As planners, one of our roles is to help stretch the scope of what is considered possible. For example, between 1950 and 2000 most development was highly automobile-dependent, based on the assumption that almost all travel would be by personal automobile and other modes were relatively unimportant. This pattern is so well established that many people have difficulty imagining anything different. It is useful to help people understand the full range of options available, from automobile dependency to carfree communities.
The San Jose City Council is considering a proposal to
ban plastic bags and most paper bags in supermarkets, out of concerns about the greenhouse
gases used to manufacture them and about the waste from discarded
bags. But this policy might create as many environmental problems
as it solves.
In a city without disposable bags, shoppers who seek to buy large amounts of groceries will have to drag around an army of nondisposable containers. For drivers, this is not a big deal. Susie SUV can always find space for dozens of nondisposable bags in her truck. And because Susie’s bags can stay in her truck forever, she will always be able to make impulse purchases without difficulty.