It is a cultural placebo that will make people feel like they did something important but it is meaningless.
Instead, pollution is up because the world is wealthier, rich and relatively poor alike, than ever before.
Straws are getting the blame now, just like farmers have gotten the blame for years. As knowledge of marine "dead zones" increased, the term "eutrophication" became part of the lexicon, with claims that 400, covering an estimated 245,000 km2, six times the size of Switzerland, have been caused by over-fertilization. Pictures of toxic blue green algae blooms impacting tourism have gotten attention in the past then, just like environmental photographers putting garbage into piles on beaches are happening now.
A new paper in an environmental magazine, Nature Sustainability, goes after the rest of the modern world. They claim more than one-third of the nutrients causing eutrophication in both marine and freshwater systems worldwide are due to other stuff. Like furniture. And cars. And clothes. And homes.
Poor people can now buy furniture and clothes. California can claim it is dropping emissions, for example, but they simply buy natural gas and coal electricity from other states, thanks to shutting their own energy plants, and it is the same with clothes. They may be made in China, which makes California feel more environmental, but someone is paying the price. That is why Asia and Africa cause 90% of plastic pollution in the world's oceans. American straws, even hundreds of millions of them, are as irrelevant as those 1980s claims about fishing tackle.
If a farmer grows cotton or linen for the fabric to make clothing, or electricity is used to power the factories where the clothing is made, that NOx, oxides of nitrogen, are air pollution which then can be absorbed by the oceans and add to the nutrient load.
Basically the only way to stop eutrophication is to go back into the past. Some certainly advocate that. Like Thoreau, they may believe they are living in the wilderness while they are sending their laundry to town to be done by someone who can't afford clothes at all.
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