Manila Bay Clean Up - Philippines 2006

A healthy by-product of opening my mouth to criticize others is being forced to assess the risk of having to eat my own words. I’ve learned the hard way to find my weaknesses before others do it for me. It saves glass walls if I can just hit myself with the rocks inside the house.

Last week, I tweeted disappointment with the Georgia Senate for passing SB 139 which blocks local governments from banning plastic bags. If passed by the House and signed by the Governor, the law would prevent communities like Athens and Tybee Island from enacting proposed bans to prevent harm to endangered sea turtles along Georgia’s coast. It seems the turtles mistake the bags floating at sea for jellyfish and swallow them, often with fatal results.

This preemptive strike by the plastic industry in Georgia comes on the heels of a drive by the lobbying group American Progressive Bag Alliance that derailed enactment of a statewide ban approved by the California legislature last year. (There’s something especially offensive about promoting an industrial product known to harm a nearly-extinct animal while calling your selves “progressive.” But, that’s a rant for another day.)

The House companion bill, HB 444, has yet to come to the House floor for a vote, but both bills are a bad idea. They put industry economic interests and convenience above environmental accountability. Restricting the powers of local governments also flies in the face of conservative criticism of centralized big government and support for local control.

I plan to urge the Georgia House to reject the bill, and you should too.

But, here’s the rub. I already have local control now at the most basic of levels. My family can ban plastic bags in our own household anytime we want, but we haven’t. We have reusable canvas bags I can take shopping. But, for some reason, I always forget, coming home with a dozen or more of these plastic turtle killers every time.

I honestly can’t think of a single excuse – or even a plausible explanation – for why I haven’t taken this one simple step to make a difference, except that’s it’s just not part of the routine. Habits really are hard to break. And, in the end, that’s what it all comes down to — with or without legislation.

But, now that I’ve opened my mouth, I must own up to my freedom to choose every time I shop. I have to live up to my expectations. I will think twice now when headed to the store.

Actually, it only requires thinking once.

Pick up rock, throw at self, repeat.

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Image: The Trash Vortex by Gavin Newman for Greenpeace (promotion/fair use).  
Maurice Carter

Maurice Carter

Maurice Carter is President and Founder of Breathe-Water, LLC, where he uses community building, storytelling, consulting, and social media to enable businesses, non-profits, and communities to understand and harness forces for positive change. An Atlanta native living in Covington, GA, Maurice is an active community volunteer, a freelance columnist, and an advocate for causes that build community and promote thoughtful responses to the opportunities and challenges of our day.