Do you know that about a third of Americans believe the slaughter of millions of innocent people in World War II is fiction.
Do you know that about half of all Americans believe climate change will not affect them?
Do you know two thirds of Americans think they have above average intelligence?
Do you know that most American households have the television on almost 8 hours a day? (And that does not include streaming over the internet!)
Do you know that just over half of voters in the United States actually voted in the 2016 election?
Do you know that almost 40% of adults refuse to make personal changes to help improve environmental problems?
Reading the comments posted on the Newberg Discussion group on Facebook indicates that people there have similar reactions to what people here in McMinnville have experienced: many say no problem and it’s about time, adapting easily if they were not already carrying their own bags into the stores. A vocal minority have a number of issues in protest ranging from “I use my plastic bags for other things” to “How am I going to pick up my dog poop with out these bags?” to “the government is too involved in our life”. We know change is very hard for some people and they will use more energy fighting something that feels irksome than to just adjust. I personally think the funniest comment about not liking to have to pay for paper sacks is that they will drive 10 miles or more to go shopping in the next town. They obviously feel their personal decision is more important that the financial strain of paying for extra gas usage in their car.
Salem and Bend are considering the bag ban and, if passed, will join McMinnville, Portland, Corvallis and Eugene and several other cities in Oregon. The state of Hawaii has banned the bags, which makes sense since they are a series of islands and residents would be very aware of how plastic pollution is affecting their beaches. Washington state also has at least 18 cities that have eliminated single use bags from the check-outs at stores.
Reluctance to change is strong in people who are not tuned into environmental concerns. Even though we live an hour from the Coast, many people never make that trip and so, never see any of the issues personally. If people do not see plastic bags as roadside trash, they do not understand there are many places where roadside trash does not even occur because people are more aware they have a responsibility to be good mentors of the earth.
As stated above, many people refuse to accept that things happen unless they experience it themselves. Perhaps the Holocaust is too horrific for people to get their heads around, but it is that kind of lack of recognition that people can made to participate in horrific events that permit horrific events to happen again and again in human history.
How do we help those people understand? When McMinnville was working towards the bag ban Zero Waste McMinnville provided a service to the community to educate them. This included making them aware there would be several public discussions at City Council meetings where people could listen and speak. It also included working with store managers to set up a system to notify customers, including printing and disseminating information sheets in English and Spanish. Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers sat in front of stores before and during the implementation to answer questions and distribute reusable bags.
And yet there were many people who fought against it, even trying to get the ordinance changed. The energy spent in fighting was high, and yet easier for those people than making the very small change needed.
Life experience is important to consider when speaking to someone about a change they need to make. If someone has never traveled, if that person has only had a high school education or perhaps even dropped out of school, if that person’s free-time focus is on entertainment and they never consider community involvement, they most likely do not recognize that they are part of a larger society. There are many people who never give much thought beyond their own personal needs, so asking them to help clean up the environment is not a consideration. Asking some people to consider how the earth will be when our children and grandchildren are adults often is met with “I don’t care, I won’t be here” as a response.
No man is an island, and for those who think they are, they might notice their shoreline is getting littered.