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David Scribner
Monument students Carly Terranova, Grace Phair and Olivia Jaffe captured the audience’s attention while speaking in support of the plastic bottle ban at Great Barrington’s town meeting May 7.

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

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By Tuesday, Jul 31, 2018 Viewpoints 36

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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36 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Michael Wise says:

    A response from the moderator: I was asked last week whether people who are not registered Great Barrington voters, such as students who are not yet registered or merchants who do not live in the town, will be recognized to address the special town meeting. In response, I said that I would recognize Great Barrington voters first. Others who wish to contribute might be recognized to speak later in the process if there is time. They may attend the meeting if there is enough space, after accommodating the voters, to get them into the hall — more likely, into the overflow room.

    1. Susan Barrett says:

      I hope your response means you are encouraging interested well spoken young people who have researched this issue to attend the meeting and help inform the rest of us.

    2. John Horan says:

      Michael, how can you justify this? To not guarantee our youth, those who will be most affected by this decision, the opportunity to speak and be present in the auditorium is flat out wrong. What can we do to rectify this matter?

      Thank you,


      1. Michael Wise says:

        The town bylaws, ch. 41-7, state that no person except a registered voter may address the town meeting, except by special permission of the moderator. I have usually granted that permission to people who have requested it in advance of the meeting. Because a number of Great Barrington voters had not been able to address the May meeting about this issue, I told the person who made the request last week that at this meeting, I would recognize Great Barrington voters first.

    3. John Horan says:

      Thank you for reply, Michael.

      Since these young women were instrumental in creating and putting forth the proposed ban, the ban is the only item on the agenda and the meeting is slated to last two hours, it would only be appropriate for you to grant them time to address the meeting.



      1. Tom Blauvelt says:

        There are 4 articles to be discussed at the upcoming special Town Meeting.

  2. Carl Stewart says:

    Just because you, Ms. Terranova, and your impressive compatriots in arms, will not be able to vote, doesn’t mean that you should be absent from the meeting. Your presence there, along with like-minded people, will be a positive force. In fact, Mr. Steven Farina, someone who is in favor of rescinding the Town Meeting vote in May, has asked for as many people as possible to attend the Special Meeting this coming Monday. This old-timer applauds your activism and your thoughts on improving the planet. And kudos to Michael Wise, the Town Moderator, for trying to find a reasonable compromise on who will be seated in the main auditorium and who will be allowed to speak

  3. Erik Bruun says:

    Are people really so afraid of the words of our teenagers? Efforts to shut our children up only reflect how weak the argument for repeal is. Town meetings are meant to represent the views of everyone in town. There is no reason to push the voices of Great Barrington’s young people to the back of the line. Registered voters are registered to vote–not smother the views of others within town. Let our young people speak with the full gusto of their beliefs.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Right, they are not mature enough to smoke, or drink, or have sex, or responsibly vote (the reason we have age restrictions on such things), yet we should turn the process over to them. Can you tell me, Erik, what is the lower age limit that should be allowed to speak? And please, how do you derive that as the appropriate age?
      I am not being flipant, this is a serious question. As a society we have age limits I’m place for quite a number of things. Town business is but one of them.

      1. Erik Bruun says:

        That’s a good question. I do not see why there should be any age restriction on speech. Wisdom comes from people of all ages.

      2. Lawrence Davis-Hollander says:

        Excellent point Steve. However they do have 15 years experience drinking water. I think that gives them qualifications and circumstances absent from your other examples. Yes we do have to draw a line somewhere for societal reasons but we as adults must be wise enough to see where flexibility is reasonable. I think this is an example where voices of the future, who happen to be aware in the present, deserve a say. It may be time to circumstantially expand our own concepts of democracy.

