Silly Bandz, Kooky Pens, Webkinz and The Gulf Oil Spill - Connections?

Harriet Shugarman Executive Director Climate Mama www.climatemama.com

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If you are between the ages of 4 and 14, or a parent of someone this age, you know what Silly Bandz are. In fact your children and their assorted friends probably have 10-50 of their very own. For those of you who aren’t sure or don’t know what these ‘bands’ are, where have you been these past six months?! Silly Bandz are plastic bracelets that come in a variety of shapes and colors. They are relatively inexpensive, so parents often say: “Why not!? “ when there kids ask for them. Silly Bands are the web kinz, kooky pens and pet rocks of the 2010 spring and summer seasons.

I always look at these fads and the people who invented them with awe, envy (sort of,) and despair. First of all, awe. Wow! How incredible to think up a “kooky pen,” “pet rock” or “web kinz” in the first place, let alone sell millions of them to your closest friends, their children and their closest friends too! (That’s where the envy comes in, as the inventor now has “made it” and is rich for evermore.) This then gives rise to despair however, as in most cases these fad items are just that, fads. These toys mesmerize our children for a few days, weeks, and very occasionally for a few months, then the toy is relegated to the closet, and sooner than later, the trash can.

Most of the time, these items are made out of plastic, or some other synthetic material that is derived in large part from oil. Our addiction to fossil fuels continues to be fueled not only by our own insatiable demand and need for energy, but also our by children’s demand for the latest “toy” or “product.” The relationship between the toy and the oil currently polluting our oceans, air and beaches, is often “so removed” and seemingly “unrelated” to its source, that the connection between the two is rarely, if ever made.

What do you think you child would say to the “silly band” if she new that it was made from oil, the same oil that is killing pelicans and turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and causing dolphins and whales to get sick and in many cases, to die? Maybe she would “think twice” before she asked you to get her just “one more pack” so she can now wear plastic bracelets from her wrists to her elbow. So “important” are these at the moment, but my bet is they will be forgotten completely by the time school begins in the fall.  Maybe she needs your help to understand these connections.

And maybe we need to demand packaging declarations on all our plastic products, like we do on cigarettes. These declarations would state that these products “kill” as in kill the air that we breathe as well as the delicate relationships that keep our planet in balance. We now see daily reports in the media how these demands for oil are killing our wildlife, our natural habitats, and our neighbors way of life. Maybe if we took time to make these connections, more children would hesitate to demand things they don’t need or even really want, and maybe we would hesitate before we bought these things for our children. Maybe this summer, when you are at the beach, the shore, on a hike or just hanging out in your backyard with you children -watching fireflies light up the sky - there will be a moment for you to share with them how important it is that we take care of the natural world around us.

 

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