While the close of the most recent California legislative session saw bans being passed all over the place -- everything from a ban on the creepy and controversial gay-to-straight therapy method to no longer being able to openly carry around rifles and shotguns like you're a cowboy to keeping motorists from getting within three feet of bikers bikers when passing them -- one aspect that was completely missed during this year's spate of government interventions: environmental concerns.
(Keep in mind: Governor Jerry Brown still has until the end of September to officially sign off on all of these bills, so there's a chance that some of the above-mentioned bans may not make The Quickening into law.)
Among the bans that failed to get passed include AB 298, which would have banned single-use plastic bags across the state, and SB 568, the styrofoam ban I mentioned last week. Both bills were far from slam dunks, with the main concern being the loss of state jobs, both in the realm of the actual people who produce the plastic bags and styrofoam and in the independent companies that use them, seeing as they'd need to drop some extra coin on more environmentally-friendly alternatives. (The mindset being, if they spend more money in that arena, the cost would be so dramatic they'd have to lose an employee or two to account for it.)
Obviously, people aren't super excited about these results.
EnvironmentCalifornia.org calls the failure to pass such a ban a "missed opportunity" by the legislature, saying the bill "would have been a major step forward in protecting the Pacific Ocean from plastic pollution." At the opinion section of Mercury News, reader Matthew Spiegl writes that "the environment lost" because of the continued use of styrofoam in the state.
While these angry sentiments make sense, what's missing from the reactive conversation is a sense that things are actually getting better. That bans of both items are being passed pretty consistently, just not yet on a state-wide basis. As the above-linked EnvironmentCalifornia.org press release states:
In the past 2 years, over 50 cities or counties have voted to ban single-use plastic bags. When all of these ordinances go into affect, almost one-third of Californian's will live in bag-free communities.
And the anti-styrofoam sentiment is also building, slowly but surely, with the latest ban coming from L.A. area schools.
In order words, the legislature seems to be simply recusing itself from passing a state-wide ban on either of the products and just letting the local jurisdictions make their own laws. Progress may be happening at a more incremental pace than what's desired, but the progress is still coming and it won't be stopped. Things are looking up for environmentalists, despite the appearance of failure that these bills give off.
But, still. Even with that positive spin on the news: