The “Green Police:” should we legislate people’s actions?

We are oft to blame in this,–
‘Tis too much proved–that with devotion’s visage
And pious action we do sugar o’er
The devil himself.
~Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

I decided to make this post separate from the one about the Audi commercial. It really deserves its own post.

Should we legislate an individual’s actions in regards to the environment? Should we start up a “Green Police” to bust useless wastes of resources and electricity?

In short, no.

While it may piss me off, I don’t think we should make laws against the use of disposable cups or hanging out in hot tubs (fuck, if I had a hot tub you’d bet I’d be in it). This is America, and we should be free to act as we wish (within reason…murder is illegal and should stay that way).

I do believe that we should have fuel emission standards and legislation that limits land, air, and water pollution. I think those are pretty sensible. A nationwide ban on incandescent bulbs would be idiotic, to say the least. The economics of consumer choice is starting to push toward CFLs, LEDs, and other longer-lasting forms of lighting. (Damn you, J. Grant, I want one of those Coleman LED camping lamps! They need to hire you as a salesman.)

One area I really want to address is the Endangered Species Act. I agree with it. Wholeheartedly…I believe that each species has an intrinsic right to exist regardless of its benefit or detriment to humanity. Therefore we should do what we can to keep species from going extinct. However, the ESA has proven time and time again that punishment isn’t the way to go. Naturally, people will come to resent a creature if, due to that creature’s existence, they feel disenfranchised. While I, personally, wouldn’t care if the use of my land were limited due to the presence of, say, a Red-cockaded Woodpecker, others don’t feel that way. So instead of legislating with an eye for punishment, the ESA should make it a benefit to accommodate an endangered species.

I’m mixed on the subject of plastic bag bans. For one, it may just replace plastic bags with paper bags. For two, it may engender the same hostile reactions we’ve become accustomed to seeing in regards to the green movement (and endangered species). For three, while it may cut down on the ubiquitous plastic bag tumbleweeds you see around grocery stores, it also means people who use plastic bags for trash bags now have to find an alternative. Paper just doesn’t work as well.

But environmentally harmful or wasteful actions as taken by individuals should be treated the way smoking is…discourage it if you must, but don’t make it illegal unless the situation truly warrants it.


3 Responses to “The “Green Police:” should we legislate people’s actions?”

  1. “I’m mixed on the subject of plastic bag bans”

    Actually, I’m all for the ban. Paper bags will never replace plastic, two seconds of putting yourself if the position of a consumer with a choice between buying a reusable bag or using a paper bag will tell you why. The first thought is “hey, paper is still free.” Second thought is “fuck I have cans/milk/etc. which is heavy/wet/condensing moisture on the side and it will rip through the bag” or “there are no handholds I can’t carry it” or the innumerable other reasons why people switched to plastic and avoid paper in the first place. They’ll never go back to pure paper because it’s such an inconvenience, moreso than remembering to bring your own bags.

    I don’t particularly care about “engendering hostile reactions” since this being America and all, people will have hostile reactions no matter WHAT you do. It stems from the fact that we take so much pride in our freedom of choice and it being an ingrained American value, that when you try and tell people they need to do something they get pissed off about it and yell about you taking away their rights when it has nothing to do with that in the first place. Yes, you do have a right to do whatever the fuck you want, but your right to do whatever the fuck you want stops at where someone else’s right to live a healthy life starts. Hence why murder is illegal. Hence why it’s illegal to dump toxins into streams or use toxic substances in products (like say, lead in paint). Sorry, someones “right” doesn’t trump public (public including nature and wildlife here) health, not even if it makes them whiny and “engenders hostile reactions”. It engenders the “grow the fuck up, you’re not 12 anymore and now you have to think of your own actions” reaction from me.

    Further, you can also tax the living hell out of the bags. Places (like Ireland) where the bags are heavily taxed have taken usage of the things down by around 90%. I am, however, for banning the things. There are better options than the disposable fuckers. We have recycling centers that take them, convenient to the store too, however, that has not curbed usage and most people will still throw them away regardless. The people who recycle them are the people who are likely to use reusable bags in any case and not the people throwing them away or letting them become plati-tumbleweeds. Offering recycling doesn’t change consumer behavior. Discouraging the bad behavior ALSO does not change consumer behavior. You liken it to smoking, but you fail to remember that one of the major causes of death in the US is smoking. Smoking is decreasing VERY VERY slowly due to massive excise taxes, smoke-free legislation (Yes, BANS are leading to the slow decreasing of smoking) and more options for cessation medication. Just “discouraging” behavior did absolutely bupkiss for changing the behavior of consumers where smoking was concerned. Smokers don’t give a damn, and kids will try it (and become addicted) all the more because it is viewed negatively- they’re good at doing things “because mom and dad said not to!” What is leading to smoking being declined is heavy heavy taxation (like the bags in Ireland), smoke-free legislation (like bans) and options for cessation (like reusable bags).

    Unlike smoking, bags are NOT an addiction and are not used for pleasure, only lazy convenience. BAN THE FUCKERS- no one will go through withdrawal and need to be put on a bag-o-tine patch, I promise.

  2. Dargon Says:

    I’d like to point out that in regions in which plastic bags have been banned, the sales of disposable garbage bags have increased. Falconsong mentions Ireland. Their garbage bag sales increased 77% after banning the bags.

    With regards to the ESA, my biggest beef comes from situations, which are not uncommon, wherein someone is forbidden usage of their own property upon discovering that it is a habitat of an environmental species. Often times this land has been owned for awhile, and the owner is unaware until they go for a building permit or something of the like. My biggest beef comes in when, after being told they cannot so much as spit on the land, they are still taxed for it. As you stated, it makes protecting the species a burden.

    As for other legislation, there is a balance between what is and is not reasonable. Basic emission, dumping, and disposal standards are more than reasonable, however things like complete bans on incandescent lights, especially when substitute products are so comparatively expensive (yes, I do realize they are cheaper long term, key word long), is ineffective and likely to bring substantial hostility towards the green movement.

    • I have to say, in this particular apartment with its weird ass-fixtures, if I burn out a bulb I’m going with incandescent. I don’t have the money to put CFL bulbs in an apartment I’m going to leave…especially ones that are useless in standard fixtures.

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