      3. Steve Farina says:

        So what’s the lower age limit? Should we require 16 years of driving experience before we allow them to drive?
        I have been an active environmentalist for more than 40 years of my life, I too quote facts and figures, and I too get dismissed regularly (though there are many people who agree with me, as well). The full spectrum of facts, the entirety of the problem before us, and the broad impact of this ban (divided community, essentially zero environmental impact, negative financial impact on businesses, and more) all align with my stated position, yet there are people who don’t see it that way. I have shared ideas to unify the community, to address the issue of plastic useage, to address the fact that China will no longer take our TRASH – they will take our recyclables as long as the contamination level is 0.5% or less.
        I have given an example of a local company that achieves that. And, I have offered a way to repurpose our old abandoned mills.
        Yet, still there are people who do not wish to hear it.
        The unfortunate fact for these young ladies is that they just are not yet old enough to fully participate in the process.

      4. Lawrence Davis-Hollander says:

        But what does old enough mean? They don’t have a legal vote, that’s a given. Although at a local level you could look at that–but to the point why shouldn’t they be given full voice at a town meeting even though they don’t get a legal vote? The town meeting is restricting them. “[They} might be recognized to speak later in the process if there is time…” Why? Because they don’t have a legal vote. This is a circular argument.

        Let the youth speak. They are the ones who have to live on this mess of a planet that the older generations have created. They have 70 more years on this planet. Give them a voice.

      5. Steve Farina says:

        Old enough in this case means legal voting age. For example, when Great Barrington passed a ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21, many 18 year olds were denied their right to choose to purchase them. It was deemed (by the townsfolk )be in their best interest because they were not yet old enough to make that decision for themselves.
        These students have a voice, they can talk about the ban, the national debt, the endless wars that both major political parties make us endure all day long in school and social settings. Then, pow, one day they hit that magical age of 18 and suddenly have a right to influence with their vote.
        This is an issue put before the registered voters of Great Barrington.

      6. Steve Farina says:

        And, by the way, I also intend to live – VIBRANTLY – on this planet for the next 70 years, and I live my lifestyle with that goal in mind.
        For those who know me, they know I have been stating my vibrant life expectancy for decades.
        I suspect that most of these teenagers have nothing more than a superficial understanding of what being a taxpayer means. That understanding actually deepens as you have to make those payments. While I don’t doubt they understand the impact that plastics (and trash, for that matter) have on our environment, I do doubt that they fully understand the impact such a ban has on a small business who has invested large amounts of time and money to be successful. They don’t understand the potential impact this may have on our tourism. Frankly, there are many adults who can’t comprehend the larger picture of the many intricacies which make up our economy.
        We could pass a truly comprehensive bylaw which makes it illegal to buy, sell, or transport plastic in, or through, GB.
        This would actually have a tremendous impact on plastic useage and the environment. Why don’t we do something like that?

      7. Cynthia LaPier says:

        Steve Farina, as of January 1, 2018 China is no longer accepting imports of 24 common types of once-permitted solid waste from United States due to contamination concerns. The ban extends to various recyclables including several plastics such as PET and PVC, certain textiles and mixed waste paper.
        They are not taking our plastic. Period. Please stop refuting this fact.

      8. Carl Stewart says:

        Mr. Farina:

        Erik Bruun said nothing about “turning the process over to them” [the teenagers who support the ban but are not yet old enough to vote.] He simply said…and nothing more…that their voices deserved to be heard. What possible objection can you have to empowering young people who, some of whom in little over a year will be voting? Would you take the same position on their participation in Monday’s meeting if they were on your side of the issue?

      9. Steve Farina says:

        Cynthia, here is what WTO document 17-3880 dated July 18, 2017 states in Section 7 of China’s filing it’s intent with that organization regarding its acceptance of these imports:

        Objective and rationale, including the nature of urgent problems where applicable: The reasons for urgent measure: According to the Special Actions of Strengthening the Supervision and Strictly Striking of Illegal “Foreign Garbage” by the General Administration of Customs of China, Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, Ministry of Public Security of China and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China, as well as the Special Actions of Striking of the Illegal Actions of Imported Solid Waste Processing and Utilizing Sectors by Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, we found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China’s environment seriously. To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted. Protection of human health or safety; Protection of animal or plant life or health; Protection of the environment.

