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San Francisco May Charge for Grocery Bags

Thomas Paul
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http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20050124/ap_on_fe_st/grocery_bag_charge

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco may become the first city in the nation to charge shoppers for grocery bags.

The city's Commission on the Environment is expected to ask the mayor and board of supervisors Tuesday to consider a 17-cent per bag charge on paper and plastic grocery bags. While the goal is reducing plastic bag pollution, paper was added so as not to discriminate.

"The whole point is to encourage the elimination of waste, not to make people pay more for groceries," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.


Am I the only one that sees a contradiction in the bold parts of those two paragraphs? If the goal is to reduce plastic waste then why also tax paper bags? Or is the goal really to create a new tax that everyone can feel good about? The article says that it costs 6.6 cents to dispose of each bag (yeah, right) and the tax is 17 cents.


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Gregg Bolinger
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Seems to me that the best option would be to just stop using plastic bags all together. Don't make them available anymore. They make paper bags with handles on them if that is the issue to those not wanting paper.

I wonder what is cheaper for stores to use. Paper or plastic?
[ January 24, 2005: Message edited by: Gregg Bolinger ]

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Marc Peabody
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I think the main goal is to encourage reuse of bags.

Aldi's grocery stores have been charging for their bags for years.

During my short trip to Germany a few years ago I saw that everyone used canvas grocery bags that they brought from home. I would use those bags here in the US if stores actually offered them for purchase.


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Matt Fielder
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no offence to anybody living in Cali, but how can you be surprised to see something like this? I have yet to see any new law or rule out of Cali make any sense...
Ashok Mash
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They introduced levy on plastic bags a few years ago here in Ireland (details, reports), and super markets have introduced reusable bags for a euro each, and agencies claim this move has helped to reduce usage of plastic bags by 90% in 5 months! One step in the right direction!
[ January 24, 2005: Message edited by: Ashok Mash ]

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Steven Bell
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Are plastic bags really that much of a problem??? I often get plastic bags from the grocery store. They make great garbage bags for cars, lunch bags, trash can liners in small trash cans such as the bathroom. I just wish the government would get it's big fat nose out of everbody elses business (good luck there).
Marcus Green
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There is a view that waste is everybodys business


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Madhav Lakkapragada
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You know what, maybe we (@ JR) should start charging for each post in MD.
We want to encourage participation in Java (and other technical) forums ofcourse. You know that don't you....

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Steven Bell
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Originally posted by Marcus Green:
There is a view that waste is everybodys business


You assume that people who get bags waste them. I just don't understand the idea that some buracrate knows better what to do than I do. I use many/most of the bags that get, and the ones I don't use, or if I still have them after I do use them, I have several private recycling centers available to me to drop them off.

This kind of regulatory burden hurts people, it's a financial drain. Of course somebody will say 'It's only $.xx, that's not much', but it's $.17 here, $.20 over there, another $.05 on that one. It adds up. The people who get hurt from it the most are those with low incomes who don't get a raise because the business has to deal with x number of extra regulations and the people who don't get hired for the same reasons.
Andrew Eccleston
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Interesting...

This reminds me of Aldi's. There's a few in the area (Rochester, NY). They actually do this voluntarily to keep their costs down (I believe that's why, anyway). If you want a plastic bag, I think it's .10, or they have a more rugged, reusable cloth bag (I don't remember how much). At least, that's how it used to work. I guess the theory is that they can keep the prices lower on the merchandise, if only the people using bags pay for them. I haven't been in one in quite some time, but their prices were pretty good in comparison to other stores.

If SF does start charging, it will be interesting what new choices come along.


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Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Andrew Eccleston:
If SF does start charging, it will be interesting what new choices come along.


New from Ronco... cheap plastic bags just like the one's the super market used to give for free. Only 5 cents. 12 cents cheaper than you pay in the supermarket! Get your's today!
Ellen Zhao
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You guys/gals living in USA should feel happy, you know here in Germany, charging for shopping bags is already an inveterate _tradition_. Some sentences from the "Guide line for oversea-student-to-be to Germany" I read years ago (from memory):

"Germany charges for each shopping bag nationwide. So in Germany you'll often see people shopping with reuseable shopping bags made of _cloth_. You can get new cloth shopping bags from all retail stores, it is considered very environment friendly to shop with cloth shopping bags."


