Have a Coke and a Frown: Another Win for Libertarian Robber Barons Eating the Planet

Here is where this libertarian bullshit -- the propaganda foisted on us by Koch-brothers, Harold-Simmons-style polluter robber barons -- just makes suckers, fools and chumps out of us if we believe it. A story in today's New York Times reports that the top national park system official killed a plan to ban plastic water bottles from Grand Canyon National Park.

Park officials at the Grand Canyon were all set to ban the bottles, which make up 30 percent of the waste and trash they have to haul out of the canyon every day at great expense. But Ron Jarvis, the top federal parks official, canceled the decision at the last minute. Why? Because Coca-Cola got to him. Coke gives money to a private fund that helps the parks. Jarvis killed the ban after somebody from the fund called him.

The better proof of what happened, however, is in the slimy right-wing crap Coca-Cola has been handing out since its hand was revealed through Freedom of Information Act demands. A Coca-Cola spokesperson told the Times: "Banning anything is never the right answer. If you do that, you don't necessarily address the problem."

I disagree. I've always thought the ban on murder was a good idea, likewise the ban on child molestation. And I put the deliberate devastation of the planet for profit almost right up there. Maybe right up there. What do they mean, banning anything is never the right answer?

That's just stupid.

But then we also have the libertarian Koch-brothers-Rick-Perry-moron argument about personal freedom. The spokesman said a ban would be bad because "You're not allowing people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume."

No. You're not allowing people to destroy the world just so Coke can make money.

This story struck home for me for at least a couple personal reasons. One, since the weather cooled I have been canoeing up White Rock and Rowlett creeks in Dallas and Garland, and, as always when I do this, I am struck by two things. The first is the profound beauty of these wonderful natural resources hidden in plain sight within the urban landscape. The second is the terrible despoiling of these places by damned plastic bottles.

You see it after a big rain. Snowdrifts of these bottles wash down from streets and shopping centers upstream into the creeks, then gather in huge plastic shoals where fallen trees catch them. You have to develop a special digging stroke with the paddle in order to get through.

The Coke spokesperson said the answer is recycling. That's just bullshit, and they know it. These bottles are made and priced to be thrown away, so even if people recycle some fraction of them, most people throw them away. Blame it on slobs, blame it on wind, blame it on whatever, but huge masses of these things wind up in the watershed.

Whatever value of convenience people get out of using them can't even come close to the destruction plastic water bottles cause to our natural landscape.

Second personal reason the story struck home: A few years ago I hiked down into the Grand Canyon with some friends, camped and hiked out the next day. It was, of course, otherworldly awesome. But.

On the way down and the way back up, the trail was almost crowded at times with hikers. We did enjoy some lonely isolated hours on the trail, but there were also times when it was more like waiting in line to buy a new iPhone.

In addition to people who had some idea what they were doing, there were people out there who definitely did not. They intended to walk to the bottom of the canyon and back out in one day carrying no water and wearing no hats. They were too old or too out of shape to walk steadily on a parking lot. I saw one guy in penny loafers.

The Park Service had personnel at a certain point on the trail culling the crowd. They would pick out the obvious downers and kind of pull them off the trail for a chat. I heard enough bits and pieces of these chats while passing by to get the drift.

They told them they couldn't make it. They didn't have the right stuff or the right clothing. They seemed to be having trouble walking, let alone climbing. And the big clincher: They were telling them that a helicopter evacuation would cost somebody $3,400 an hour and the somebody might be them. That turned a lot of them around.

People are idiots, and idiots cost money. There was a story in the Times last year about hikers in the Grand Canyon who pushed the button on a satellite rescue beacon calling in the helicopter rescue team. When the chopper got to them, they said they needed help because their water "tasted salty."

The Park Service should have charged them the $3,400, but somebody also should have put them in jail overnight. We have a right and a duty to protect ourselves and our shared public assets from irresponsibility and rapaciousness. If we could get the trash out of our creeks in this city, we would transform life itself in this city.

The Coke mouthpiece said: "You're not allowing people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume." Bullshit. We're not allowing them to destroy this round dirt-ball we live on called Planet Earth. Is that really asking too much? Can we at least hold on to the planet? Or do the Koch brothers get that, too?

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze