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Friday, July 12, 2024

The straw wars – The Atlantic

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For one thing so small and hole, the ingesting straw has change into fairly a potent image over time.

First, listed below are 4 new tales from The Atlantic:

“Soaking Up the Period”

Within the first few pages of Nicholson Baker’s 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the narrator recounts a vexing plastic-straw encounter. “I stared in disbelief the primary time a straw rose up from my can of soda and frolicked over the desk,” making it unimaginable to eat pizza, learn a e-book, and drink soda on the identical time, he remembers. This downside has plagued him, he says, since “all the main straw distributors switched from paper to plastic straws.”

My most fast query upon studying this passage lately was: What? Distributors moved from paper straws to plastic ones within the second half of the Twentieth century? I had at all times assumed—to the extent that I’d given the matter any thought—that paper straws had been a more recent product, made standard in response to bans on plastic straws within the 2010s. I had rather a lot to be taught.

Through the years, it seems, straws made of assorted supplies have served as potent symbols, and accelerators, of cultural change in America. As Alexis Madrigal argued in The Atlantic in 2018, “The straw has at all times been dragged alongside by the currents of historical past, absorbing the period, shaping not its path, however its texture.” Madrigal explains that early ingesting straws in Nineteenth-century America had been literal items of straw, rye stalks that folks used to suck up liquid. Quickly, variations of straws manufactured from glass, after which paper, had been developed. When industrialization unfold within the late-Nineteenth and early-Twentieth centuries, he writes, paper straws turned vital public-health instruments that prevented staff in crowded factories from placing their lips on the identical cups.

Round that point, soda fountains had been flourishing as an area for younger girls in cities to exit and socialize with out frequenting saloons—and to drink gentle drinks by way of straws. In later a long time, the rise of the malted milkshake and the unfold of fast-food chains led to the broad proliferation of the straw and innovation in its supplies. By the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s, as a lot in America was turning into plastic, the plastic straw had change into ubiquitous.

This all brings us to 2017, when the environmentalist marketing campaign to #stopsucking was launched. The plastic straw shortly turned an object lesson in how environmental activism can acquire traction—and, within the eyes of some critics, fall quick. Within the late 2010s, companies’ and municipalities’ efforts to ban plastic straws shortly met backlash from conservatives (who held up the bans as proof of liberal overreach) and from incapacity advocates (who famous that straws are essential instruments for many individuals). However main firms and a number of other states did transfer to restrict plastic-straw utilization, which raised consciousness in regards to the risks of plastic. Straws additionally turned an unlikely avatar of debates over the function that buyers’ private decisions ought to—or shouldn’t—play in tackling the local weather disaster. Some argued {that a} deal with straws attracts consideration away from simpler instruments for mitigating the injury of local weather change, and from the firms liable for the majority of air pollution.

Now many environmental activists are wanting towards extra formidable local weather targets, equivalent to banning all single-use plastic merchandise. And on the institutions I frequent in New York, I’m witnessing a form of straw détente: Some have indicators providing a plastic straw in case you ask for it; some give out sippy-cup lids; others go for brown, opaque straw varieties (many are manufactured from sugarcane or questionably compostable bioplastics) or paper straws. The worldwide paper-straw sector is now, by some estimates, value billions of {dollars}. However, this being the straw, issues are nonetheless not easy. Along with their tendency to change into mushy whereas somebody is halfway by way of a cocktail, and their incapability to efficiently puncture a lid, many paper straws aren’t truly compostable or recyclable; they’ll additionally include extra “perpetually chemical compounds” than their plastic counterparts do, in response to a research revealed final 12 months (one of many researchers famous that buyers mustn’t panic about particular person danger).

The straw has confronted criticism each profound and absurd over the course of its life: Some TikTok customers are apparently involved about straw-sucking-induced wrinkle strains. However to me, probably the most deliciously overdramatic straw grievance—one which caught out to Madrigal too—comes from Baker’s soda-drinking narrator: “How might the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed lower than the sugar-water during which it was supposed to face,” he sputters. “Insanity!”


At this time’s Information

  1. Home Speaker Mike Johnson appointed pro-Trump Representatives Scott Perry and Ronny Jackson yesterday to the Home Intelligence Committee, which handles labeled info and oversees intelligence companies. In accordance to the January 6 Home committee, Perry performed a task in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential-election outcomes.
  2. Eight of the 9 Supreme Courtroom justices’ 2023 monetary disclosures have been launched. Justice Samuel Alito acquired an extension to file his report.
  3. The prosecution rested its case in Hunter Biden’s prison trial in Delaware. The protection referred to as his daughter to the stand, and she or he testified about his rehabilitation efforts.


  • The Books Briefing: Adam Higginbotham’s new e-book on the Challenger catastrophe provides depth to a well known story, Emma Sarappo writes.
  • Atlantic Intelligence: Consultants had been fearful about an AI misinformation disaster throughout India’s latest nationwide election, however that didn’t precisely occur, Saahil Desai writes. As an alternative, the election confirmed a stranger doable future for AI’s use in politics.

Discover all of our newsletters right here.

Night Learn

illustration of an embryo
Illustration by The Atlantic. Supply: Getty.

How Can You Half With the Embryo That May Have Been Your Little one?

By Melissa Jeltsen

One of many first paperwork sufferers signal when beginning in vitro fertilization asks them to contemplate the very finish of their therapy: What would they love to do with additional embryos, if they’ve any? The choices typically embody disposing of them, donating them to science, giving them to a different affected person, or maintaining them in storage, for a price.

The concept that one may find yourself with surplus embryos can seem to be a distant want for these simply starting IVF … However with advances in reproductive expertise, many sufferers find yourself with additional embryos after this course of is over. Deciding what to do with the leftovers could be surprisingly emotional and morally thorny; even those that aren’t non secular or who help reproductive autonomy may nonetheless really feel a way of duty for his or her embryos.

Learn the total article.

Extra From The Atlantic

Tradition Break

A scene from Before Sunset where a couple talks in a park
Mary Evans / Warner Bros / Everett

Watch. These 23 motion pictures, compiled in 2022 by our critic, are plain crowd-pleasers that had been underappreciated by the Academy.

Learn. The Playbook, James Shapiro’s new e-book, sees the reactionary response to a New Deal–period arts initiative as a precursor to in the present day’s tradition wars.

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The battle over plastic straws was fueled partially by a shocking determine: a then-9-year-old boy who estimated that People used some 500 million straws a day. As The New York Instances reported in 2018, “The quantity this fourth grader got here up with in 2011, as a part of a private environmental conservation marketing campaign, has proved surprisingly sturdy, working its strategy to the center of the talk over plastic straws.”

— Lora

Stephanie Bai contributed to this article.

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