For careless people like me, as long as the price of shopping bags (be it plastic, paper or cloth) doesn't hurt me too much, this policy doesn't work too well to make me keep shopping bags, and I don't shop that often anyway. Once a week or once two weeks a bulk shopping. But one thing in Germany really bugs me very much, if there's any protest party, I guess I'll join. In Germany you have to pay for the bottles of soft drinks, while in other countries in Europe, you don't have to. You can return the empty bottles to the shops where you buy them, but think about it, first it's a trouble, people tend to be lazy about such things; Then, for example, if I bought a bottle of water in Hannover and drank it up in Frankfurt, should I take another train to Hannover to return the bottle??? Since I do consume fairly big amount of bottled water or bottled juice, way too much money is wasted on the stupid glass or plastic bottles.

Aldi is a German company, no wonder they are carrying out their _tradition_ there even in USA. I wonder whether they also charge the bottles of drinks there?
[ January 24, 2005: Message edited by: Ellen Zhao ]
Michael Ernest
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Originally posted by Steven Bell:
Are plastic bags really that much of a problem??? I often get plastic bags from the grocery store. They make great garbage bags for cars, lunch bags, trash can liners in small trash cans such as the bathroom. I just wish the government would get it's big fat nose out of everbody elses business (good luck there).

The intent is to encourage a bring-your-own-reusable-bag mindset.

Plastic bags are a substantial problem in landfills. They don't break down quickly and they inhibit decomposition. So why not use the same container(s)?

As Ellen said, a bag charge gives everyone a choice. Pay if you're going to use them, save if you're not. Personally I'd find it a pain to get accustomed to as well, but I find it hard to fault city government to pursue a means of reducing waste when 'the market' so clearly wants convenience at the expense of all else.


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Kishore Dandu
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This will help me remove one of the causes of junk that pilesup in my house. I don't mind recycling my trash bags or paper bags if needed.

This sounds like a great idea for me.


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Jason Menard
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Originally posted by Marcus Green:
There is a view that waste is everybodys business


I think I read that on a bumper sticker somewhere.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
Plastic bags are a substantial problem in landfills. They don't break down quickly and they inhibit decomposition. So why not use the same container(s)?
Great... then why charge the tax on plastic AND paper? If plastic is a problem then they should be promoting the use of paper by taxing just the plastic. As it is, this sounds like a scam to introduce a new tax.
Michael Ernest
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It just wouldn't be SF legislation if we didn't overthink it.
[ January 24, 2005: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
Alan Wanwierd
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Plastic shopping bags are becoming a big issue world over. Introducing a charge is one way to ty and discourage their use.

I thought this was a bit of a pain at first - but now that I am used to taking the stronger cloth bags I am actually much happier - they have a greater capacity and mean that the check-out chick can pack faster and I can carry more food between the car and my kitchen per trip once I've got home - thus greatly improving the efficiency of the whole shopping experience. It actually means I manage to get my frozen food into the safety of the freezer quicker, so not only am I causing less eco-damage, I'm also reducing my chance of spoilt ice-cream! (Very important whan its 40C outside)

Do yourselves a favour - spend $2 on a decent canvas shopping bag and stop moaning about it!
Andrew Eccleston
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Originally posted by Ellen Zhao:
Aldi is a German company, no wonder they are carrying out their _tradition_ there even in USA. I wonder whether they also charge the bottles of drinks there?


Some states have a somewhat similar concept to what you have. We pay a 5 cent deposit (10 cents in 1 or 2 states that I know of) on most of our soda bottles. Then we can take the empty bottles back to a store to collect our deposit back. It doesn't even have to be the store we bought it at, it can be anywhere in the states that are involved in the program for that container. They even print the states on the can/bottle so you know.

How does recycling of your standard household items work in places outside the US? Here our standard curb-side trash pick-up service started taking recyclables in a separate bin a number of years ago. I'm wondering how it's done elsewhere.
Warren Dew
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Michael Ernest:

Plastic bags are a substantial problem in landfills. They don't break down quickly and they inhibit decomposition.

