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Paper or paper?

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Michael Savage believes that liberalism is a mental disorder. I don’t believe the controversial radio talk-show host is correct in his assessment, but I do know that the term “liberal logic” is an oxymoron. In order to operate as a modern liberal, one must be able to live with incessant irony and be comfortable with constant contradiction.

A prime example of “liberal logic” occurred recently when the city of San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted to ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags at pharmacies and supermarkets with sales of more than $2 million per year.

The San Francisco supervisors said the bags are a “scourge to the environment.” It is worth noting the strong language the city’s elected leaders chose to use while advocating, and defending, their staunch stand against plastic bags. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “scourge” as “a source of widespread dreadful affliction and devastation … and a means of inflicting sever suffering.”

If the supervisors believe their own rhetoric, then why, pray tell, did they only ban plastic bags in large stores? If plastic bags are such a threat to the environment, they why not make them illegal?

“We still have about 95,000 small businesses in San Francisco that will continue to use plastic bags, as well as the city and county of San Francisco,” Supervisor Ed Jew, the only naysayer in the 10-1 vote, told the San Francisco Examiner.

The alternative to plastic bags will be paper, some sort of bio-degradable plastic or a personal canvas or cloth bag owned by the shopper.

One of the problems with the supervisors’ action is it will likely result in a negative impact on the very environment they say they are seeking to help. It stands to reason that shoppers are going to choose paper bags more often than not. The result? More trees will have to be sacrificed in order to meet the demand for more paper bags. And there is nothing more sacred to an environmentalist than a tree.

A worshiper of the environment will argue that bio-bags and shoppers’ personal bags will help reduce the demand for paper. Bio-bags, though, are probably not going to be offered by many retailers because of the expense, which is up to five times that of the current conventional plastic bags.

If stores do opt for bio-bags, the cost will be passed on to the consumer. So it is those on the lower end of the economic ladder that will feel the pinch the most.

I doubt many San Francisco shoppers will go to toting designer shopping bags. One of the reasons the supervisors felt the ban was needed is because a program of voluntary recycling of plastic bags had failed.

“After 10 years of plastic bag recycling in the City, we have a 1 percent recycling rate,” Jared Blumenfeld, head of the city’s environment department, told the San Francisco Examiner. He added, “So it’s a 99 percent failure of the bags.”

If San Franciscans were unwilling to voluntarily recycle plastic bags — which would not be that much of an inconvenience — I doubt they will go to the trouble of carrying cloth or canvas bags around.

If my family were to switch to cloth bags, my wife would have to get some kind of cart just to transport them into the store. Shopping for a family of six requires more than a bag or two of groceries. I would estimate that, on average, my family requires at least a dozen bags per trip to the grocery store. However, since San Francisco is almost devoid of families with children, many there might manage with only a couple of cute bags.

Another aspect of San Francisco’s ban of plastic bags I found intriguing is that the board of supervisors claimed the bags “littered our streets.” I was shocked because I did not know liberals littered. Surely they would not carelessly toss a plastic bag on the street, would they?

While some in San Francisco might feel good about the banning of plastic bags, all they have really done is create a new set of problems for the environment and for their city.

San Francisco’s plastic bag ban is ironic and contradictory, but liberals have long since learned to live comfortably with both, otherwise they couldn’t sleep at night.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears Fridays in Baptist Press, is editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, online at www.baptistmessage.com.

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  • Kelly Boggs