If there was one thing we could do without and change tomorrow if we wanted to in order to benefit conservation it would be the use of carrier bags. We could so easily do without them in reality yet the subject seems to touch a nerve with thousands of people. Every year incidentally sea birds die from ingesting plastic such as starving to death as a consequence of being then unable to feed. I have heard of vast areas of plastic reported gathering and swirling around at pinch points in the ocean out at sea. If we were to take a moment to think about how a carrier bag is produced its raw materials must first be sourced, that's oil. This takes energy and all the associated water consumption, waste emissions and so on. The raw product is refined using more energy. Eventually at some stage the bags are produced, printed and packaged (more energy consumption and associated emissions) before being transported (you guessed it, fuel consumption and gas emissions) before eventually reaching their final destination. At which point they are packed, taken home and in most instances thrown away, although we are much better at recycling now than we used to be. The problem is still massive given the millions of bags consumed annually in Britain without even thinking about American consumption. That is not the end of the story of course. As plastic doesn't break down naturally it can sit around for years after. Alternatively light degrades them and they break down into smaller and smaller pieces that again make their way into the food chain of the ocean. Fish can be found with microscopic partials of plastic inside them.
We are not dependent on carrier bags in any way shape or form other than habit, convenience and for the shops that supply them to splash their name around as a form of advertisement. In the 21st century the pressures on the natural world remain heavy and sustained. Many conservationists even hold the growing consensus that it is no longer a case of conservation but restoration. After all, we have reached the stage where things are so dire there is nothing much left (in a healthy state) to conserve anymore. Large scale re-wilding projects among other larger ideas are needed to restore nature. Given all this, as a small change we could do without tomorrow if we wanted with no real effect to peoples daily lives it would be to end our use of carrier bags, the closer to zero the better. This being very much a positive step that is more than possible.
Thanks for reading this far if you've got to this point. I'd like to now look deeper at this topic of carrier bags that divides us. At its heart I find it very telling of the ideas we hold and ultimately its about the way we think about the world/nature. For conservation this is significant because if we tap into the reasons why people consume with little or no concern we may just be able to understand the wider context of why, if nature is vital to our well-being and the health of humanity, do we continue to destroy, degrade and turn our back on what sustains us. This is what I am interested in. That golden question. That deep question. Lets face it, there are millions of people in this country that have no interest in conservation/nature as its of no interest to their daily lives (millions however do, even at a basic level so if your one thank you). Some openly admit they don't give a shit. I am convinced that millions more simply don't think about it or know much about the state of nature and the extent to which the countryside has become impoverished. To me nature with all its wildness is so important yet millions of people live out their lives distanced or separated from it completely. I find it a scary prospect that millions of people have lost connection with a natural balance. City's distance us, their walls contain us and all the same millions live quite happily in them. Does this however go some way to answering why species are declining and habitats disappearing? Quite possibly. Are we distracted? Are we lost? This is deep stuff, really deep but for me stating declines are due to human 'progress' and our own negligence alone falls some way short of an answer. It falls short of answering the why. Why is this happening/has this happened? What are we searching for? Why are we never happy with what we've got? What if we consume to fill a void of some unknown thing, a soul deep thing, that we have lost but can not find? Are we living or just existing? Is that soul deep thing nature? That deep connection. That sense of knowing. Of being one with the world. Of finding purpose. Vivid and real. Is that what we want? Reasons for species decline are varied and complicated of course. Yet imagine if millions of people were to shift their heart and soul in a direction towards nature that may be our true calling. Maybe in doing so we can find a better world.
Some say what we are doing is inevitable like a snow ball gathering in size and speed down a hill under its own momentum, just basic population dynamics and too big to stop now. It's a global issue. But I don't want to believe them. Even with idiots to this day intent on plundering the world, exploiting natural resources, development and whatever else we choose to do because we feel like it, I don't want to believe them. We have a choice. By restoring the natural world we can restore ourselves because we are the same thing. We have a choice.