It's to be noted that paper bags don't break down in today's high tech landfills either (high tech to avoid leaching of mercury and stuff). Plus, paper bags take up several times more space than plastic bags in landfills. To the extent plastic bags are bad, paper bags are even worse.

Somerville, where I live, has instead passed a law requiring grocery stores to accept used plastic grocery bags for recycling. Every few months, we scrunch all our accumulated grocery bags into one bag and return them. It's amazing how little actual material is in those bags. Reusing them would be a bit of a pain because about one in five tends to get a little wet from whatever they are carrying.

Paper bags, when we get them by mistake, get recycled with the newspapers.

All the New England states also have a bottle bill requiring us to return bottles for carbonated beverages to get a deposit back. This has worked well in avoiding litter. You don't have to go back to the same store, though - you can return the bottles to pretty much any store that sells them. Ellen, in Germany, do you have to return the bottles to the same store?
Dave Lenton
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Originally posted by Warren Dew:
It's to be noted that paper bags don't break down in today's high tech landfills either (high tech to avoid leaching of mercury and stuff). Plus, paper bags take up several times more space than plastic bags in landfills. To the extent plastic bags are bad, paper bags are even worse.


Perhaps the answer is to move away from disposable bags entirely. In terms of the resources needed to produce, distribute and either recycle or process thrown away bags, disposable bags are quite wasteful. All taxes are a pain, but I think a bag tax is quite a good idea. It would encourage people to buy bags to use in the long term.

I like to use plastic shopping bags for other uses then carrying the shopping home - they make great mini bin bags. It also seems that other people here find alternative uses for bags, but unfortunately the percentage of the population that is as diligent in not wasting bags as the people on JR is fairly small - most people just chuck their bags away. Although its a bit of a hassle, a bag tax that reduces the amount of space needed in land fill sites is perhaps a good thing. When the land fill sites fill up and the government need to build new ones, they could just be located next to one of our houses.
[ January 25, 2005: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]

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Paul Sturrock
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Great... then why charge the tax on plastic AND paper? If plastic is a problem then they should be promoting the use of paper by taxing just the plastic. As it is, this sounds like a scam to introduce a new tax.

Very possibly. However, if my experiences in Ireland are anything to go by people quickly adjust to remembering to bring a reusable bag with them to the shops. If they forget, they buy one in the shop and remember next time. IMHO: both plastic and paper bags are unecessary waste.


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Jeroen Wenting
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Let's see...
In the Netherlands it's not some �0.40 for a plastic bag in the supermarket unless you bring your own.
That's not taxes btw (except for VAT on the bag) but what the supermarket themselves sell them for.
I like to go with a bag from one supermarket to get groceries in another, might teach them about putting their logo on stuff and then charge for it

There's a mandatory recycling fee (non-refundable) on all electronics.
Same on cars (and that on top of the 40% luxury tax they also charge on cars).

There's a plan to introduce a �0.15 (or so) deposit on soda cans and single use bottles.
There's already a deposit on most reusable bottles.


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Helen Thomas
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Sainsbury's were among the first to charge for plastic bags decades ago but now have gone back to giving away bags. They are not bio-degradable because after a few months in the ground you can dig them up and re-use them.


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Angela Poynton
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Most Supermarkets here in the UK tried this a few years back. It seems to have stopped in most supermarkets now though. BUT one thing they still have is the concept of "A BAG FOR LIFE" which is usually a strengthened large carrier that you might pay �1 for. The theory is you will reuse that rather than get new small carrier bags, if the BAG FOR LIFE becomes damaged you can take it back to the store and they will replace it with a new one.
Paper bags are horrible. Can you imagine walking home / standing at a bus stop in driving rain afer shopping carrying paper bags? They'd fall apart in a minute. Plus, paper = trees and they're not particualrly reusable. (By which you may find ONE maybe TWO extra uses for them once you get them home but no more). At least with the BAG for life, it's reused over and over.


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Kishore Dandu
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Originally posted by Angela Poynton:
Can you imagine walking home / standing at a bus stop in driving rain afer shopping carrying paper bags? They'd fall apart in a minute. Plus, paper = trees and they're not particualrly reusable. (By which you may find ONE maybe TWO extra uses for them once you get them home but no more). At least with the BAG for life, it's reused over and over.


