There was a ballot measure on the California ballot this past election requiring grocery stores to charge 10 cents for every bag a customer uses, every time. Customers may bring their own bags and get a 5 cent credit per bag every time. Many grocery stores anticipating this measure may pass already got reusable grocery bags made and are selling them for 99 cents – $1.50 per bag. The ballot measure passed. Of course it did. Laws like these are the wet dreams of city and suburban dwelling bourgeois liberals, they think they are saving the planet every time they go to Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s to buy their organic, gluten free, soy free, non-GMO, fairly traded kefir.
The intention of this law is an attempt to slowly and in every way possible reduce the carbon footprint and reduce global warming in the long run. Reducing global warming while is a collective effort and everyone needs to participate, inconveniencing the poor while they do their grocery shop is again misplacing the burden on to the wrong people. It’s not the poor who is lobbying for fracking rights, who wants to build North Dakota Pipeline or drive big guzzling SUVs. Grocery shopping is something one must do every week, if not every two weeks, the 10 cent bags will add up. Further, anything that is not food related cannot be paid for with SNAP (food stamps) benefits. California currently has 4.2 million people on SNAP benefits. For those that want to purchase reusable bags, the one time cost aside, you’d have to remember to keep a couple of bags in your car or on your person so that if you need to make last minute trips to the grocery store, you have bags to use to carry out your groceries. For those that do not drive and rely on public transport, carrying extra bags for just in case runs to the grocery store is cumbersome. And the negligible cost of 10 cents aside, why would any rational person, rich or poor, pay 10 cents for a bag which may be converted into a trash bag at home and thrown out later. It’s literally throwing money in the garbage.
Ballot measures like these assumes that everyone either drives or lives close to grocery stores. There are people in California whose only mode of transportation is our very unreliable buses and rail systems. Unreliable and expensive, especially the trains. The trains in California are reserved for corporate professionals who live too far from their high-rise corporate office and must take a train to Downtown and then catch a taxi or Uber from the station to their office. Daily round trip fare for those trains are between $30-40 and monthly passes are in the hundreds of dollars. Not something a working class Californian can even begin to contemplate, never mind one on public assistance.
These are the kind of laws and ‘values’ that elite liberals love to shove down the throats of the working class that is both inconveniencing and insulting. It’s also the kind of thing that handed Donald Trump and Republicans their wins. This small but seemingly insignificant ballot measure symbolizes the culture policing of liberals. It’s not about the 10 cents, it’s forcing everyone to adapt and adhere to a certain set of values which makes no sense for a large number of Californians. Saving the planet and protecting the environment is a noble thing and it’s now become an imperative which everyone needs to participate. Everyone knows that, especially the working class and the poor, as they are the ones most affected by pollution caused by global warming and greed. The residents of Flint, Michigan can tell you just how global warming, pollution and greed as a result of capitalism affects their lives. They were deliberately being fed rancid, poisoned water tainted with toxic industrial waste from nearby factories, only to save the state of Michigan a few million dollars a year, which doesn’t even make a dent in the budget deficit and Detroit went bankrupt anyways.
Will charging everyone 10 cents for every grocery bag used make a dent in the larger problem? Even if every California resident switched to reusable grocery bags tomorrow, will it stop the South Dakota Pipeline from being constructed? Or underwater oil drilling, or fracking or drilling in the Arctic seas? Will it stop China and its manic need to consume coal, oil and other natural resources in its tracks? Will it stop people from illegally logging in the Amazon rainforest? Or destruction of the Sumatran forests (and its animals which reside in it) to grow that palm oil to put in our processed foods? These are actions of global corporations, capitalists, not the world’s working poor. How is charging everyone 10 cents for a grocery bag going to stop any of this from happening? How will making everyone put solar panels on their homes change the larger picture or encouraging people to keep their homes at 75 degrees and above reverse what capitalists are doing all over the world?
See this clip from George Carlin. He can illustrate my larger point about bourgeois environmentalism better than me. It’s not about the earth, the soil, the water, the environment, it’s about them having a ‘clean and safe place to live’. The bourgeois environmentalists are not the Native Americans fighting for their land in obstructing and protesting the North Dakota Pipeline, which for them is a battle of life and death. The bourgeois just want to feel better about themselves by making everyone pay a fine or penalty for doing the most mundane of things, such as grocery shopping.