by Greg Walcher, Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in the Daily Sentinel
Several times I have enjoyed speaking to school classes about various natural resources issues, and am invariably surprised at how poorly they understand where things come from. Water miraculously appears from the faucet, and gas from the pump, just as everything from milk and furniture to clothing and computers simply come from the store. They are mostly in the dark about the natural resources it takes to supply nearly everything around them.
It turns out that lack of understanding is about as common among adults as school children, as is evident in the current debates about ballot initiatives that would block oil and gas production. Even among people who understand that without oil there is no gasoline for their cars, there is a shocking ignorance about all the other uses of minerals to build a prosperous society.
A few years ago a nationwide online survey revealed that 72 percent of the American public is unaware that plastic is made from oil. Americans rely on plastics in all aspects of their lives, yet most don’t know where plastic comes from, or where it goes. Forty percent of Americans think plastic will eventually biodegrade underground, in compost piles, landfills, or even in the ocean. Actually plastic is not biodegradable at all. People also estimated that more than a third of all plastic is recycled, when in truth it’s less than 10 percent.