“But there is no Plan B and the bubble, it turns out, is where we have been living all the while. The bubble is that delusion of isolation under which we have laboured for so long. The bubble has cut us off from life on the only planet we have, or are ever likely to have. The bubble is civilisation.” – The Dark Mountain Project
If you have been following my blog, you may already get that I am awed by the beauty of Flagstaff. The landscape and the people here are special, and they are in my heart. A recent city council proposal has come up to ban plastic bags, so I wrote a letter. If you are a resident of Flagstaff, I urge you to write a letter to the city council as well. (email@example.com) If you live somewhere else, I urge you to start up a conversation in your own community. My letter includes a list of cities across the United States that have already banned the bag – I hope it inspires you.
Think Globally – Act Locally!
Dear Flagstaff City Council,
I love Flagstaff. Coming from New York City, I’m aware that most people from back east don’t even know Flagstaff exists – unless they come out here to visit the Grand Canyon. Every day that I look up and see the peaks and feel the sun shining on my face, I am grateful for this place. We have an ecosytem that is not only unique, but exquisitely beautiful. If people can’t wrap their minds around the environmental damage we suffer from plastic packaging, then, plastic bags and other trash marring the loveliness of our landscape alone should be enough to make people think twice about utilizing single-use plastic bags at the grocery checkout.
While the people of Flagstaff have diverse political backgrounds, I think most of us care about the environment. Banning bags seems like a simple way to begin to protect our surroundings. One shop that I frequent, Natural Grocers, has already done away with using bags at all. Instead, Natural Grocers reuses the boxes their packaged food is shipped in. Brilliant and simple! The shop has a lot less box recycling to deal with and customers make it home with their groceries intact.
I was interested in finding out which cities in the U.S. have banned single-use plastic bags, so I did a little research. First of all, more cities than I thought have banned plastic bags! Some of those cities are pretty big, too – San Francisco (California), Los Angeles (California), Chicago (Illinois), Austin (Texas), Dallas (Texas), and Portland (Oregon) all have bans. Many of the cities have a $.10 to $.25 fee for reusable bags and paper bags. The first person to comment on Eva Putzova’s Special to the AZ Daily Sun, Would A Ban on Plastic Bags Do Much Good? Yessuggests a fee for bags and to “let the market decide.” OK, but make fees expensive, like Brownsville, Texas has done,and charge $1.00 each for reusable plastics and paper bags.
Below is a list of cities in the United States that have plastic bag ban ordinances. The cities in blue have links to their ordinances. The years listed after the cities are when the plastic bag bans went into effect, not when the ordinances were drawn up.
Manhattan BeachThe Manhattan Beach City Council voted to ban plastic bags in July 2008. The CA Supreme Court overturned a legal challenge to the ordinance in July 2011 and the bag ordinance went into effect six months later. The council modified the ordinance in 2012 and again in 2014.
Colorado Aspen 2012 Boulder 2013 CarbondaleThe Carbondale Board of Trustees approved an ordinance in October 2011. Like Aspen’s ordinance, it bans plastic bags and places a 20 cent charge on paper bags in grocery stores with 3,500 square feet or more. A referendum placed the ordinance on the ballot in April 2012 and voters in Carbondale affirmed the Trustees’ decision. Effective May 2012. Fort Collins 2015 Telluride 2011
Illinois Chicago Passed April 30th, 2014. Effective August 2015 for retailers of more than 10,000 square feet. The ban will extend to smaller chain stores and franchises August, 2016. Small independent or non-franchise stores and restaurants will not be affected. Evanston 2015
PortlandIn 2014, Portland adopted a 5 cent charge per single-use bag in grocery stores. Effective April 15, 2015.
Maryland Montgomery CountyThe County followed the example of the neighboring District of Columbia and passed a 5 cent minimum price requirement on single-use plastic and paper bags in May 2011. It is effective January 2012. Applies to all retailers. Chestertown 2012
Massachusetts Brookline 2013 Falmouth 2016 Great Barrington 2014 Manchester 2013 Marblehead 2015 Nantucket 1990 Newport 2016 Provincetown 2015
North Carolina Hyde, Currituck and Dare Counties The North Carolina Legislatures banned plastic in the Barrier Islands in June 2009. The ban was extended to all businesses in the three counties in 2010.