        Please note that it states they are forbidding the import of solid wastes that are HIGHLY POLLUTED.

        Why is this document important? This is the basis for what you are calling a ban on all plastics.

        Bloomberg reports here:

        “China is also severely tightening standards for the imports it will continue to take. Previously, China would accept bales of mixed paper containing up to 2 percent impurities—which could be everything from bits of garden hose, to diapers to propane tanks. But starting March 1, the impurity threshold falls to 0.5 percent for both mixed paper and plastic bales.”

        In the middle of this NPR article you will find this:


        “Adina Adler, a senior director with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, says China’s new standards are nearly impossible to meet. The group is trying to persuade China to walk back its demanding target for how clean our recycling exports need to be. But Adler doesn’t think China’s decision is all bad.

        “What China’s move is doing is probably ushering in a new era of recycling,” she says.

        As I have stated time and again, China is not refusing our recycling , they are refusing our TRASH.

        Please stop refuting this fact.

      10. Steve Farina says:

        Mr Stewart, if you keep attacking my integrity, I am not going to continue the dialogue with you.
        This is an issue for the registered voters of Great Barrington. The line is drawn at that requirement, with some discretion given to the Moderator.
        If I am not mistaken, you are former attorney, therefore, you should understand that.

      11. Cynthia LaPier says:

        Steve. There is nothing in any of the articles you cited that denies the fact that China has stopped taking our recyclable PET plastics and other recyclables as of January 1, 2018. I think you are making the point that we have been shipping them contaminated bundles of recycling? That you are calling trash? Whatever the reason – and yes, it is dirty recyclables – China is not taking ours anymore.
        As a result our plastic is piling up. I was sad to read that Oregon and Massachusetts are lifting restrictions against pouring recyclables into landfills to grant overloaded recycling operations relief since China cut us off. Check out this 6/20/18 Washington Post article and hear what Massachusetts waste managers have to say about the collapse of our recycling market. With China out, its not a commodity anymore, fewer items will be recycled, more will go to landfills. Can’t think of a better time to start reducing production of single use plastics where we can. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/06/20/a-giant-wave-of-plastic-garbage-could-flood-the-u-s-in-10-years-a-study-says/?utm_term=.7772d5db1f0b

      12. Steve Farina says:

        Wow, I am sorry you can’t follow:

        China refuses highly polluted waste material (recyclables). – WTO filing

        ” China is also severely tightening standards for the imports IT WILL CONTINUE TO TAKE. From 2% to 0.5% contaminants allowed in the waste – Bloomberg

        I really can’t simplify it more than than that.

    2. Steve Farina says:

      Maybe I can reword this point.
      If we clean up our act and stop putting trash in our recycle bins, China has no problem continuing to take our recyclables.
      We need to educate, encourage and oversee the recycling process to ensure we can meet the standards we should never have gotten away from!
      The water bottle ban in GB will have NO impact on the environment. We are unfortunately at a point where many people are too emotionally vested in their position and carry too much pride to admit to that fact.

      1. Steven Farina says:

        Cynthia, I take it from your lack of response that you finally understand the FACT I have presented. CHINA HAS NOT BANNED OUR RECYCLABLES, They are refusing to take our TRASH!

  4. Tom Norton says:

    These students are our country’s future. They will be the base that supports our generations retirement. They will have to grow up fast as have the generations before us who were asked to go to war. These students are to be commended for their willingness to contribute to society, nothing less.

  5. Honey Sharp says:

    When I learned that young people such as the ones who made the excellent presentation at our town meeting last May would not be allowed to speak on Aug. 6th, I was somewhat taken aback. Of course, there are important laws about who can vote but giving youth the right to speak up in their own community about an issue with huge ramifications for their future is an entirely different matter. How the new generation is taking action on gun control, human rights, health and the environment is one of the few things that gives me genuine hope. Their activism is what will make our democracy survive. This, reading their intelligent and heart-felt words here today was a welcome sight. I look forward to seeing them in person in the future be it indoors or out.

