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  • It's 3,000 BCE, and it's an unbearably hot day in Sumer, a civilization which thrived

  • in what is now known as southern Iraq.

  • Under the bright sun, two Sumerians quench their thirst with a nice wheat beer.

  • But they've been having a problem.

  • Their fermentation process often leaves some unwanted solid byproducts floating at the

  • top of their drink that are hard to avoid.

  • Luckily they found a solution: a straw.

  • Crafted from bone, metal, or even organic materials like reed, Sumerians used the straw

  • as a way to safeguard their sipping activities from bugs, grain husks, and any sort of sediment

  • that may have happened to sneak into their drinks.

  • Fast-forward thousands of years and straws are still very much a staple across the globe.

  • But now these straws are plastic (and bendy).

  • A fact to which many environmentalists take umbrage.

  • So much so, that plastic straw bans have now been enacted in Vancouver, Seattle, as well

  • as has been proposed by the European.

  • Despite the recent passage of these bans, I'm curious about their effectiveness.

  • Today, I want to figure out whether straw bans are effective, but more importantly,

  • what are the ramifications of banning plastic straws?

  • One number, at least for me, puts straw bans into a broader context: .025%.

  • According to Phys.org, plastic straws account for only .025% of the total mass of trash

  • in the ocean.

  • According to the Ocean Conservancy's annual clean up report they pulled 643,542 straws

  • or roughly .26 metric tonnes from the ocean in 2018.

  • Scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox estimate that there could be as much as 8.3

  • billion plastic straws on the world's coastlines.

  • But when you consider that a straw weighs .4 grams, 8 billion straws equate to roughly

  • 3,320 metric tonnes of plastic.

  • While that is a large number, it's remarkably small compared to the 8 million metric tons

  • of pieces of plastic that enter the ocean annually.

  • So, straws are just a small part of a much larger ocean trash problem.

  • In fact, if we look at the make-up of trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, fishing

  • nets and gear make up 46% of the mass.

  • So, plastic straws are not a large part of the piling mountain of trash, but they are

  • a part.

  • For that reason, the possibility of straw bans is cropping up in major metropolises

  • like New York City.

  • And part of the reason people are so eager to ban them is that they seem like low hanging

  • fruit.

  • Most people can get away with not using them.

  • But this seemingly linear connection between banning single-use plastic straws and minimizing

  • environmental impact is more nuanced upon closer inspection.

  • In fact, calls for straw bans have experienced strong pushback from the people with disabilities,

  • and rightfully so.

  • Eliminating plastic straws is a prime example of eco-ableism.

  • But to understand straws and ultimately eco-ableism, we need to first discuss spoons.

  • In a blog post for the University of Alabama's Institute for Human Rights, Marlee Townsend

  • describes the concept of spoon theory initially coined by blogger Christine Miserandino.

  • Townsend writes that within this spoon theory metaphor, able-bodied people wake up every

  • day with an infinite amount of spoons, while people with disabilities only wake up with

  • a couple of spoons.

  • Every activity, like putting on socks or brushing your teeth requires a spoon.

  • People with disabilities have to be deliberate with how they spend their spoons.

  • Otherwise, as Townsend writes, they'll be out of spoons before lunch, immobilized and

  • exhausted.

  • So not having access to a bendy straw, requires spending a spoon whenever someone wants to

  • take a drink.

  • In short, straw bans represent an instance of eco-ableism because in our haste to frontline

  • environmental concerns, able-bodied people have made the lives of disabled folks harder

  • by eliminating a product of convenience.

  • At this point, you might be saying, “Hey, but what about the other straw alternatives!!”

  • You're right, there are currently paper, metal, and bamboo straws out there that restaurants

  • have started to use, but unfortunately they are not as easy to use, durable, and flexible

  • as plastic straws.

  • In an op-ed in The Guardian disability rights activist, Penny Pepper, tackles this issue

  • head-on.

  • She notes that flexibility is one of the key reasons why plastic straws are so useful because

  • it's much easier to get the right angle for safe drinking, especially when you can't

  • hold a cup or even if another person holds it for you.”

  • Metal and bamboo straws are often too hard or wide, which can prove problematic for people

  • with biting issues.

  • Alternatives also may be too costly, be a choking hazard, cause an allergic reaction,

  • or might not be able to hold up to high temperatures.

  • But to believe that people with disabilities are at odds with the environmental movement

  • would be a mistake.

  • In her op-ed Pepper goes on to write, “The irritating thing is that somehow disabled

  • people are tainted as not caring about environmental issues.

  • The truth, in my experience, is that many actually care more

  • I don't actually want to use harmful chemicals in the interests of my personal care.”

  • In essence, straw bans seem to be such a small portion of ocean plastic.

  • The environmental good that bans will create will be minimal.

  • We have not listened to or considered the effects a straw ban will have on disabled

  • folks.

  • If indeed, cleaning up ocean trash is our goal, then the management of fishing nets

  • and refuse, which make up a larger percentage ocean trash, might be a much better use of

  • our time.

  • The point here is that straws are just a small piece of the plastic problem, and other areas

  • of waste management would have a greater effect on our global drawdown of plastic use.

  • Straw bans show environmental action can't be done unilaterally and without viable alternatives

  • for those who need them.

  • It's not just that marginalized people will have it worse if the environmental movement

  • continues to ignore and create forms of oppression, it's that we cannot do any of this work without

  • marginalized people.

  • Most oppressed communities experience the worst of the world and therefore also tend

  • to have the most radical solutions and build the most successful movements.

  • Despite the amount of time I spend honing my flashy graphics and slick visuals, the

  • hardest part about making videos is writing a well-crafted story.

  • At the end of the day, if the script isn't good, then the video isn't good.

  • That's why I've recently turned to Skillshare to learn more about developing strong narratives

  • in non-fiction writing.

  • Skillshare is an online learning community with over 25,000 classes covering topics like

  • motion graphic design, video creation, and much much more.

  • Skillshare has been an essential way for me to work on my storytelling and writing in

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  • I recently dove into New Yorker Staff Writer Susan Orlean's Creative Nonfiction writing

  • class, which guides you through every step of the writing process from finding a subject

  • to the final edit.

  • And I'm absolutely loving it.

  • Above all else though, Skillshare is affordable.

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  • So, join the millions of creators and learners on Skillshare today with a special offer just

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  • Hey everyone, it's Charlie.

  • Just wanted to let you know that there is a global climate strike happening on September

  • 20th and I'd highly recommend supporting in whatever way you can.

  • Also, speaking of support, thank you so much to people like Chris Lam who support me on

  • Patreon.

  • They're really the backbone of this whole operation and help bring consistency to my

  • channel.

  • So thanks again, and I'll see you in two weeks.

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B1 US straw skillshare environmental ocean trash spoon

Why plastic straw bans aren’t the answer.

  • 19 2
    joey joey posted on 2021/06/12
Video vocabulary