Enviro Memo to Joni Balter: Calm Down.
posted by April 24 at 14:47 PMon
Today’s column from the Seattle Times’ Chicken Little editorialist Joni Balter has it all. The phrase “nanny state”? Check. Overwrought references to “social engineering”? Check. Mockery of organic food and gardening as “enviro-dogma”? You betcha.
Take it away, Joni:
[Seattle City Council president Richard ] Conlin’s latest proposal is a wide-ranging resolution that aims to strengthen “Seattle’s food system sustainability and security.” The measure promotes healthy eating, militant vegetable growing, greenhouse-gas-reduction opportunities related to food. It aims to address obesity and food waste and improve everyday access to farmers markets.
If that sounds like a nanny state in a bib overall, it’s much more. It’s 12 pages of enviro-dogma that might, finally, take the green-city bit overboard … into the compost bin.
Shorter Balter: If we stop eating fast food and buying all our groceries exclusively at Wal-Mart, the terrorists have won!!! (I’ll leave it to readers to figure out what the hell “militant vegetable growing” means.)
Since becoming council president a few months ago, he has become Conlin Unplugged, pushing Seattle to the forefront of sustainable living. Sometimes it seems he is trying to out-Berkeley Berkeley.
The proud architect of the city’s pygmy-goat policy — he pushed to permit miniature goats as licensed pets — seems more focused on Green Acres than Green Lake.
Conlin is a social engineer who clearly sees himself as the overseer, left unchecked, of Seattle as one giant kibbutz. Pesticide-free, of course.
Well, for God’s sake, Joni, spray some pesticide on me STAT!
Keep in mind that the proposal that’s got Balter all hot and bothered is, in her own words, a “measure [that] promotes healthy eating… vegetable growing, [and] greenhouse-gas-reduction opportunities related to food. It aims to address obesity and food waste and improve everyday access to farmers markets.” A kibbutz, in contrast, is this. See the difference?
But boy, is Balter good at framing:
Conlin has pushed a plan to recycle kitchen waste, whether customers want to or not. Starting next year, many Seattleites will be issued another container for garbage, to pull food waste out of the waste stream.
Let’s try phrasing that another way: Conlin has pushed a plan giving customers the option of recycling kitchen waste, instead of just throwing it out. Starting next year, Seattleites who want to recycle food waste can get another container to pull food waste out of the waste stream.
But Balter isn’t done yet. She hasn’t mentioned the poor! Oh, here they are:
About a year ago, San Francisco outlawed plastic bags at large grocery stores. Conlin and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels go further. Conlin is a proponent of the plan to charge 20 cents per paper and plastic bag in grocery, drug and convenience stores to reduce landfill space and cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
One gets the impression no price tag is too high if Conlin and his pals can feel they are saving the Earth with every breath they take and every move they make.
Middle- and lower-income residents have limits. Most will follow along, grab a canvas bag and do the right thing. But where does it end? Bit by bit, baby step by baby step, we are pricing the middle class out of the city — sometimes in an effort to turn our city into one giant commune.
Um, Joni? A tax on plastic bags does not “go much further” than banning them outright. The reason: Unlike a ban, charging a nominal fee gives consumers a choice. If you want to bring your own bag, it’s free. Or, if you prefer to use a disposable bag, you pay 20 cents. Nobody’s putting a gun to your head, nor is anyone taking any options away.
Also: “No price tag is too high”? How disingenuous can you be? It’s a 20-CENT FUCKING FEE that is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL. Conlin isn’t forcing anything on anyone (and for the record, the fee has strong support from the rest of the city council)—and even if he somehow could force the plastic-bag fee down an unwilling city’s collective throat, it’s still 20 FUCKING CENTS. If a middle-class person uses so many optional plastic bags that they can no longer afford to live in Seattle, that’s their own stupid fault.
But not to fear—Joni’s a reasonable anti-environmentalist. Hey, she even shops at the PCC from time to time!
I am all for farmers markets and food grown close to home. I sometimes shop at the Puget Consumers Co-op in my neighborhood, which procures some vegetables a few miles from where my mother-in-law lives in Sequim. I favor reasonable behavior changes — steps like conserving water and energy to be green and help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
But, damn it, she’s tired of these enviro-commies marching us all off to their eco-rehabilitation camps!
But give me — no, give our residents — a break. This is not a commune. This is a big urban city.
Hey, you know what’s great about “big urban cities”? They’re the kind of places where environmental policies—recycling, bans on environmentally harmful (and unnecessary) things like plastic bags, city-run composting programs, policies that promote local food—first take hold. If it weren’t for environmental efforts that initially took hold in big, urban cities, we’d all still be driving massive gas guzzlers, throwing our newspapers in the trash, and eating pesticide-drenched produce and antibiotic-injected meat. So I’m all for big urban cities setting an example for everybody else. In a sense, it’s our job.
I understand that right-wing editorialists like Balter trade in “they’re trying to take away our FREEEEEEDOMS !” outrage. But using a bully pulpit like the editorial page of the Seattle Times to argue against even the mildest environmental improvements (read the resolution if you don’t believe me, but it calls for things like “strengthen city support for the local food economy” and “identify additional locations and infrastructure for community gardens) isn’t just disingenuous. It’s irresponsible.