  6. Steve Farina says:

    I hope you all recognize the irony of this letter from my point of view.
    I am a resident of, and registered voter in, the Town of Great Battington.
    Three young women not yet of voting age were not only allowed to speak at the Annual Town Meeting, but they were given an extended amount of time beyond the three minute limit. Two of those youth are not even Great Barrington residents.
    At the Annual Town Meeting, I alone was denied the right to speak. Do you get that? A resident, tax paying registered voter, was DENIED THE RIGHT TO SPEAK AT THE ATM!
    Where were all of you in defending MY right? Where are you now? Your preoccupation with letting the youth speak, in my opinion, actually speaks to your own inability to make the point on the issue.
    There is a reason we have age limits for so many things in our society. Should we let the 4th graders choose our school lunches, too?

    1. Tom Blauvelt says:

      Hi Steve,
      As I recall you were not recognized to speak because someone in the audience moved to call the question and it was seconded. At that point all debate must stop and a vote must be taken on the motion to call the question. The motion to end debate was passed and then we voted on the article. Perhaps our moderator could explain this parliamentary procedure in greater detail.

      1. Michael Wise says:

        The only detail to add is that a motion to call the question requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

      2. Steve Farina says:

        And I do not deny the that majority voted on the question to call. As can clearly be seen in both the CTSB video of the meeting and the video posted here on The Edge, I was the LAST person in line waiting to address the Article.

    2. Richard M Allen says:

      Steve, there is no point in arguing with those for whom facts are irrelevant. I too have been a serious environmentalist for over 50 years and am disheartened by the movement’s kidnapping by zealots who simply grab onto the issue de jour and support their position by citing web sites that agree with them with either no factual support or carefully selected and biased support.

      Many of those responding to your postings need a lesson in civics.

    3. Carl Stewart says:

      Mr. Farina—

      Two things:

      1. Tell me how I have attacked your integrity? You may be a very upstanding citizen, but one who just takes indefensible positions based on either not knowing or misrepresenting the facts. For example, the documentary that you cited in support of your argument that the town of Concord, MA, is still divided over the bottle ban (“Divide in Concord”) was filmed before the vote in that town. The film discussed the division among townspeople but you made the point that Concord is divided “8 years on.” There is no evidence that there has been any serious “divide” in Concord during the past 5 years that the ban has been in effect.

      2. I am not a “former” attorney, as you put it. An attorney becomes a former attorney in only 2 ways; A. He or she dies, or B. He or she has been disbarred from the practice of law by a disciplinary body having jurisdiction. As I am still alive…or at least was alive at the writing of this comment…and I am still in good standing as a member of the bar, your comment is factually incorrect. Unfortunately, factual accuracy is not seemingly one of your strong points.

      3. Finally, your “threat” to stop communicating with me is hardly a threat. I would be relieved not to be the recipient of any more of your antediluvian polemic.

  7. kritterz says:

    Steve..Why don’t you put your three minutes in writing…and hand it out as people enter the building..along with a cold bottle of ice water in a plastic bottle

  8. Anni Crofut says:

    Michael Wise, a brief word of gratitude to you for your professionalism and discernment. It cannot be easy to moderate a town hall meeting with so many guidelines, agendas, competing interests, time pressures, not to mention personalities and emotions in the room. Thank you for taking on this challenging role and holding the space with skill and a level head.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      On this we definitely agree Anni!

  9. W.C. says:

    I don’t agree with the bottle ban. However how can anyone justify the opportunity for the next generation to be uninvited to the government process?

  10. Ted B. says:

    The Utes ( remember Joe Pesci ? ) are going to inherit this pile of 8 billion metric tons of plastic ! And just what to do with it who really knows ! Make a great science project for MIT ! Remember , just a few short decades ago , some guy said…… I’m goon sell water in bottles , and they laughed !

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