Monterey -- Some 30 students from various University of California campuses gathered at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Tuesday to promote Save the Bag Ban, a movement to build support for a yes vote on the November ballot measure that would prohibit the use of single use plastic bags.
The students are from the University of California campuses of Berkeley, Irvine and San Diego. They are all members of the California Student Public Interest Research Group, which is spending its spring break traveling to Monterey and subsequent beach and river cleanups. It was joined for their press conference on the aquarium’s outdoor patio by Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson, Monterey Bay Aquarium Ocean Policy Manager Letise LaFeir and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Paul Michel. Each had their own message about the ocean environment harm caused by plastic bags.
“We are on track to have more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050,” said AJ Hill, the Save the Bag Ban Campaign Coordinator and a junior at UC Berkeley. “Students care about California and care about our oceans. We shouldn’t let something we use for a few minutes pollute our environment for decades.”
His comments led Roberson to declare the environmentally-conscious students “the generation that’s going to save our planet.”
The students had previously met with members of the California Assembly in Sacramento trying to get their support for the upcoming measure. While Gov. Jerry Brown had already signed SB-270 into law, the statewide ban on single use plastic bags written by Senators Padilla, DeLeon and Lara in 2014, was subject to a campaign funded by several plastics companies designed to repeal it. Thus, despite 147 cities and counties having already passed local bag bans, the ballot measure put the statewide law on hold until it goes before voters in November.
Roberson pointed out some Monterey “firsts” when it comes environmental protection — including the city’s previous bans on Styrofoam and smoking in bars and restaurants.
“The petroleum companies said you can’t. Now there’s no Styrofoam. They said you can’t have smoking in bars and restaurants — that it’s gonna hurt the economy. Now, can you even imagine walking in a restaurant with smoking?” said Roberson. He closed his remarks by noting that his own daughter was a part of the aquarium’s program educating students about the negative impacts of plastic.
LaFeir said there are harmful effects not only on sea animals but on humans too, citing the eight million tons of plastic that’s in the ocean.
“It’s not only impacting habitats and wildlife, but the plastic breaks down into smaller plastics,” said LaFeir. “It’s not only in the stomachs of sea turtles, but we’re starting to see it in the food on our plates.”
The students at Tuesday’s event also had a 30-foot inflatable sea turtle in tow but for some reason its inflatable properties weren’t cooperating. That was not too concerning for UCSD student Phili Catalan, 19, who was not only enjoying his first time on the Central Coast but being with his peers for what he said was a good cause, despite a cold evening of camping the night before.
“I’ve been in other video and religious clubs but never in something bigger than myself,” said Catalan. “I love the ocean and I love Monterey.”
His fellow CALPIRG member Emily Xiangdi Zhang, a UCSD student originally from Beijing, China, agreed.
“I see places like Walmart still using double plastic bags. It’s such a waste,” said Zhang, noting her dismay and simultaneous appreciation for a chance to express it. “But for the first time, my voice matters.”
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Originally published here.