Ever since the launch of Bring Your Own Bag Day on 18 April 2007, there has been much public and media outcry on this tiny island city-state. On the day of launch, I heard my colleague complain about the lack of widespread implementation of the campaign while my sister and brotherinlaw called me up on a conference call to seek my "expert opinion" on the myopia and contradiction of the campaign. (Read my article on Bring Your Own Bag Day for more information)
To add to the latest foray, Andy Ho, a senior editor at The Straits Times wrote an editorial piece recently on 12 May entitled "Plastic bags are not the enemy".
"On average, Singaporeans use 625 bags per person per year. Research in several countries shows that the main problem with plastic bags is not their environmental impact per se but littering."Of course, I have to agree that littering is the greater evil behind the plastic bags problem as the international coastal cleanup exhibition mantra is the "curse of the marine litter". The below poster shows how plastic bags and all plastic things really are killing our marine life!
However, it's wrong to say that plastic bags are not the enemy but it is merely not our ONLY enemy. Yes sadly, we have more. Unfortunately, Andy Ho goes on to say:
"But littering is generally not a problem here. In countries where it is, discouraging their use might be justifiable."I think that Andy has yet to see the above ICCS poster but we shall let that past. However, it really does not justify him questioning the purpose of the whole campaign at all. What more, he brings up all the evils of the ALTERNATIVES of plastic bags. Regarding the cotton bags, I think he simply has not heard of organic cotton yet.
Organic Cotton at the Eco Product Fair 2006
Admittedly, the whole campaign has become a very myopic one. We are only focusing on plastic bags as if it's the be all and end all to all our problems. Do people not realize that this is only the beginning?
To give the people behind the campaign some credit, I must confess that a big part of this "myopia" is created from years of campaigning Singaporeans but we are so stubborn that it's become such an impenetrable wall to break. Over time, people have become focused on the most minute detail to campaign and change the consumer lifestyle in Singapore.
Unfortunately when something "revolutionary" in singapore's standard swing around, they start to pick on the myopia of the campaign and lament the lack of holistic approach to tackling the problem. But what is the REAL problem?
Most importantly, let us NOT divert attention away from or deny the existence of the problem or even presenting it as if its an unsurmountable task?
Are plastic bags our Inconvenient Truth?
There needs to be change, not just a little change but a full overhaul. but unfortunately we need to start somewhere, a baby step. So while taking the baby step, try to look up and far ahead of you instead of complaining about having to take any step at all and saying how you should be leaping forward when you cannot even take on this one step. This step is somewhat symbolic and possibly doesn't make a real chip in the whole journey you have ahead of you. But that's why it's called the first step. You need to start somewhere and this is it!
Perhaps as I have said on my post on metblogs, it is important for the government and state agencies to map out clearly the long term plan for all to see so they know what is ahead of them and not use the myopia of the first step as an excuse to criticize the government. Or perhaps it is not the government's myopia but our own convenient amnesia of past efforts.
Making a big hoo-haa about plastic bag is tiring, passe and it's time we move BEYOND plastic bags. There's a whole climate change crisis ahead of us and we are building dykes to combat this global problem?! Come on!
Let's not act like certain world leaders who try to deny the existence of a problem by means of diversion like saying
After all, as Andy Ho said, plastic bags are not the problem as much as littering is! But we have been having littering campaigns for decades and nothing come of it. Well, we are cleaner than many other countries but why compare? We should be setting the standard instead of placating ourselves by only measuring up to others! Who will innovate if all thinks the same?
This is a call to all Singaporeans.
Take on the challenge. If you cannot even overcome a little change like taking on less plastic bags, how much better do you think you will fare when it comes to more unsurmountable challenges?