How many innocents lose their lives,
In the gloss of the packaging?
Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay, by the great British punk singer TV Smith.
Bag It is a good documentary, in the vein of Roger and Me (where Michael Moore tried to get a face-to-face interview with a General Motors chairman), Supersize Me (where a now-disgraced film-maker ate nowt but McDonalds for a month) and No Impact Man (guy minimises his waste footprint). A “naïve” (that’s evian spelt backwards) everyman begins by investigating plastic bags, and as he goes, the scope gets wider and wider. Meanwhile, his partner is pregnant.
Along the way he speaks to various experts about plastics’ impact on wildlife (especially in the oceans – it’s in these scenes that one’s loathing for the human species in all its grotesque vandalism could get on top of a viewer), the human impacts (phthlatates and bisphenol A , and the awful conditions for people in the so-called ‘developing world’ as they cope with Westerners’ waste) and the counter-attacks of incumbents (hello American Chemicals Council) in defeating efforts to price or regulate plastic bags. Essential2living my fat arse.
There’s stuff on the horrific carbon footprint of the production of and transportation of bottled water, talking heads with Elizbaeth Royte of Garbage Land, Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff), Peter Coyote (who is a great activist as well as a great actor) and a bunch of different scientists whose day job is to catalogue the demise of the species and ecosystems that they love.
There are a couple of dud notes (the ‘I like my lettuce like my ladies – loose’ told with a winking leer is clearly a pre- #metoo moment (though I will be using it with the long-suffering Wife). Would it have killed them to have given a shout out to Rachel Carson who warned about ocean pollution and human impacts, or to namecheck Barry Commoner as the originator of the oft-repeated line ‘there is no ‘away’’. More seriously (and predictably) the ‘what to do’ list is crushingly individualistic, atomistic, largely apolitical. Despite the film containing several examples of the nefarious anti-democratic actions of corporations and their trade associations, there is nothing in the list about being an active (and organised) citizen, of contesting the grotesque and ecocidal power of the corporate lobbyists. So it goes.