Banning plastic straws won’t save the world.
I first heard of plastic straw bans gaining traction a few years ago. At first I was supportive—I’m always for reducing the amount of single-use plastic that gets put out into the environment, and this was my first time truly thinking about how often I used plastic straws. That was before I began to hear the voices of people with disabilities as well as supportive activists rising up online. These activists explained that many people with disabilities need plastic straws, and there are few other alternatives that function appropriately for them. Besides, straws did not contribute to global pollution nearly as much as other pollutants, like plastic bags, microplastics or the tons of emissions pumped into the atmosphere by corporations. Now whenever I hear about potential plastic straw bans, I think of the ways we could approach this issue that might better serve the environment and people with disabilities.
This commonplace is significant to me because it was part of how I learned to look at each issue I care about holistically. It is obviously beneficial if each individual goes about living our lives as best as we can in service of the environment, but we have to take into account that large corporations are causing more damage than we as individuals likely ever will. This one example has become applicable in many other parts of my life, trying to think about how each individual decision also has unintended consequences—for example, making life more difficult for people with disabilities. I like to think that at least one layer of my identities is an activist, and this issue is a reminder that caring about different social, political, and environmental issues follows a “do no harm” mentality—that if a win for one issue is a loss for another, then that is not a win at all.