Should we use plastic bottles?

January 21st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

My daughter is off to college and came home talking about how plastic water bottles, when left out in the sun (like, she said so many markets do) causes the plastic to release cancer causing chemicals. Her answer to this was more stringent regulation against super markets. How would you answered her question on how to handle that?
 
Thanks! I love your podcast and just finished the first 5 chapters of your book (love it) Thou Shall Prosper.

∼ Darryl J.

Answer:

Dear Darryl,
You have a great opportunity to help broaden your daughter’s outlook and help her be a concerned, informed and thoughtful citizen. The downside (or upside, depending on your attitude) of this is that it will take time and effort on your part.

Firstly, you should commend your daughter for caring and paying attention to what goes on around her. Applaud her for questioning and not assuming that, “it must be safe if it’s widely done.” Your job is to extend that healthy skepticism to her peers, professors, social media and the government as well.

Do some research on your own or with her to show her how sometimes crises are manufactured (such as the Alar apple crisis) that end up causing loss of jobs and the destruction of neighborhoods, that are then proven to be false. Before accepting the argument of carcinogens being released, she needs to search for opposing claims and evaluate both sides, not just accept the common wisdom on campus.

The second question is whether government should be the first recourse in all cases. Again, some research will show how much waste and corruption there is when government gets involved. Does she know how much food prices go up whenever the government changes a regulation?

If she judges the claim about carcinogens to be true, why would she think of asking the government to be involved instead of taking the first step of approaching the store manager?  A letter to the supermarket chain’s CEO, letters to the editor or a local petition are all steps that should precede government involvement in a healthy society. This is a chance to discuss how people can interact with each other instead of jumping to lawyers and government intermediaries to control their interactions.

Help her see the store owners, manager and employees as good people working hard to put food on their tables and take care of their own families. Help her make the connection between higher costs of doing business (inevitable with increased government regulation) and higher food costs for everyone along with loss of job opportunities for those working at the market.

Maybe your daughter’s claim is valid, perhaps it isn’t. Either way, acknowledging her concerns while learning together about the issue and teaching her to broaden her horizons and be aware of the potential damage and unintended consequences of activism is tremendously important.

Not only will your daughter be exposed to a different vantage point than that which is found on so many college campuses, but this can be a strong bonding springboard for your relationship.

Big children, big opportunities,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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