Why do some politicians like to ban stuff, like polystyrene takeout containers and polyethylene grocery bags? Peter Shawn Taylor, editor-at-large of Maclean's magazine, answers the question with this opinion column titled "Bomb the ban," in Canada's National Post. Basically, Taylor says, there are four reasons for banning stuff: 1. Bans mean you care. ["Popular belief holds that saving the environment requires direct and immediate action. Further study is for wimps."] 2. Bans are easy. ["For politicians hoping to find simple solutions to difficult problems, a ban is the perfect option. ... Thinking intelligently about the law can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Not so with bans."] 3. Bans can make you famous. So true!
As politicians discover that bans give them a useful environmental profile, there's a strong incentive to be first. Case in point, Turner Valley's curious plan to ban Styrofoam. Such a move makes even less scientific sense than bans on pesticides or baby bottles. The embodied energy costs of Styrofoam are far less than paper alternatives, and it is entirely inert. This move will most likely do more harm than good for the environment. Besides, Styrofoam is simply the brand name for one form of polystyrene foam, which wasn't banned. But so what? Just announcing they were thinking of a ban got Turner Valley great press. It's the same reason even smaller Leaf Rapids, Man., banned plastic shopping bags last year. A ban is a great way for small-time politicians to get themselves national attention.4. Bans provide cover for other ideologies.
If there is a ban to watch, it's the prohibition on bottled water sales. The Waterloo Region School Board got there first, as per reason three. Now university campus activists across the country are gearing up for major campaigns that will see bottled water banned in student buildings and offices. But this is not a crusade based on health issues. It clearly makes no sense to deny students access to a convenient and popular source of water at school, particularly given the state of most public water fountains. Rather, this urge is motivated by local politicians and campus groups who believe it is improper to make a profit selling water. The ban is meant to enforce the leftist belief that water should be free by outlawing its capitalist version.Thought-provoking stuff... thanks to frequent blog reader Jim Cairns for pointing it out.