Radical changes needed to tackle green issues
Wed, Feb 09, 2011 – By Leona Boey
LAST month, residents of a little island in the north took a brave leap into the future. As of Jan 1, plastic bags have been banned from all department stores and supermarkets in Penang, Malaysia. And for a year or so before that, there was a partial ban on plastic bags at supermarkets there. Shoppers were then either given cardboard boxes or expected to take along their own carriers from Mondays to Thursdays.
The total ban took courage and vision, and should make us sit up and take notice.
Sure, supermarkets here have been encouraging us to use our own bags for some time, but how many of us really do so?
Imagine the outcry that would result if a total ban were to be mooted here. Newspapers, blogs and feedback channels might well become flooded with protests against the inconvenience.
Complaints have also arisen about the number of re-usable bags given out by retailers. “So many bags that we don’t know what to do with them,” some say.
Well, how about taking along those “extra” bags on the next shopping trip?
The truth is no matter how much noise we make about global warming, carbon emissions, destruction of the rainforests or other “trendy” issues, it is always easier to talk than to actually change.
In fact, most of us are guilty of turning a blind eye to the state of things.
How else would you explain the supermarket crowds still lugging oh-so-convenient plastic bags, the upward trend in car ownership (with some getting a second, or even third, vehicle) and our continuing obsession with gourmet-food festivals, luxury resorts and conspicuous consumption, while the rest of the world struggles with floods, droughts and food prices rising to crisis levels?
I was amazed to read, some months ago, about a home owner who boasted of his “green” credentials because of the solar panels installed on the roof of his home. The panels partially powered the air-conditioning in the glass-fronted luxury home occupied by him and his wife.
His “reduced” electricity bill was still about five times that of my household, and raises the question of why one couple even needs that much air-conditioning to cool such a huge, untropicalfriendly house.
The fact is that, if this decade is to be any different from the last, courage will be needed to make radical changes – “radical” in the sense of questioning our priorities, attitudes and outlook.
Without the courage to make radical changes to our lifestyles and expectations, there will be no solution to the looming environmental crisis, no matter how we try to have our cake and eat it.
Radical changes do not have to be big, but they must be real. We could start simply by taking a leaf out of the Penang residents’ book, sacrificing convenience and taking our own bags to the supermarket.
The writer is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in central Singapore with her husband and two children.