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Berkshire youth voice support for ban on single-use plastic water bottles

At the special town meeting Aug. 6, people under the age of 18 will not be allowed to be present, cutting off the voice of the next generation...And we will be the ones forced to deal with choices that you — the generations before us — made, choices that we were barred from speaking about.

Great Barrington — On Monday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m. at Monument Mountain Regional High School, there will be a special town meeting for citizens of Great Barrington to vote on a proposal to repeal the recently approved bylaw that will ban single-use, PET plastic water bottles. If you are a citizen of Great Barrington, vote “no.” Do not repeal this ban.

I could list statistics, spout facts and cite sources in an attempt to sway your opinion logically, but, quite honestly, that’s exhausting and has been done to no great avail. A couple months ago I wrote an article about the ban from a student’s perspective, trying to get people to see things from another point of view. This time I’m going to one-up myself: I’m going to share with you the point of view of many teenagers, not just my own.

At the annual town meeting in May, the one in which the ban passed, three Monument Mountain high schoolers presented about the necessity of cutting down on plastic and voting in support of the ban. Since then, people in various comment sections and on various forum groups have had less than kindly things to say about the young people who spoke, even going so far as to say they were “used” by the Environment Committee to sway voters. This is both untrue and unfair.

Monument Mountain Regional High School students Olivia Jaffe, Grace Phair and Carly Terranova make a PowerPoint presentation at Great Barrington’s annual town meeting May 7 in support of the ban they were proposing on single-use plastic water bottles. Photo: David Scribner

I am sick and tired of hearing the views and opinions of young people dismissed simply because we are young. It’s disrespectful and it does a disservice to the people who do it. In flippantly waving away the opinions of an entire generation, you cut out an entire perspective and lose the opportunity for connection, discussion and growth. Grace Phair, one of the youth speakers at the last meeting, said, “In all honesty, I was more disappointed than anything else when I read those comments online. I guess I just hadn’t expected adults to throw defamatory remarks at 16- and 17-year-old kids.”

At the next meeting Aug. 6, people under the age of 18 will not be allowed to be present, cutting off the voice of the next generation. I understand that there are time constraints and voters need to speak, but the future lies in the hands of my generation and to silence us is to silence the society of tomorrow, the society that will feel the most direct repercussions. We will be the ones suffering from the waste profligacy of today. We will be the ones enduring the consequences of fossil fuel emissions, clogged oceans, rising sea levels, dramatic temperature and weather fluctuations, impure air, and a multitude of other disasters. And we will be the ones forced to deal with choices that you — the generations before us — made, choices that we were barred from speaking about.

Well, no one’s going to stop us from writing about them.

Please take the time to read the things we wish we could say at the meeting. Here are thoughts about this issue from teenagers who live or spend a great deal of time in Great Barrington.

Single-use plastic water bottles for sale in Great Barrington. Photo: David Scribner

“As one of the main speakers at the [last] town meeting, not being allowed to speak at this one because I’m under 18 makes me feel not offended, but disappointed. I should be allowed to fight for something that’s impacting my generation more than past generations. I know a lot of people think recycling is the answer, but it’s not because tons of plastic is still just being thrown into landfills because people never throw it in the correct place. Eliminating plastic water bottles in Great Barrington will be a step in the right direction.If we don’t ban these water bottles and just keep thinking recycling is the answer, by 2050 there’s going to be more plastic than fish in the ocean, and I don’t think that’s the world we want to live in.” — Carly Terranova, 17, Great Barrington

“Every year humans dump thousands of tons [of waste] into the ocean. We are destroying our Earth little by little and plastic is a large contributor to that. By slightly changing our lifestyles and avoiding the use of plastic bottles, we can gradually decrease the amount of plastic being thrown into the ocean. Getting rid of plastic bottles will be a step in the right direction.” — Karina Mahida, 15, Great Barrington

“Earlier this year, when I learned that Great Barrington would become the third town in the country to ban single-use plastic water bottles, I was proud to be a part of a town and community that care so much about the environment. As someone who buys and uses single-use water bottles, I can absolutely understand how difficult it could be to find a way to stay hydrated without bottled water readily available. However, I believe that once the ban is instated, we will be able to stay healthy, keep hydrated and probably save quite a bit of money along the way. I think that boxed water and water in glass bottles are both viable alternatives. As for the local businesses that may suffer from a lack of options for thirsty tourists? This is a great opportunity to explain to them what we are doing to help the Earth and what they can do, too!” — Charlotte Ivy, 16, Great Barrington

“There are 8 billion metric tons of plastic in the ocean, a large portion of which is plastic water bottles. Why should we contribute to that? We already banned plastic bags, why not water bottles? We ARE an environmentally conscious area. If we want it to stay like that, we must uphold the ban.” — Rosemary Snyder, 16, Sandisfield

“I feel the plastic bottle ban is important so that we as a town can help take away from environmental impacts as well as stay away from the ways plastic bottles can impact our health negatively. As there are only a few places in the United States that have done this before, I feel that this is an opportunity for Great Barrington to be one of the leaders in this movement to ban plastic bottles.” — Sadie Chernila, 15, Great Barrington

“The ban on plastic water bottles will reduce waste. People are trying to stop the ban from happening and, in doing so, they are ignoring the fact that — even if only in small increments — we are taking back our Earth. Plastic bottles and plastic bags (that were banned, I believe in all of the southern Berkshires) fill landfills along with trash and, in banning them, we cut down on the waste that goes into the Earth by a lot.” — Lucia-Rae Ginsberg, 16, Alford

“Plastic water bottles emit chemicals that taint our Earth, oceans and water supply. When our sources of nourishment are contaminated with chemicals, we die sooner. By consuming plastic, we add to a terrifying issue growing worse by the second. You can all feel the weather changing, can’t you? Are you keeping track of the melting poles and rising seas? I hope so, even if it scares you. We are making this planet less habitable by the second, and something needs to be done. Our use of plastic water bottles is not the sole reason the earth is melting and animals in the ocean are dying, but it is a huge contributor. Eliminating them in our community will curb this problem a little. My children will still have this overwhelming issue on their hands but, if there are still people here thousands of years from now, they will be grateful that we took action. We cannot let our civilization go down because of plastic.” — Stella Bellow, 18, Great Barrington

Please attend the special town meeting at Monument Mountain Regional High School Monday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m. and vote “no” to repealing the ban on single-use plastic water bottles in Great Barrington.

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