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Straw Politics

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So I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated with the anti-straw campaigns over the past year. And now Kamala Harris is on the train. Yesterday, Shakezula got on the Twitter machine about it:

Yes.

Look, plastic straws are one problem in terms of marine pollution. But this isn’t a politics that solves any problems but allowing privileged people to pretend like they are doing something positive. The problems of plastic in the oceans is gargantuan. The programs to even make a dent in this problem requires big state action. If this straw activism was something that went much further, say banning most disposable consumer plastics, then that’s something to start talking about. But this is a huge shunt away from a useful environmental and climate politics toward the kind of solipsitic individualism that marks people responding to sweatshops by wearing used clothing. I don’t as a general rule want to dampen down politics that move forward on anything. But this straw issue is so worthless as to be an outright negative because it takes energy away from the scope of the problem. On top of this is how straws are needed by disabled people. Now, if we wanted to move toward some sort of reusable straw that the restaurant would wash, OK maybe. But that’s not what this is about. And it’s very annoying.

Of course Elizabeth Warren, being the smartest of all the candidates, is having none of it.

Exactly. Let’s move toward a real politics here, not one based on individual consumerism that actually serves the forces actually responsible for these problems. And if we are really going to ban straws, which I won’t support without the possibility of them existing for those who need them, let’s at least think like Jim Leape, one of the world’s foremost scientists fighting against plastics in the oceans:

LEAPE: Plastic straws are only a tiny fraction of the problem – less than 1 percent. The risk is that banning straws may confer “moral license” – allowing companies and their customers to feel they have done their part. The crucial challenge is to ensure that these bans are just a first step, offering a natural place to start with “low-hanging fruit” so long as it’s part of a much more fundamental shift away from single-use plastics across the value chains of these companies and our economy.

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