In defense of plastic straws.​

(Click here to skip the following anecdote about my circulatory disorder.)

In my last post, I mentioned having Raynaud syndrome. This is something I’ve had since I was a teenager but because it was mild, I figured getting numb fingers while indoors was something everybody experienced. (I also thought it was normal to really hate touching your own belly button. Oh, the quirks you learn about yourself as you age.) It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20s when I moved into a basement suite with poorly insulated flooring that I realized there was something off about how my body functioned. My toes were routinely turning white and numb. Irregular splotches of white discolouration would appear on my soles. Sometimes the tip of my nose and fingers were affected too.

Within a few weeks of living in that dungeon, I got into a conversation with a guy who lived in the upstairs suite. He was the one who asked me if I had Raynaud syndrome, a condition he was familiar with because of his occupation as a massage therapist. I had to Google that: “What is a massage therapist?”

Just kidding. But I risked a Google image search. For a medical condition. That’s like looking down a pit toilet and expecting to see something better than a shiny pile of shit.

Normally, when you Google image search a medical condition, you get the worst possible examples. In this instance, what I had matched the photos Google was displaying. Not only do I definitely have Raynaud syndrome, I have it at the shining-pile-of-shit level of severity. I’ve had attacks triggered by a cool breeze in above 20°C weather. Walking barefoot on cool concrete for less than a minute will trigger it. Air conditioning is definitely a major trigger. I could probably freeze to death in above-freezing temperatures.

I even sold my snowboard gear within a year of purchasing it because the pain and discomfort that came with these attacks outweighed the fun aspect of snowboarding.

I have people roll their eyes at me constantly and exclaim, “You’re COLD?!” As if it were a decision I had made for myself. Yes, I willed my lips blue.

Then there are the people who believe they have the miracle solution:

“Wear thicker socks and get really warm gloves!”

Wow! Thicker socks! What a novel concept!

…And this is where plastic straws come in. Some cities have already banned plastic straws for environmental reasons. Initially, this seemed like a great idea until a disabled activist I follow on Twitter mentioned how this ban harms disabled people who rely on plastic straws.

That’s all it took to convince me that maybe plastic drinking straws weren’t the best thing to focus on. There are so many other types of waste that could be banned, that wouldn’t also harm people who need them. I trust that these disabled people who depend on plastic straws have exhausted their options.

I don’t personally need a straw to drink something, but if I did, I can afford to buy a reusable straw and I am physically capable of cleaning them. If the city of Montréal were to ban plastic drinking straws, I would not miss them. It’s easy to get behind an environmental cause that won’t personally affect you.

What about all these cigarette filters that people like to pretend are biodegradable when they flick their butt on the ground? What about people who live within 5km of their jobs, are physically capable of walking, yet choose to drive anyway? Useless plastic trinkets?

Having children is also pretty terrible for the planet but nobody wants to ban humanity.

These activists are working hard to educate people on why banning plastic drinking straws isn’t a good idea, only to be met with hundreds of people who think they’re being really clever with their suggestions:

What about paper straws?

What about metal straws?

Metal?

Glass?

Bamboo?

Pasta?

Re-useable straws?

Get a prescription and get them from the pharmacy?

Bring your own?

Just ask if you need them?

Hundreds of people just tweeting trite suggestions, and hundreds of disabled people explaining over and over how they are aware of the alternatives and why they don’t work.

NO FUCKING BODY HAS COME UP WITH A GOOD ALTERNATIVE. THAT’S THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT.

For fuck’s sake, put more energy into finding an alternative way to be eco-friendly than fighting with disabled people who know their own needs better than you do.

Edit (08/08/18): Jessica Kellgren-Fozard has made a very detailed video about the ban. Watch it in full before you ask any questions.

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