OPINION — National Geographic’s Laura Parker reported, in a timely and well-written article published 23 February, 2018, that there is a new catastrophic threat to planet Earth that dwarfs all previous catastrophic threats, including, but not limited to, ozone depletion, global warming, global cooling, global preheating, global rinsing, Russian election intervention, the Kardashians, and reruns of the Friends sitcom. This new catastrophic threat is more deadly than ebola, more disgusting than an advanced Vibrio infection, more repugnant than The View, and more destructive than celebrity environmentalists.
The catastrophic threat NatGeo is so worried about is: plastic drinking straws. No doubt, if you haven’t heard about this already, you think I’m making it up. I assure you I’m as serious as Hank Johnson was when he posited, in a congressional hearing, that Guam was liable to capsize. Which very well could still happen, if we don’t get this plastic straw thing under control.
Laura did not, in so many words, say all those things, but she inferred them. To begin with, Laura claimed that eight million tons of plastic flows into the world’s oceans every year by way of rivers in coastal countries. Her source for this figure was another NatGeo article written by Laura Parker. The source for the figure in that article was a study supposedly published by Science magazine that I couldn’t check, because the link Laura provided took me to the home page of the Science magazine website, and I couldn’t find any reference to the study. At all. Not that I’m accusing Laura of making the study up. I have far too much respect for my fellow satire columnists to do that. Plus NatGeo probably has a lot of lawyers on retainer.
Laura also claimed, in the February article, that the plastic trash in the oceans will outweigh the fish by 2050. Her source for that estimate was a 2016 study done by the World Economic Forum. I tried to read this study, but it was pretty long and quite frankly far too boring. I have no idea who wrote it, but I suspect it was Laura Parker.
Laura’s tagline, for the February article was: Americans use 500 million straws daily. This figure is being used by a lot of news outlets lately. The source for that one was easier to ferret out. Vermont fourth grader, nine-year-old Milo Cress, was doing a science fair project in 2011, and he estimated the 500 million daily straw consumption figure. But we shouldn’t be too hard on Laura for that little faux pas. The same figure has been touted by such august media outlets as USA Today, CNN, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the New York Times. Reporting ain’t what it used to be, I guess.
But so-called ‘environmentalists’ don’t let a little thing like facts get in the way of a good catastrophe. No sir. The wing nuts in California, Washington State, and New York have begun to ban plastic straws altogether. The city of Santa Barbara has passed a law, to go into effect 1 January 2019, that not only prohibits all distribution and sales of plastic straws, but a second offense carries a penalty of a $1000 fine and up to six months in jail. For a straw. In Seattle the fine is only $250, now, but I’m sure they’ll bump it up before long.
Of course, jumping on the environmental band wagon is de rigueur among the elite, holier-than-thou world savers on the coasts, regardless of facts. Laura’s claim of eight million tons of plastic flowing into the oceans annually is taken as gospel for no better reason than that it was printed in NatGeo. Cue the hysterics and jail anyone who disagrees, because the environment is threatened, whether it really is or not.
A major factor in the straw issue is a video that went viral a few years ago of an olive ridley sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril. While I’m opposed to anything that harms sea turtles, this was obviously a freak situation, hardly likely to become common. It had no bearing on my personal straw usage, since I never used them anyway. Not because I worry about what they do to the environment. I just hate straws.
But even if Laura’s plastic tonnage estimate is in the ballpark, U.S. plastic straw consumption is hardly a factor. Scientific American reported in February that 93% of the plastic trash flowing into the oceans comes from Africa and Asia. The Yangtze River, by itself, dumps about 1.5 million tons of junk into the Yellow Sea annually. The rest of the world contributes 7% of the garbage, of which the U.S. throws in a tiny fraction. So banning straws, all straws, in our entire country will never make a noticeable difference to the oceans. The whole catastrophe is a scam, swallowed whole by the Chicken Littles, as usual.
The die, however, has been cast, and straws are on their way out, and all I can say to those of you who live in the communist countries like Washington and California is: Suck it up, buttercup. Just don’t use a straw.