The Fish Story

Plastic Bag Bans on the Other Foot; So, an Owl and Piping Plover Walk Into a Bar

By JAY MANN | Mar 28, 2018
Photo by: Jay Mann

DAMN THE BAN, PER SOME: As someone who dogmatically preaches de-littering and de-polluting the planet – and having vocally championed plastic bag bans – it’s with a reusable bag’s worth of counter-intuitiveness that I herein must/should offer a bit of a reality check in the name of journalistic objectivity.

Better hold onto your organic babushkas because I will herein admit that banning one-use plastic bags is no more than a sub-Band-Aid fix, far more symbolic than therapeutic. I’ll even go bombshellish by saying the bans themselves will do just this side of squatola in eliminating the big-picture planetary plastic problem. Yet here I stand, reusable bag in hand, inwardly stumping for ridding our daily lives of single-use bags.

With that contradiction in tow, please let me expound upon my seemingly slowing the nation’s plastic bag-ban momentum.

I’ve recently been taken to task by fellow senior citizens. Many are bugged by the prospect of losing lightweight plastic bags when heavily shopping during their weak-armed golden years. And bugged seniors can be real buggers when PO’ed, especially the ones sporting blue hair.

Anti-bag-banists fear everything from being forced to handle hard-to-fondle paper bags to hauling around oversized reusable sacks.

Thinking back, I can’t recall how my mom and even my grandma somehow successfully grappled with paper bags, often by the station wagon load. I do readily recall it being my duty to “get the bags” after grocery shopping was done – exclusively on Fridays, after my dad got home with the family car. And, yes, I absolutely recall many a paper bag busting, due mainly to my trying to bring in three bags at a time. What’s more, those were the glass days, so a busted bag meant jelly on the doorstep, so to speak.

But I digress from offering equal time to those opposing plastic bag bans.

To get a dizzying feel for what bugs anti-ban types, just go to their home base at Per their mantra, “This site is dedicated to fighting back against the misinformation, exposing the truth about plastic bag bans, and fighting for the rights of the citizens against bag bans imposed by their elected officials without citizen votes.”

The hostility within “Stop the Bag Ban” ranges from worthy to borderline crazed, as can be seen under the website heading “Why bag bans are wrong!” There, the group lists 24 “good reasons” plastic bag bans are BS, expounding on each.

Some of the 24 battle-cry points jump out:

• Bag bans are based on lies, distortions, myths and half-truths.

• Bag bans impose on the liberties and freedoms of businesses and citizens.

• Almost everything we make is “bad for the environment,” so why just one type of bag?

• Bag bans do not take into account the multiple reuses of bags.

• Cities are spending millions on bag bans.

• Bag bans hurt businesses.

• Bag bans increase the number of paper bags used, which are worse than plastic.

• Bag bans are being put into place to control people, not to actually accomplish anything.

Yowza! I’m already out of breath with just those – and those are but a sampling.

I must respectfully – and chuckle-ingly – reflect on the rather odd point that bag bans are being “put into place to control people.” Tell me that isn’t reflective of Baby Boomers coming of senior age, still harboring that young-blood conviction of sticking it to the man. I can hear it now: “Hell, no, we won’t go … without, uh, our plastic bags!”

OK, so maybe some of their slogan sharpness has faded a bit, but the ’60s radical attitude is alive and well … albeit assisted by statin drugs, sundry anti-anxiety meds and high doses of Vitamin C.

Personally, I’ll edgily buddy up to a couple of the “Stop the Bag Ban” protest points, namely, plastic bags are an insignificant portion of total waste and no studies have ever shown that bag bans significantly improve the environment.

I couldn’t agree more … or less.

I’m among many scientifically thinking folks who openly admit that the science behind the bag bans is pretty much blowing in the wind – co-mingling with blown-about bags. Environmental gains related to even the biggest of bag bans, including nationwide varieties, are ostensibly negligible. Just this week, researchers announced the notorious Pacific trash gyre is three times larger than previously thought. Sorry, but plastic bags simply weren’t part of that raft of filthy flotsam.

Now, I’ll hopefully salvage my memberships in a few green groups by reversing course and championing plastic bag bans as being both meaningful and inestimably valuable. To do that, all I need to do is focus on the way such bans are detonating public awareness of plastic pollution. Ban-the-bags movements are becoming a rallying point toward a coordinated outcry against all that ails the environment, including the spewing of greenhouse gases, which have our atmosphere gasping for air.

History has my back when I suggest that it is often grassroots uprisings that eventually lead to world-class changes. The intense public rallying around a ban on single-use plastic bags seems to be acting as a starter fluid, firing up a revolution against all that pollutes. Therefore, I can admit the minimal carbon footprint of a plastic bag while backing the bag bans on higher and far more worldly grounds.

All that offered, I’m betting I’ll still be catching slack from the anti-bag-ban sector. At least I offered some counterpoint, proving the other side is alive and kicking. What’s more, I’m kinda intrigued by what a senior-based “Burn the Paper Bags!” rally might look like. I’ll be there … wearing two hats.

THE EARLY BIRD … GETS EATEN?: It was a wonderous crossing of cuteness paths in Holgate, a path that might get grisly after dark. Explanation needed.

I was hiking the south-end beaches, skirting the parameters of the Forsyth Refuge, in the erosion zone, where the ocean and bay meet during the highest of tides. Within the otherwise still and lifeless overwash expanse, I caught a little touch of movement. Something tiny was scuttering about. Raising my camera, I focused in on what was certainly the first arriving piping plover of the spring season. Oddly, the cute little gal was hauling tail feathers toward me. She ground to a stop no more than 15 feet away … and just stared. I swear she was offering something like, “Am I too early for the party?” Or maybe even, “Hey, stranger, you’re kinda cute.” Single lady plovers can be kinda forward that way. I got a photo and moved on, as the plover gave me one of those “call me” signs with her foot.

That’s when paths – and attitudes – took a troubling turn. No more than 40 yards away, atop a vegetated sand hump, was our massive, resident female snowy owl. She is beauty manifest – and as ugly a killer as flies the skies – and perched within spittin’ distance of the prancey little early-bird plover.

Now, I’m not an owlologist of any import, but I swear to high heaven that lady snowy was licking her beaky chops, eying the plover like it was a tiny baked chicken slowly turning on a rotisserie.

Having opened many a snowy owl bolus/pellet, regurgitated by the birds after digesting a meal, I can assure you they down cute little, ground-based shorebirds with relish. I can see piping plovers being a snowy owl delicacy. I base that partially on Skype conversations I’ve had with primitive South American tribe members who eat skewer-loads of piping plovers, cooked over an open hardwood fire. Apparently they’re quite tasty, in a downsized way.

OK, so maybe I’m perpetuating and updating an old anglers’ tale about natives eating plovers. But just looking at that cute little piping plover, she sure seemed delectable, though speaking in a purely aesthetic sense. Besides, I’m a vegan, excepting seafood – and any no-see-em gnats I accidentally inhale on a hot summer’s day.

I walked away from that burst of birding, conflicted. Nature seemingly turns on itself, at least in the eyes of Mann. In this case, it was the untimely mismatching of a tarrying snowy owl, coaxed into hanging hereabouts by a late-running winter, and an early-arriving piping plover, egged on by egging season.

PS: Don’t tell the Forsythe folks, but I did some shouting and arm-flailing, aimed toward the salivating snowy. The huge bird did one of those slow, cocky-ass head turns toward me, like “Really, dude?” … and went back to eying the plover.

Oh, well. As the saying goes, let nature take its course. Of course, had I thrown big clam shells at the owl, Frisbee like …

BUNCHA STINKIN’ BASHERS: I was forwarded a story about a vile Third-World-Nation-like elimination method being used in Florida to control invasive iguanas, introduced into the state via the exotic pet trade.

Per Sunshine State authorities tasked with stemming the expansion of the invasive vegetarian lizards, the best way to reduce them is to smash their brains out, all too literally. This aboriginal method of dispatching the reptiles is not sitting well with duly cringing animal rights folks. I cringe in sympathy and support.

Having been an ardent iguana owner as a kid, I’m highly unwild about skull-crushing these oft people-friendly plant eaters, though they are commonly eaten in the Caribbean. I even named one of my iguanas “TLC.” It stood for “tastes like chicken,” though I never once said that in front of him.

Admittedly, Floridian iguanas can grow mongo-ishly large – well over 6 feet in length, the tail accounting for much of that. At that size, they’re a force to be had.

Once in the Virgin Islands, mid-1980s, I experienced my first wild iguana. Seeing it, I understandably figured it was a kindly creature, like my former pets. After an hour of chasing it through bushes and up trees, I managed to grab hold. It was big – and bad-ass. Not only did it instantly begin biting me to hell and back, but it administered a tail whipping that literally left my body with long black-and-blue lines. For my whole vacation, surfing crowds enjoying the peaky waves of Hull Bay were all “Duuuude, what the hell happened to you!?” Knowing I had a captivated audience, I looked down and nonchalantly said, “I just finished some hard time in a Georgia prison. I got bullwhipped a whole bunch.” Thereafter, I was given every single wave I paddled for. Hell, the next time I went to Hawaii I used black crayons to draw whip bruises, hoping to get waves to myself. Unfortunately, the island locals had never heard of Georgia – and had all done jail time.

Anyway, the reason Floridians are head bashing iguanas has to do with the way the creatures eat local plants and, purportedly, wildlife. Real weak science behind that latter rationale. Regardless of dietary quirks, Sunshine Staters see them as invasive, worthy of a good old Southern brain-letting.

In a story by Rafi Letzter titled “Florida Scientists Are Running Around at Night Bashing In Iguanas’ Skulls,” it seems that bashing is the best way to go. Letzter was told by authorities that “Head bashing may be gruesome … but it’s also the most humane of the effective methods they’ve come up with. Simply chopping the lizards’ heads off turns out to be less humane; and the traps the team set have thus far only captured raccoons. Working in teams of two, sneaking up on the lizards in the dead of night and bashing ’em seems to be the best method.”

Are you frickin’ serious?! Attitudes like that get me downright ornery. My thinking: If you have the lizards in hand – how else could you personally head-bang them? – just net ’em, bag ’em alive and create some sort of iguana rescue facility. I’ll even come down and run it when I retire.

I also can’t overlook the whole ugly irony regarding invasiveness. Florida is now the third most people-crowded state in the nation. The buildout there is insane; I might coyly call it insanely invasive. But, somehow, science contends it’s those stinkin’ dang lizards that are ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Gimme a break! People accusing a lizard of being invasive is the epitome of the pot calling the kettle green, so to speak.

OK, maybe I’m an incorrigible lizard-hugger. Even so, I hope you can see why I’d like to brain some of those iguana bashers.


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