Kenya's Plastic Bag Ban
On Monday, August 28th, Kenya’s plastic bag ban officially came into effect. The ban targets those who make, sell and import plastic bags. Anyone caught engaging in these activities could face up to four years in jail and up to $38,000 in fines.

While other African countries, like Botswana and Rwanda, have also instituted rules surrounding plastic bags, such as taxes and prohibited use, Kenya’s ban is the most rigid. Kenya’s plastic bag ban is so strict because of the extremely detrimental effects plastic bags have on the environment and Kenyans.

Plastic waste affects the globe as a whole, with eight million tons of plastic seeping into the ocean every year alone. The plastic debris in the ocean can injure or poison marine life. Plastic buried in landfills and littered across the land can also leak into groundwater, creating hazardous drinking water for human beings and wildlife.

In Kenya, plastic waste is a major pollutant, with piles of bags littering streets. Agricultural animals, such as cows, often end up grazing on these bags and are commonly found to have multiple plastic bags in their systems when being prepared for human consumption. Chemicals in the plastics contaminate the meat, potentially making it dangerous for those eating it.

Plastic bags littered over agricultural lands seep chemicals into the soil, reducing the fertility and productivity of the soil. Bad soil equates to lower agricultural production, which economically affects impoverished people the most. About 61 percent of the population works in agriculture, so lower soil fertility can equate to decreased income and even greater poverty.

With plastic bags taking over their streets and adversely affecting agricultural and human health and growth, the Kenyan government made the positive decision to clean up this pollutant. Some, however, who use plastic bags for basic daily needs, worry about the immediate effects upon their lives resulting from the ban.

Impoverished Kenyans, in particular, use plastic bags often. For example, plastic bags are used for basic daily functions, such as a place to put bodily waste due to the lack of a proper sewage system. Many also use plastic bags for transporting shopping goods, rather than investing in reusable bags.

In order to fully eliminate plastic bags and truly improve the lives of Kenyans, the Kenyan government must provide its people with basic needs, such as a proper sewage system. The government also encourages people to use paper and cloth bags, but it should provide these reusable alternatives to its poorest citizens, for whom purchasing reusable bags is not as accessible. Kenya’s plastic bag ban is an important step toward improving the environment and hopefully toward improving Kenya’s 43 percent poverty rate, but the Kenyan government can still act further to improve its infrastructure and services for its impoverished people.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Impact of the Papal Encyclical on Global Poverty
Pope Francis’s encyclical is a timely response to the world’s most pressing challenge. Already, climate change is contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people every year. Attached, comes a costly price tag worth more than $1.2 trillion, according to the Guardian.

Since those who will bear the brunt of the burden will be the world’s most disadvantaged, the papal encyclical is even more imperative to understand in order to fully address global poverty.

Food Insecurity

The amount of food-insecure people will be anything up to 200 million people by 2050, and 24 million malnourished children. Less food availability will make prices surge, resulting in a general 40-50 percent price increase by 2050, which will hurt the estimated 2 billion more impoverished people. The prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, said, “a 1C rise in temperature is associated with a 10 percent productivity loss in farming,” which equates to a $2.5 billion loss, or 2 percent loss in U.S. GDP.

Biodiversity Loss

Biodiversity loss is one of the main effects of climate change. As weather patterns shift, sensitive species are more likely to die out, inevitably affecting the many other species dependent on the original keystone species. The keystone species performs a crucial role to its ecosystem or habitat.

Extreme Weather

Scientific research indicates that climate change will result in stronger, more lasting, and more frequent storms. This affects the agricultural sector, which is for many developing nations one of the largest contributors to their economies. Thus, not only will extreme weather take more lives, but it will also take away fertile lands and replace them with over flooded and destroyed soil.

According to NASA, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a global temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. These storms may take 2 percent of the U.S. GDP by 2030.

Human Health

Extreme weather may lead to disease outbreaks. As temperatures increase, disease-ridden insects and other hosts are more likely to spread across wider niches, infecting populations unfamiliar and defenseless to the viruses. Malaria, dengue fever, cholera, and meningitis are among a few diseases that are prone to expand with global climate change.

The spread of allergenic plants, thanks to global warming, may also lead to an increase in human health cases worldwide. Air pollution, created by fossil fuel burning, also contributes to about 4.5 million premature deaths per year.

Global Economy

Damages by climate change value to about 1.6 percent of the global GDP. Researchers believe this will rise to 3.2 percent of global GDP within 15 years. The world’s least developed countries will suffer the greatest losses, losing up to 11 percent of their GDP.

The ugly truth is that climate change is, and will continue to upset every aspect of society from agriculture, energy, the economy, transportation, education, and even defense.

The papal encyclical has the potential to educate and inspire a massive population to embrace responsible stewardship. It will likely be used by at least 1 billion Catholics, a large audience by anyone’s standards.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: The Guardian, NASA, USA News WWF,
Photo: Huffington Post