To go even further, I decided to see where bags are banned around the world. This is just a partial list from The Surfider Foundation:
Australia – The Government of South Australia enacted a ban on plastic checkout bags effective May 2009 while the Northern Territory has a similar ban effective since September 2011. The Australian Capitol Territory passed and enacted their plastic bag ban in 2011 also. Woorabinda is the first city in Queensland with a plastic bag ban, effective November 2012. Fremantle was the first city in West Australia to ban thin plastic bags in January, 2013. Tasmania passed a plastic checkout bag ban in 2013 that is effective November 2013.
Bangladesh – In 2002 Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags, a big reason was that littered bags exacerbated flooding. Results have been mixed due to a lack of enforcement.
Chile – In June 2013, Pucon became the first city to address plastic litter with a plastic bag ban.
China – In 2008 China banned the manufacture or use of the thinnest types of plastic bags. They also prohibit supermarkets, department stores, and grocery stores from giving away thicker varieties, requiring them to charge customers for the bags. The government claims big reductions while others claim more enforcement is needed.
Haiti – Haiti’s government ordered a plastic bag and foam foodware ban effective October 2012 but early reports claim a lack of enforcement as alternatives are sourced.
India – Efforts are underway to ban plastic bags in various parts of the county but there are no solid reports of effective programs or legislation to date.
Ireland – One of the first plastic bag reduction programs on a large scale started in Ireland in 2002 with their plastic bag fee. The latest figures (in 2013) suggest there has been a 20-fold decrease since the levy was introduced in 2002.
Mauritania – “Mauritania has banned the use of plastic bags to protect the environment and the lives of land and sea animals. More than 70% of cattle and sheep that die in the capital, Nouakchott, are killed by eating plastic bags, environment ministry official Mohamed Yahya.”
Northern Ireland – The Northern Ireland Executive passed the Carrier Bag Levy in 2011 and it is effective April 2013. Retailers in Northern Ireland charge at least five pence for each carrier bag handed out to customers, as part of a drive across the province to reduce plastic waste.
Pakistan – The Islamabad Capital Territory passed a plastic bag ban that takes effect on April 1, 2013. This law bans conventional plastic bag but allows for ‘oxo biodegradable’ bags, which allows bags to degrade into plastic pieces quicker. Not the best solution.
Phillippeans – The Philippines financial capital of Makati has banned disposable plastic shopping bags and EPS foam food containers starting in June 2013. The law is partly to help deal with increased flooding from plastic litter.
South Africa – A countrywide levy on plastic checkout bags went into effect in May 2003 with proceeds intended to fund a national recycling program. Reports have been mixed: plastic bag consumption is down and litter is likely down but there is no data to accurately report on litter. A 2010 analysis concluded that the levy was too low to be truly effective.
Tanzania – A countrywide ban on plastic bags has been urged by the federal governemnt since 1996 with minimal results. Pembra Island has been successful in curbing plastic bag litter according to a 2012 news story.
I just got back from hiking in the forest. I had the need to visit trees today, and it’s the visit among the trees that really grounded me back into being here in the high desert and feeling happy.
I have found myself (this week) telling too many stories about my past – but nature and trees and the big sky are really good for helping me get present. Meditation and yoga are good, but often solitary and sometimes lonely. A solitary hike in the woods doesn’t have the same kind of loneliness (ok, I did bring a dog, but . . . )
There is something wonderful about the trees!
When Dr. Simard starts talking about fungi, the first thing I thought of was a neural network. How cool!
Eckhart Tolle’s talk completely resonated with me. Always bringing myself to the present moment – it can be work sometimes. This morning the Tiger showed up, but I just allowed myself to be present with it, and it dissipated quickly.
I find that when I practice reiki, I feel synched in to the person I am working with and completely present. A deep state of presence with another being is one of the most peaceful feelings I have ever experienced. It’s amazing how that good feeling spills over into other parts of life.
It is good to be reminded to “be here now” and to take walks when needed!
Halla Tomasdottir: A feminine response to Iceland’s financial crash
The end of Halla’s speech got cut off – she says:
The final thought I want to leave with you is that I’m fed up with this tyranny of either/or choices in life –either it’s men or it’s women. We need to start embracing the beauty of balance. So let’s move away from thinking about business here and philanthropy there, and let’s start thinking about doing good business. That’s how we change the world. That’s the only sustainable future.
Diversity! It’s important – not only economically and politically, but it’s been proven again and again ecologically. Pretty amazing how all of these subjects are interconnected.
