Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
—Matthew 6: 2-6.
Shakespeare understood the difference between supplication via public bleating, the purpose of which is to draw attention to oneself, and secret prayer. “When holy and devout religious men are at their beads, ’tis much to draw them thence, so sweet is zealous contemplation.”
‘Tis nothing to draw forth an environmentalist. He will pray loudly and exhort you to do the same. He will say, as a gentleman recently told me, that he is “proud” to use paper bags instead of plastic, because “paper is good for the environment.”
He wears buttons to show his devotion, so that all can see that he is moral. He will stand on the street corner with a clipboard begging alms “Do you have a minute to save the environment?” He will issue a press release when he donates money. Worst, he will become bug-eyed when somebody questions his faith.
I have, yet again, had cause to spend time in San Francisco. When there, I shop at Safeway, a grocery store. They do not offer plastic bags, but paper. These bags are routinely doubled, as are plastic bags in New York City stores. The double lining of paper makes for a sturdy carrying case (me being a devoutly green person, I do not own a car, so have to carry my loot).
I have been told that paper has been pushed by an piously environmental City Council. I have also read that bags of any kind are soon to be outlawed—yes, made against the law—at convenience stores, liquor marts and the like. Citizens will have to grow used to carrying their own bags. Or learn not to buy from small stores.
Now, paper bags weigh about 0.16 lbs each. Plastic weighs about 0.011 lbs. Paper, in other words, is about 15 times heavier than plastic. My grocery-carrying experience shows one paper bag holds about the same as one plastic, perhaps a little more.
Plastic bags, at least most of them, do not biodegrade; though they do photodegrade. Most plastic bags end in landfills, where they will remain a good, long time. Until somebody recycles them, that is. They can be made into, among other things, robust furniture.
I’m sure that major stores have discovered efficiencies in delivering paper bags. But paper is bulkier than plastic, probably by something like 10 times. Paper bags, then, require from 10-15 times more fuel to transport, and roughly 10 times as much storage space as plastic.
The transport and storage are not just one way. The customer will take these bags home, and most will end in the trash or recycling bin. It costs 10-15 times as much to haul away the paper as plastic. Plus, for those bags that aren’t recycled, the space on the garbage trucks isn’t insignificant. Nor is it on the recycling truck.
In other words, a lot of fuel is burned up carting paper bags to and fro. Plus, much space is taken; space at the store which is heated, air conditioned, kept dry. This is fuel and space that could have been saved had plastic bags been used.
Plastic, made from natural gas which we have in abundance, eventually sits in the landfill—and sits, and sits. But that’s all it does: sits. And sits in a trash heap, a place set aside for rubbish. Meaning, of course, that it can be avoided. Even when it eventually breaks down, it still sits, creating small particles of plastic which, as far as we know, are largely harmless. This might not turn out to be true, of course; it could be that degraded plastic beads cause sniffles in snails, or cause plastic-infused water.
Which is better: paper or plastic? I don’t know. It turns out to be a complicated calculation, the answer anything but singular. It might very well be that paper is better, but it isn’t obviously so.
Therefore, certitude, and its accompanying mandates against plastic, as found in some localities such as San Francisco, can only have come from religious revelation.