Drinking Straw Ban – Facts and Fiction

The movement to ban drinking straws and other single-use plastics is growing around the world. The ban prohibits restaurants, bars, and other food service businesses from handing out plastic straws to their customers. Some cities impose fines. Other cities are considering the possibility of jail time for repeat offenders.

The humorists have had a field day. (See more Memes at the end of this post.)

In 2017 there were about 63 billion straws used in the United States – about 170-175 million straws per day. (Data from Technomic – a consulting and research firm).

The Be Straw Free Campaign, however, claims that Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. That’s an average of 1.6 straws per person per day which supposedly is enough to fill over 125 school buses. The 500 million number apparently came from a 9 year old boy who did a telephone survey of some straw manufacturers in 2011. No one bothered to check the validity of that number.

The City of Vancouver recently claimed that Canadians use 57 million straws a year — a number they extrapolated purely by adjusting the 500 million figure for Canada’s population.
National Post, July, 2018 –

Strawless Ocean takes that exaggerated number (500 million) even further by saying:

Plastic straws are really bad for the ocean. We use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life.

Most of those straws, however, don’t end up in the oceans:

A 2015 study in the journal Science ranked countries by their rate of “mismanaged” waste. Ocean pollution heavyweights such as Bangladesh were mismanaging up to 89 per cent of their garbage. In the United States that rate was only two percent — a number made all the more notable given that the average American generates up to five times more trash than a Bangladeshi.
National Post, July, 2018 –

500 million straws is just one example of estimates gone wild. How many straws do you suppose are discarded on the entire world’s coastlines? To find that number, two Australian scientists used the amount of trash collected on U.S. coastlines during cleanups over five years. They came up with a figure between 437 million and 8.3 billion plastic straws.

In other words, no one really knows to any degree of accuracy how many plastic straws are used, nor how many end up on beaches. They also have no clear idea how many are washed into the ocean, but it is estimated that if all the straws that might be on beaches all washed into the ocean, they’d account for about .03 percent of the plastics estimated to enter the oceans in a given year. Maybe.

What really kicked off the Straw Ban Campaign, though, was a viral video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw in it’s nose. The turtle was the trump card, if you’ll pardon the pun.

The drinking straw ban – a feel good thing that let’s people feel virtuous without actually having to do much.

The Siksika First Nation – Idle No More

Between March 23rd and 27th,  vandals caused extensive damage to 25 Summer Cabins in a quiet little Golf Resort called Hidden Valley.

Normal operating procedure for this community of 305 cabins, situated on a 324 acre parcel of land leased from the Siksika First Nation, would be to repair or rebuild what the vandals destroyed. After all, the cabin owners have rebuilt twice in the past when the community was extensively flooded by the Bow River.

But this isn’t a normal year. It is the last year of the Resort’s lease. A small but vocal group of Siksika Nation Members have decided not to Redesignate these lands for use by non-nation members. By extension, they do not wish to renew the lease proposal that the Siksika Nation Chief and Council negotiated with the Cabin Owner’s Association.

In a Referendum this past December where 4167 Siksika Members were given the opportunity to vote on redesignation, 641 voted NO, while 269 voted YES. The remaining 78% of the population chose not to vote.

The Cabin Owners (some of them members of the Siksika Nation) were surprised and devastated by the ‘No’ vote. They have been paying the maintenance and improvement costs for the amenities – a 9 hole semi-private Golf Course, pro shop, restaurant, and man made lake – for the past 38 years. With green fees of just $20 a round, the golf course has attracted a loyal following of the Nation’s members and provides employment in a corner of the reserve where there are few jobs. In addition, the Resort pays an annual rights fee to the Nation in order to use the land for six months of the year.

They were equally surprised, but optimistic when Chief and Council passed a resolution that said they intended on holding another Referendum that would extend the existing lease for another 2-3 years so that the will of the entire Nation could be determined – a participatory democracy in action!

This action didn’t sit well with a small number of those who had voted NO. They had been celebrating the fact that the ‘colonists and their 300 years of lies‘ would be forced off of their land. They couldn’t understand how the cabin owners were suddenly back in the running. They did not seem to realize or accept that their Chief and Council had initiated the offer of a second Resolution.

It was at this point that a group of vandals decided to take matters into their own hands. It is hard to say what they expected to accomplish, or where their loyalties lie, but the damage was another blow to the Cabin Owners. They were also disheartened when they found out that Chief and Council were in no hurry to hold the next referendum – the proposed date would not give the cabin owners time to remove their cabins if the vote was NO again.

