by Virginia Wang'ondu, Kenya, ELP 2014
Written on July 19, 2014.
Since the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and environmental activist Prof. Wangari Mathaai raised the red flag of a nation shocking of plastic bags, the problem is, more than ever before, threatening our already threatened environment. The plastic bag ban proposed by UNEP 2004 appears to have had no effect. Plastic bag menaces need more sensitization than climate change. I am always perturbed at the many bags I carry home after each shopping spree; at least five plastic bags depending on the different goods I purchase. You don’t even have to tell someone, your favorite supermarket or the shopping mall in the neighborhood; one can tell just by doing a round in your house, office, car, etc.
I sincerely confess the agony I go through trying to find storage for them in my house. I am even tired of burning them since they are notorious for not fully burning out and become an eyesore in the tiny compound I am struggling to keep clean. Occasionally I send them home to my rural folks, who are eager to have them for their daily chores since they are somewhat rare and come as relief to them. I do not need to overemphasize the dangers of this environmental hazard; but our beautiful country is silently choking and crying out loud while no one seems to be listening.
Allow me to speak for the trees I love most, the mangroves (forests in the sea). This and the underlying ecosystem are threatened not only by deforestation, climate change (through sea level rise), and others, but also by these bags. Plastic bags, big and small, are slowly killing our marine life and will do so before climate change effects become a reality to all and sundry. The terrestrial ecosystem is worse especially in the urban areas where animals also feed on the same, unaware of the looming danger. Rivers cannot even run their course peacefully; nothing and no one is spared.
To save our nation, we should solemnly declare these bags a national disaster if we sincerely love ourselves. I thus propose that everybody acquires a reusable basket; the ones our grandparents used during them good old days. They may not be fashionable to walk with but will solve this problem eternally. Let us carry reusable containers to buy meat, milk, kerosene and other goods that get home packed in these bags.
For Mother Nature’s sake, which radical decisions can be made for, should we not stop this menace once and for all? I cherish the day parliament will pass such a bill with a majority vote. I will celebrate the day as our nation’s second birthday. Let’s do our late environmentalist some good by cleaning up this act and making her wish come true. NEMA, do something. I could not think of an issue more pressing. Does anyone care? Please give your thoughts.