Maybe it has always been like this. If so, I am not sure precisely what triggered my new concern. But in either case, there seems to be an exceptional amount of plastic on highways, streets, in bushes, etc. It is mainly in the form of used plastic bags.
I became aware that it was entering my consciousness a few weeks ago. I was driving and noticed that there was a lot of trash along a major road in my neighborhood. I noticed that, day after day would pass and it would still be there. But it was not only in my neighborhood.
I started wondering whether it was just a matter of the wind, that all of this plastic was around. That there were wind-tunnels created and the plastic bags were accumulating. I have not been able to figure it out, exactly, but I have come to a few conclusions.
The most obvious is that, as individuals, many of us simply do not care about the planet. When we are finished with something, such as a plastic bag, we are content to let it drop and float away. The second conclusion is that we are increasingly witnessing the impact of the destruction of the public sector. There are fewer city, county and state workers to take care of our streets and roads. More often than not, I see groups of prisoners dressed in their bright, orange attire, doing clean-up. Other times I see no one.
A third conclusion is that we live in a society that creates so much waste and really does not know what to do with it. So, these plastic bags fly around, after we have used them, and start to wrap themselves around trees. I am sure that you have seen this. And they smother the trees over time. Or, they fly into the rivers, ponds, and lakes, eventually making it into the ocean, to be consumed by sea life that can never digest them and, therefore, die. Yet, most of us act more as if it is nothing more than a nuisance rather than a sign of collapse.
The solution goes far beyond recycling, as important as that step actually is. It is really about priorities. What sorts of packaging should we use? Yes, maybe some packaging will cost a little more, but so what? Yes, when we get tired of something, we should restrain ourselves from just dropping it where we want, whether it is a plastic bag or a toxic waste dump.
So, when you are driving down the road and see those plastic bags smothering the trees or when they get stuck to the bottom of your car so that you are forever smelling burnt plastic, remember that this is a symptom of a society that has said, in so many words, we do not care what comes next.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.