We don't need to imagine that in US. We are a rich country, such that we don't need to wait for a public bus after buying stuff from super market. We have our own cars here
Steven Bell
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Originally posted by Dave Lenton:

It also seems that other people here find alternative uses for bags, but unfortunately the percentage of the population that is as diligent in not wasting bags as the people on JR is fairly small - most people just chuck their bags away.
[ January 25, 2005: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]


And how do you know this. The purpose of taxes should be to gain money for the running of the government NOT to attempt to change peoples lifestyle. Of course it has been decades since that was the case.

P.S. the whole paper bags = trees thing. so what we have more trees than we know what to do with in the US. The number of trees has been growing for more than 30 years. It's a renewable resource.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Steven Bell:
P.S. the whole paper bags = trees thing. so what we have more trees than we know what to do with in the US. The number of trees has been growing for more than 30 years. It's a renewable resource.


And, in fact, our failure to properly manage our forests and cut down enough trees is the reason we have had so many out-of-control forest fires over the last couple of years.
Helen Thomas
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Originally posted by Kishore Dandu:


We don't need to imagine that in US. We are a rich country, such that we don't need to wait for a public bus after buying stuff from super market. We have our own cars here


And what do you do with newspapers ?
Marc Peabody
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Great... then why charge the tax on plastic AND paper? If plastic is a problem then they should be promoting the use of paper by taxing just the plastic. As it is, this sounds like a scam to introduce a new tax.


No one complains about tax breaks for hybrid cars or deductions for donations to charity or deductions on student loan interest.

The government is simply encouraging people to better society. Consider the alternatives. How about they use our tax dollars to create a "Reuse your bags" PR campaign with commercials and brochures? That would be a waste. Imposing a tax is more efficient and more effective.
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Steven Bell:


And how do you know this. The purpose of taxes should be to gain money for the running of the government NOT to attempt to change peoples lifestyle. Of course it has been decades since that was the case.


The official ideal of taxing people into submission for your ideas is a hoax and governments know it.
The real reason as always is to get money out of the people.

If they REALLY wanted you to change your ways they'd simply dictate what to do by banning all alternatives...
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:


And, in fact, our failure to properly manage our forests and cut down enough trees is the reason we have had so many out-of-control forest fires over the last couple of years.


proper management means letting the forest take care of itself.
That means not cutting down trees but it also means not killing just about every living thing in there.
Hunting (even "managed" hunting) reduces the viability of the forest as a whole.
And forest fires are a naturally occurring phenomenon that is a part of natural forest management.
If humans are stupid enough to live in a forest and not keep clear firelanes around their property wide enough to prevent fires from crossing them you can't blame the forest for that...

I know such a totally natural system isn't a possibility for a long time in our factory style forests but to say that the only way to prevent forest fires is deforestation is incorrect.
Steven Bell
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:


proper management means letting the forest take care of itself.
That means not cutting down trees but it also means not killing just about every living thing in there.
Hunting (even "managed" hunting) reduces the viability of the forest as a whole.
And forest fires are a naturally occurring phenomenon that is a part of natural forest management.
If humans are stupid enough to live in a forest and not keep clear firelanes around their property wide enough to prevent fires from crossing them you can't blame the forest for that...

I know such a totally natural system isn't a possibility for a long time in our factory style forests but to say that the only way to prevent forest fires is deforestation is incorrect.


Deforestation is not the answer, but letting the forest take care of itself, while we do everthing we can to prevent forest fires is exactly what causes huge forest fires. Yes forest fires are naturally occuring, but when we stop them from naturally occuring we let the fuel build up. If we don't clear out the fuel and maintain roads and trials we are just asking for trouble.

The idea that managed hunting causes harm to the viability of a forest is just ridiculous. I know a large number of hunters and they are probably the most environmentally consious people I know.
Thomas Paul
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proper management means letting the forest take care of itself.

The problem is that most forests are incapable of taking care of themselves. Most large predators have been eliminated from most forests which allow prey animals like deer to breed out of control. They strip the forest, eating young trees, which cause forests to become mostly old growth which burns like tinder.

And forest fires are a naturally occurring phenomenon that is a part of natural forest management.

