The new norm... Get with it!

Warrick Lattibeaudiere

Monday, January 21, 2019

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Whether we like it or not, and despite the ruffling around and opposition to the plastics ban, it is the dawn of a new era in which certain plastic products will no longer be with us. We can choose to remain naysayers and surround ourselves with inaction, or get with it and support the Government in this move geared towards environmental preservation — a move, truth be told, may well be talked about for generations to come.

Only change is constant

Human beings, being creatures of habit, are always trying to stay in our zones of comfort and will resist and even aggress those who impose alternatives to our norms. This, despite the refrain we claim to embrace that only change is constant. It bears reminding that before plastic bags came to our island over half a century ago — and then became a business and household staple — our households were functioning. The introduction of plastic bags was, then, a new norm. It follows that the generation at the time had no choice but to adjust to their new reality, and it is in similar fashion — over half a century into the future and with the tables turned — that we are called upon to embrace a new norm.

Like medicine, in its initial stages, however we may perceive it, there is an uncomfortable feel, but which well-thinking person (patient) could posit that these are not beneficial and ultimately life-saving moves that will yield greater results, and the earlier the better?

Embracing this change starts with the mind. As we begin adjusting our mindset, our bodies will become far more receptive to the new; and the strange will not seem so strange after all. And, though the robust campaigns, education, and transition we had anticipated are just now coming, things are always better late than never.

We also anticipate sustained discourse, with progressively clearer revelations, that will further illuminate this path that ultimately leads to full adaptation.

Lead the change

It is commonly agreed that we, the people and businesses, are the ones tasked to obey the law and make it work. It is heart-warming and encouraging to hear of reports and see individuals and entities, which initially teetered in their support of the plastics ban, now breaking into the process. Other businesses, like Island Grill, in their go-green campaign, had seen the light sometime before this and, in effect, stepped outside of the box and refused to serve healthy meals in unhealthy styrofoam containers. KFC had long done this, and now smaller diners are buying into environmental sustainability. Adding to the success stories is the article in the Jamaica Observer of January 4, 2018, namely, 'Sandals to eliminate styrofoam at all its resorts'. The international chain, through this move, has sealed its commitment to preserving the environment in not just territories like Jamaica where the law aims to penalise the use of certain plastic products, but its move is even more compelling considering that this is a wholesale gesture on the part of the conglomerate to cease styrofoam use effective February 1, 2019, even in territories where such laws are not yet in force.

Since the roll-out, I have visited little places and big ones and, in the spirit of good-natured humour, have been reminded that there are no plastic bags, or only paper bags are available. There are, however, some establishments still not zealous in their efforts to join the noble cause. But, it is hoped that ultimately we will get everyone on board and full compliance.

The fact is the law is now passed, and we must do what law-abiding citizens do — abide by the law, not out of a fear of punishment, but because it is the right thing to do.

Protect Mother Nature and she will protect you

Because many of us are not intimate with, or do not take the time to understand the intricate dynamics of the environment, we tend generally to underestimate or give less than the attention deserved to the impact our actions have on Mother Nature. The Observer article cited mentions a release highlighting the extent of the environmental scarring plastics and styrofoam have had on the environment, specifically marine life. The data shared in Environment America's Wildlife Over Waste Campaign revealed that scientists have found plastic fragments, including styrofoam, in 86 per cent of all sea turtle species, 44 per cent of all seabird species, and 43 per cent of all marine mammal species. This is well in line with a report by the World Economic Forum based on interviews with over 180 experts, and on analysis of over 200 reports, that estimate that if we continue at this rate then by 2050 the amount of plastics produced globally will increase three times to 1,124 million tons, making plastics more than fish in the oceans. What is evident is that there is a critical interdependence in this cycle of life and when it is upset it affects other living things in the chain.

At the end of the day, Earth is the only home we know. We cannot refuse to admit the monumental impact plastic refuse has had on the environment. The charge now is to start taking care of Mother Earth, renew her, as she reciprocates. Not only will a more salubrious environment be ours, but we will be better able to benefit from the resources and bounty of nature.

Jamaica, Dominica and the Turks and Caicos have not only been the most recent additions to join Haiti and St Vincent and the Grenadines in making a stronger statement from the Caribbean, but must invite other nations to speed up and strengthen the eco-friendly train towards a stronger Caribbean consensus on environmental pollution through a ban on plastics.

Warrick Lattibeaudiere lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica. Send comments to the Observer or

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