Love restores the bottom line, and not the other way around. ~Marianne Williamson
The weekend after our presidential election, I had the great fortune (with some help from my friends and a fundraising site called gofundme.com – check out my site here) to go to Los Angeles for the Sister Giant Conference on Women, Non-Violence, and the Birthing of a New American Politics. “The purpose of SISTER GIANT weekend was to help create a new conversation in American politics, one in which principles of higher consciousness form a new foundation for political involvement.”
I am still trying to find the language for what I felt that weekend—and how to combine politics and spirituality (for me, spirituality boils down to common sense compassion) in a powerful way. So many healers, teachers, and artists have positive impact on individuals in our lives—and so many of us want to be part of a bigger solution, but don’t know where to begin, or, are completely turned off by politics. Most of us do charitable work, but no amount of private charity can make up for lack of social justice. Over the last few years, I have witnessed and experienced the political as personal, and I can’t lie back and close my eyes any longer. This is why I am looking for my voice, and sharing as I go.
The energy at the Saban Theatre on Saturday morning was overwhelming. The place was packed. So many of us from all over the country arrived with open hearts and minds that just coming together shifted us. The air felt electrified. Marianne Williamson was a powerhouse as she walked onto the stage in a blue dress and platform red heels. She kicked ass! She started out by saying, “Gandhi said, ‘Politics should be sacred.’ And like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King successfully advocated – Love needs to be a broad scale social and political force.”
We’ve got some issues to contend with – a big one even George Bush pointed out – “America is addicted to oil.” I have thought America is an addict many times, and may have shared my thoughts with a few friends, and here was Marianne opening the weekend with this statement, “The United States is a highly functioning addict, the survival of the United States is in peril, and if we do not change, we will die. We need to take a moral inventory of the United States — we need a 12-Steps of the U.S.”
What power restores us to sanity? Love.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King saw Love as a force of non-violence inside the heart of every man, women, and child – a force that would heal political and social relationships. Love restores reason, and Marianne makes a powerful argument that “Love is the only survivable option for the human race.”
For part of the weekend we looked at three topics that could be considered the United States’ “dirty little secrets”. (To go back to the 12-Steps, there is a saying, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”) The discussions were dark, and some made me squirm and sweat with discomfort (close to home), but also inspired me, too. If we can really look at and sit with the dark, then it is easier to hold our ground in love and compassion when society would want to sway us otherwise.
Marianne asked us to practice Satya Graha – the willingness to bear the agony of others — and to promise to stick around no matter how uncomfortable it might get.
We are 5% of the world’s population, yet we have 25% of the world’s prison population.
The United States currently has more citizens incarcerated than any nation in history and more than 30 European countries at one time
Most people are in prison for non-violent crimes – the War on Drugs created the shift. In 1982 only 2% of the people in the country even thought drugs was an issue.
Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics use drugs at the same rate, though Africans Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be targeted for prison
A young black man currently living in Chicago is more likely to go to prison than to college.
There is a direct correlation with education cuts and higher rates of people in prison
Once out of prison for a felony, a person: cannot vote, cannot get housing, cannot get jobs (have you ever had to “check the box” for a conviction?), cannot get food stamps, cannot get student loans.
1 in 7 African American men cannot vote
Building prisons is the single largest urban industry in the United States
Something to think about: How can you be an effective member of society if your rights as a citizen can never be restored? How will you not end up back in jail? How is it not dangerous for a society to have large groups of people who have nothing to lose?
Current Supreme Court has ruled that money is free speech – which means, if you have no money, you have no speech.
SuperPacs raised hundreds of millions of dollars to win the election. They aired 90,000 commercials against Barack Obama in West Virginia.
The influx of money from out of state is having a dramatic effect on smaller local elections, which means that special interest groups who don’t even live anywhere near a community can shape the politics and policies of that community
Something to think about: Elections are the will of “We the People”. If Corporations are “people”, then who are “We the People”? How is it sane that companies and people are spending all this money when so many children are starving?
What does your heart tell you when you read about these topics? What action does your heart initially tell you (before the mind jumps in and tells you there is nothing you can do)?
Before we launched into the topics, lecturer and author Charlene Spretnak discussed her research in health and relational physiology. Why this discussion? Because “women tend to perceive the interrelatedness, or the gestalt, of a situation much more than do men; this is a skill that is badly needed in public office!” Why this discussion before the heavy topics? So we could keep in mind that a feminine worldview does have value and power and that our view not only matters but is essential.
