The rise and fall of the plastic bag empire
And as much as I'd like to see non-biodegradable plastic bags go the way of CFCs, I've come to recognize that an outright ban on them isn't currently a viable solution.
Taxing the things, though? Now that could be an even better direction to take to address the problem. We now have numbers to back up any push to do so, too. In Washington D.C., for instance, a 5-cent bag tax implemented at the beginning of the year has already had a rather dramatic impact on consumption:
...the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue estimates that city food and grocery establishments issued about 3.3 million bags in January, which suggests a remarkable decrease. Prior to the bag tax taking effect Jan 1, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer had estimated that about 22.5 million bags were being issued per month in 2009.
The tax has also generated $150,000 in revenue for the city (money that's being put towards efforts to clean up a nearby river), which is nothing to sniff at.
I know there are plenty of people out there who oppose any new taxes, period but the plastic bag pollution issue is serious enough that it's not likely to just go away on its own. We'll need to make efforts at dramatically curbing their use and impact on the environment in coming years. Instead of attempting to go cold turkey-a method that seems to backfire more often than not-why not consider a measure like the D.C. tax? Combined with Madison's mandatory recycling rule, it could go a long way toward encouraging people to use reusable bags, cleaning up our city, and even raising a little money for related green projects.
Backing words with actions
A little follow-up on a story I mentioned last week, wherein women were prohibited from speaking at a church meeting in Baraboo: There had been threats made by parents to pull their children out of school at St. John's Lutheran in response and it looks like some of them are or will be following through.
In this WSJ article about the aftermath of the meeting and the firing of the school's seemingly popular principal (due to his support of teachings that criticized the synod's treatment of women), one of the mothers who'd already pulled her child from the school got right to the point: "If they didn't want our opinion on our child's education...then they didn't need our money either."
Like I said, those of us outside the church and school can't tell them what to do. But it's heartening to see that those people who are involved are doing something to stand up to the blatantly backwards church policies.
The groups and people still bristling at the notion of equality and a fair shake for everyone regardless of things like gender, race, and sexual orientation are fast running low on time and the good will of their peers. Thank goodness.
Madison can always use more fruit
I've written before about the necessity of recent grassroots efforts at building community gardens and better food habits/access across the country, especially in more economically depressed areas.
In places like Detroit, residents are taking back the abandoned lots and planting gardens full of the kinds of wholesome foods not readily available to them (either because there are no grocery stores nearby, or only bodegas with poor selection).
Madison already boasts quite a few community gardens, including the impressively expansive ones over on Troy Dr. but we may soon be able to add orchards to the list.
A group called Madison Fruits and Nuts is working to create several orchards in public parks all around the city. Currently you can vote on which proposed locations you think should get the first orchards at the group's website.
This is a fantastic idea and effort, and I hope to see it really take off. I especially hope to see more things like orchards, community gardens, and free educational programs about how to care for them in Madison's more economically disadvantaged communities. They're home to the people who would benefit most from such programs and suffer most when they're not easily accessible.
It's the "teach a man to fish" principle, after all. Being able to grow and harvest your own food is not only financially savvy and environmentally sound, it's also incredibly empowering.
We'd do well to support more efforts like this one. Plus, who doesn't like being able to walk down to their local park to pick fresh fruit?
Folkbum does a nice breakdown of one of the anti-healthcare reform camp's favorite arguments against the legislation. Turns out the talking points aren't exactly accurate. Shocking!
Wisconsin's scorecard for its application to receive federal Race to the Top education money has been released, so you can expect a great deal of scrutiny followed by much wailing and gnashing of teeth about why we f'ed up.