Other things found include an article from The Onion, and an article about a bound whose frontman wears a green cardboard box on his head.

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