Spretnak talked about how a holistic relational worldview (naturally feminine) is becoming more widely accepted in medicine, science, and education. More hospitals are using integrative medicine (yoga and reiki are part of the integrative medicine model in more and more hospitals now), the entire field of microbiology has moved off the mechanistic model to a model of interrelatedness, and relational physiology is a growing field. She shared several examples of how people who have community and strong relationships get sick less and live healthier, happier, and longer lives.
Basically, a relational worldview has life!
The public sphere evolved to become more comfortable to the male psyche, or, a structured, mechanistic view. While the rest of the world is moving forward with a relational model, politics is lagging. The mechanistic view is important, it helps us to categorize and name what is what, but it is a viewpoint that forgets about humanity. Parts are not alive, they are just parts.
Spretnak calls on us to have confidence in the fact that relational reality is our language. Her message: You don’t have to change to be powerful, BE WHO YOU ALREADY ARE!
I became very excited over Spretnak’s findings, because part of my theory for why we are alive, and how we will survive, is through relationship. I wrote a piece called Beauty and the “What is Sustainability?” Question. Beauty, according to Plato, is that which makes us want to live.
Plato said the only real thing in the universe is Beauty. The far-eastern Vedics said the only real thing in the Universe is Brahma, and that all else is Maya, or illusion. They are talking about the bliss of realizing we are One with everything, of experiencing such completeness that we lose our Selves. It is as if the body becomes a string that sets to humming as it resonates with the vibration of life. Beauty is relational. The relationship is based on harmony that brings about a loss of ego – moments of just “be”-ing are “be”-autiful. The experience of beauty extends beyond the self and out into the world, as well as arising from the cosmos to the self (and the rest of the world).
I am convinced that love has got to be the bottom line in politics, and I do know that we need more heart-centered people to be public in their efforts. Love is the bottom line — but we will be tempted to forget. It can be difficult to be fully invested in the effort but unattached to the results. If it’s not running for office (even local office) – then we need to bear our gifts (women and men!) to the world as healers, artists, writers, speakers, inspirers and supporters! We need to help people remember our humanity and compassionate common sense! We need to realize, and to remind one another, and to continue to make love the bottom line.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
So much was discussed over the weekend, from problem-solving, to campaigning for office, to how to be a powerful speaker, to being a support for someone campaigning, to the whole system being in a cosmic transition—that I will have to continue writing on this topic in another article. With the lunar eclipse today emotionally processing the angry feminine solar eclipse energy from two weeks ago, Pluto in Capricorn, and Saturn in Scorpio, I thought shining light on some dark energy seemed appropriate. What topics move you?
If you are interested, Marianne has created Sister Giant National Conversation. The first discussion is on December 5th, 9 pm EST. “Our Monthly conference calls will feature compelling guest speakers, updates on campaigns and issues we care about, and the creation of a space to engage in conversation around national and global peace, non-violence and politics. Our goal is always the same: how to make love the bottom line. All are welcome to join!”
The weekend was moving, provocative, inspiring, and validating.
I do believe that love has got to be the bottom line, and that it is time for heart-centered, loving people to speak up and take action!
I took so many notes, and am beginning to pour though them now.
There were moments at Sister Giant where I was incredibly uplifted, and moments where I felt myself plummet to the depths of darkness as I relived how my own life has been affected by poverty and homelessness and fear and violence and sexism and racism and invisibility—and how I am not alone, not today nor in the history of our country! I also felt the relief of light shined on those dark aspects of our collective history, the “dirty little secrets” that are not secrets (sexism, racism, poverty, genocide, hunger, classism, etc.), by the voices of courageous women and men who are taking a stand for humanity—and calling all of us to do the same! I felt myself sweat and squirm, I laughed and cried, I felt the gravity of our collective and individual situations, and I experienced the capacity to love humanity and our potential to bear witness to our struggles and to be light for one another.
Our stories are powerful!
And wow! It was amazing to be in a room packed with women (and some men, too! woohoo!) who care about the world and want to do something about it. There were young women in their early 20s all the way to women in their 70s and 80s! Talk about powerful . . .
There is a lot to be done. I was also incredibly grateful for the practical actions and ideas offered over the weekend regarding working in politics—whether it be running for office, or being in a supportive roll for someone in office or running for office—and to helping ourselves and our (current and future) elected officials stay on track with our (their) bottom line of love and peace. I am grateful for organizations like Sally’s List and The Women’s Campaign School at Yale, too, they are amazing resources for getting involved in politics.
This video touches on a lot of what was discussed, it was put together by glad.is. Some of my images are in there!
Thank you for helping me get there! I could not have done it without you.