Perhaps, if forests were properly maintained naturally but they aren't, either because the predator-prey relationship has been destroyed or because the forest is too small to maintain a natural environment. In either case, old growth forests are not natural and when they burn, no firebreak will stop them.

I know such a totally natural system isn't a possibility for a long time in our factory style forests but to say that the only way to prevent forest fires is deforestation is incorrect.

No one is talking about deforestation., We are talking about forest management which means clearing out parts of old growth forests so new trees can be planted in their place.
Kishore Dandu
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Originally posted by Helen Thomas:


And what do you do with newspapers ?


we throw them in the 'recycle' trash pickup containers( we do have separate ones for actual trash and 'recyclables' in texas,USA)
Axel Janssen
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Cool you got Aldi. Though I buy my stuff there only from time to time.
I once knew a woman from Brazil who was able to talk 2 hours about the horror of Aldi and the extreme focussedness and quickness of the cashiers are perfect antitesis of Brazil and how she hates it and she doesn't fit there as customer, because she feels to slow.

Problem with paying for grocery bags is that everybody starts to stash too much stuff into it. Its much more comfortable to carry 4 half full bags instead of 2 overfilled bags, but people overfill 2 to save money.

My mother for example own an unbelievable equipment of nice shopping bags, but this is very difficult for the working population who buys stuff along the way home from work.

Axel
[ January 25, 2005: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
Warren Dew
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Steven Bell:

Deforestation is not the answer, but letting the forest take care of itself, while we do everthing we can to prevent forest fires is exactly what causes huge forest fires.

True. Part of how forests take care of themselves naturally is by having occasional ground fires that burn out the brush and fallen deadwood. These ground fires are not big enough to overcome the defenses of the older, larger trees, so they aren't huge.

By trying to prevent all forest fires, as you point out, we allow the brush and fallen deadwood to accumulate to the point where when a fire does start, it has much more fuel than it would have under natural conditions. This often allows the fire to overcome the mature trees' natural defenses, resulting in huge, highly destructive crown fires.

I believe what Jeroen was advocating was not preventing any fires at all. The U.S. National Park service has adopted a "natural burn" policy which comes close to this, and it has been highly successful at restoring a more natural environment and preventing large crown fires. It's only in areas where all fires are suppressed, often because of nearby houses, that the forest becomes an unnatural tinderbox.

Exploitation of forests for timber and pulp is an orthogonal issue.
Steven Bell
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Yes, the natural burn policy is helpful. The only problem with what you said is that in many places where people live in/near forests, they are not allowed to clear brush, or take other fire prevention methods around their home (as in off their property but nearby public lands, there are cases where private property is restricted in this manner, but that is more rare).

There are also areas in national forests, although this is now starting to be remedied, where there are no trails so basic forest maintanence is near impossible.
Jeroen Wenting
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lack of "maintenance" isn't the problem. If you let the forest take care of itself it will maintain itself.
I'm fully aware that this ideal will take time to implement. It will require reintroduction of large predators like wolf and bear into the forests for example.
It may also require measures to link forested areas so wildlife can reestablish natural migration routes between several smaller areas which are now separated and each too small to maintain a viable population of the larger species.
In Europe such programs are well underway and working like a charm. Even highways running through forests are no problem anymore, with special wildlife overpasses being constructed where animals are funnelled to by fencing along the edge of the road.
The highways also act as firebreaks, helping delay and even stop fires from raging out of control.

While such situations haven't yet been realised limited intervention is indeed needed, but care must be taken to over time reduce that intervention (which is very hard for once bureaucrats have something established as being regulated by them they never let go).
Marcus Green
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"The official ideal of taxing people into submission for your ideas is a hoax and governments know it.The real reason as always is to get money out of the people."

This seems a very cynical view, it is possible to imagine policies that are revenue neutral (i.e. the cost of administering matches the cost of the "tax") and in other situations where taxation discourages behaviour.

I have known people who decided they should give up smoking because the tax on tobacco made it "too expensive". It does of course seem very illogical to be willing to run the risk of damage to your health only if it is affordable, but that is how people sometimes think.
 
Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
 
subject: San Francisco May Charge for Grocery Bags
 
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