Dear Pacific Palisades
Dear Pacific Palisades, how is everyone?
In this unique community where everyone seems to be taking social distancing seriously and complying with the Stay-at-Home order that Mayor Garcetti has been clear to deliver in an appropriately emphatic tone, I’ve noticed we are separated but not disconnected.
In a phone call with LAUSD last week, I was told that Pali High has nearly 100% student participation in its online school curriculum—one that was hastily formed in two days of training and masterfully executed so far!
Paul Revere has a little more of a challenge on its hands with 2,000 middle schoolers, but in a virtual conference with administrators and the parent board today, we were told that teachers and staff are working tirelessly to engage all kids, provide hotspots to all teachers, and work on curriculum details to accommodate these unprecedented times.
I see my adolescent son and his friends sitting in Zoom classes every day. They goof-off a little, but they’re there, and they’re learning.
I’ve edited essays in the last couple of weeks, brought tea and cookies up to a studious junior hunkered down in his room with homework, delivered home-blended smoothies to my college kid now home for the remainder of freshman year, and paid my daughter to tutor her brother in math. I have an unmistakable sense that we are in this together—and we are all in school!
I still venture out on my routine runs and bump into other moms who tell similar stories of families adjusting to constantly being home. This town is uniquely suited for the uplifting routine of running/walking—the beautiful vistas, clean air and wide streets make the endorphins flow freely. Other than stopping more often now to talk to neighbors, I can solve half the world’s problems in my head as I dart from street to street in my hilly environs.
These days, I run into so many new people out there. Just today, I stopped and talked to someone I often see but never talk to. I learned so much about her and her dog—and her grandchildren. And told her so much about my own life and its unexpectedly changing parameters.
My husband has repurposed his business to accommodate the times, which has taken us all back to his early entrepreneurial days when we never saw him. Déjà vu, as they say, all over again—with the added surreal element that if COVID-19 can take the British Prime Minister to intensive care, it can certainly take down my husband!
Last week, when the eerie sense of quarantine had yet to sink in, a family nearby was washing their boat to the tune of ’80s classics. It was an overcast day and as I ran by one hollered, “This is the arc waiting for the flood.” I had to laugh—and that laughter did us all good as we knew we were pushing back COVID angst.
On another run I bumped into a family out playing the sac-toss. Not a sight you’d see every day and clearly needing some practice … but heartwarming, nevertheless, to see a scene right out of Norman Rockwell!
Yesterday it was two girls on their scooters singing rhymes, and this morning it was three boys and a dad walking all the way up and down our cul de sac, bouncing a basketball with tricks behind the back and between the legs. Gotta keep those handles tuned, I get it!
I’m heartened each time I jog through these moments in people’s lives. I’m worried … My husband goes downtown where he’s turned his manufacturing facility into local production for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and the increasing numbers of patients we hear about in the news. I know it’s important work and it can’t happen if he doesn’t leave early and come home late, and I’m glad our family can do this. But still, I worry.
The neighborhood friends I bump into on our walk/runs—now oddly routine—hear my angst. They tell me their thoughts and fears too. We talk about the challenges of cooking (three meals a day), cleaning (without as much help these days), tutoring (more often than ever), baking (endlessly … ) and watching the news (tirelessly), trying to parse reality from alarm. We part ways with air kisses and a promise to meet again the next day.
It all culminates in a warm sense of family and community—and an undeniable feeling that we truly are all in this together.
I know we will see this moment in human history through and that one day we will look back (perhaps when our online school kids are adults) and remember it differently than we are experiencing it. I know I remember the revolution that brought my family to the States as a child differently than how my parents (now isolating in Santa Monica) experienced it.
So make the most of today, tomorrow will come, and eventually, it will be better.
Maryam Zar, J.D.
Rollbacks on reusable bags during a pandemic are bad for our health and the environment. As an environmental attorney, I have worked over 20 years to decrease plastic pollution, a real health threat to humanity and the food chain that sustains us.
Plastic is a health threat through its entire life cycle, from drilling and fracking that contaminates our groundwater, to manufacturing that spews harmful chemicals into our air, to use in food packaging that has shown to leach toxic chemicals into our food and drink, and finally to permanent pollution that is contaminating our seafood, our soil and even our rainwater.
There is no place left on the planet that has not been polluted by plastic, a known vector for ambient chemicals that adsorb readily onto plastic fragments and can be consumed by animals that we in turn eat.
I worked for many years with Heal the Bay, a local ocean protection nonprofit, on passing the California Plastic Bag Ban, the first statewide ban in the United States. Though some concessions were made to appease the plastics industry that fought this bill with all the lobbying power its money could buy, including the option of purchasing paper or “reusable” thicker plastic bags at point of sale, the majority of Californians are bringing their own bags, a great win for health of the planet and humans.
A Cal Recycle study found that in the first six months after the bag ban went into effect in California (in 2016 after being approved by voters in a referendum approving of the law passed by California legislators in 2014), in 86% of transactions, customers brought their own bag and didn’t purchase a paper or plastic reusable bag. As a result, there was an 85% reduction in the number of plastic bags and a 61% reduction in the number of paper bags provided to customers.
Now with the coronavirus pandemic, I am watching aghast as the plastics/oil industry is using the virus as an excuse to erase the significant progress we are making in stopping plastic pollution.
As we see with Trump trying to rollback fuel efficiency standards during the pandemic, this effort goes all the way to the top. In the case of plastics, the lobbying association for plastics has targeted Trump’s advisors, warning that plastic bans are dangerous during the pandemic.
While the Trump administration has been pro-fossil fuel and pro-plastic (Trump even marketed plastic straws bearing his name after California regulated plastic straws), there is no health reason to support plastic over other materials. In fact, a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that coronaviruses survive more than twice as long on plastic than paper, so paper bags would seem a much wiser choice than plastic if we needed a substitute for reusable bags during the pandemic. But we need not stop using our reusables to stay safe.
At my local grocery store, a large red sign proclaims that “For the Safety of our Employees, We are Not Allowing Reusable Bags.” While this is a win for the plastics industry, it is certainly not a win for health.
First of all, reusable bags are washable, just as our hands and clothing are washable. As far as I can tell, no stores are requiring us to shop naked and we are being encouraged to wear cloth, not plastic, face masks into stores.
Employees are wearing gloves to bag our groceries, so their hands need never touch the bags. The cashier, also wearing gloves, is touching our money, which has definitely passed through more hands than my reusable bags have. In fact, all the food in the store has passed through more hands than my reusable bags have.
There is no reason for the rollback on reusable bags except for pressure from the plastics industry delighted to have any excuse to boost production and use, especially while fewer people are driving and using fossil fuels (also used to make plastic) in their cars.
I brought my bags into the store despite the sign and was told I could bag the groceries in my reusable bags myself or accept the store’s thick plastic bags. This policy is nonsensical, but if maintained, it should be made clear outside the store and not just verbally to those stalwart environmentalists like me who refuse not to reuse.
If any stores are actually prohibiting people from bringing reusable bags into the store, there is a simple solution for those who want to reduce their waste: 1. Bring your own bags and leave them in your car. 2. Have the bagger put your groceries back into your cart or do so yourself. 3. Then bring your cart out to the car and bag your groceries in your car.
If you are having your groceries delivered, ask for them to be bagged in paper, which is easily recyclable and compostable, unlike the plastic. We all care about our grocery workers, but returning to plastic bags is not a benefit to grocery workers or to the health of our ecosystem.
Lisa Kaas Boyle, Esq.
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