The whole thing is of interest to me because this Resort is where our extended family have cabins. It is a place where we have been gathering for over twenty years. We care about this land, and we care about what happens to the people – the ones who own the land, the ones who look after it, and the ones who use it.

The distance between the Cabin Owners and the Vote NO! dissenters cannot be measured. It is more than a failure in communication between partners; more than the mistrust the dissenters have of their Chief and Council. It is more than a dispute over who pays how much for what – and when. It is, in so many ways, the re-enactment of the settling of Canada, only this time some part of the First Nation feels like they have won.

It is sad to think what the rest of this First Nation will lose in the process.

UPDATE: A second Referendum was not held.  The ‘last summer’ at Hidden Valley ended abruptly when the  Bow River flooded the entire community in June 2013. Every home in Hidden Valley was destroyed completely.

Occupy Wall Street – How to Redistribute Wealth

If it was easy to be wealthy, then more people would be.
– Author Unknown –

Occupy Wall Street – As protests go, this one is quite different from the ones of my youth. It does not have one simple, focused demand like ‘End the War’ or ‘Ban the Bomb’, although ‘Redistribute Wealth’ might come close. The protesters claim to represent the 99% of the population that is being denied a chance at upward mobility by the 1% of the population that is extremely wealthy.

So, just who are the Top 1% in America? According to the 2010 US Federal Tax Data, they are the taxpayers who earned over $380,354 a year. They include people  like the US President, cardiologists, lawyers, software engineers, college Presidents and football coaches, professional bloggers, journalists, TV personalities, company owners and executives, internet company founders, pro athletes, movie stars, etc. Apparently about 80% of these people weren’t born into rich families. They started out small, and worked their way up. (Here is an interesting story called How Do the Wealthy Get That Way, by Bert Whitehead)

How to Redistribute Wealth – The Car Guy and I are part of the 99%, but we aren’t protesting the wealth of the 1%. We know how hard it was to get where we are on the ladder, so can appreciate how much effort was required by that 80% of the 1% that are very wealthy .  Many of them got to where they are by convincing the 99% to spend money on their product, and in our case, it is a hard sell. We subscribe to the philosophy that the best way for us to increase our wealth is to ‘Not Spend Money on Things that Make Other People Wealthy.’  I call it our ‘Cunning Plan’ and after 40 plus years of using the strategy, we are retired and living comfortably.

Our Cunning Plan started with the purchase of our first house. It was the smallest (about 900 sq ft), cheapest house available that was still within commuting distance of the city where The Car Guy’s job was. The house was about 20 years old and was only insulated with a few layers of cardboard. The furnace was unpredictable. But this was 1972 – the average size of a home was a bit less than 1000 square feet and we paid about $7000 less than the average cost of a house at that time.  (Today, in both Canada and the US, the average size home is a bit over 2000 square feet. This might be part of the reason home costs have increased faster than income has!)

Of course, the housing market went through a few booms and busts, but we rode it out by buying cheaper homes, renovating and selling – 6 houses in all. Sweat equity  – The Car Guy runs the power tools, I am the drywall, paint and cleaning crew!

The Car Guy’s Dad always said that you should save a little bit out of every pay check, and that was also part of our Cunning Plan. We combined Savings with ‘Living withing our Means’. We had no ‘Lines of Credit’ and no loans other than our mortgage. We paid off the credit cards in time to avoid paying interest fees.  We also realized that the money we saved by not paying debt interest could be used for other things. (Did you know that in the US alone, Credit Card penalty fees and interest paid on unpaid balances amounts to $92 billion per year?  I guess that is one of the reasons bankers are wealthy…)

Delayed Gratification – it wasn’t  always easy, but it was how we made our plan work. That, and we didn’t spend much money on disposable items – the products that make millions for corporations, but don’t provide a return on personal investment. In the US, the annual expenditures for some of these products are:

1. Movies, Major League Sports, videos, music, TV, electronics: $228 billion a year
2. Fast Foods, coffee shops, weight loss products, alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, addiction health care: $635 billion per year
3. Beauty Products: $98.1 billion per year
4. Lottery tickets: $58 billion
5. Soft drinks: $11.7 billion

Some inventive soul created the following poster, which points out that people don’t think about how they support the very thing they protest.

Perhaps ‘Occupy Wall Street’ will help the 99% to understand they are both the problem and the solution.