This one is in honor of #EarthDay!
Let’s make one thing clear, right out of the gate. I’m not trying to “shame” anyone in this blog post, as the kids say. Heck, I’m not sure I have enough readers to qualify anything I do as a chapter in The Handbook of Expressed Social Ills as Perceived by Heavy Twitter Users.
I’m expressing righteous indignation. It’s an infuriating hypocrisy that gets under my skin like few others.
It’s irritated me for a long time, too. I wrote a post long time ago on a defunct StarWars.com blogging platform far, far away about the allegedly “environmental” movement. The post at the time was called “Fury of the True Believer,” or some such, and had a picture of Anakin Skywalker glowering.
At the time, I was railing against the concept of carbon credits. I hated their very existence, and still do, because they allow someone like Leonardo DiCaprio to continue consuming at alarming rates while allowing them to do two things. Carbon credits let people tell themselves they’re good stewards of a planet they’re helping to wreck. Worse, it allows them to place a soapbox on top of a high horse while they live in a way that’s even more detrimental to the planet than those who can’t afford them.
I compared them to the abuse of plenary indulgences in the Middle Ages. That might have been a bit extreme, but I still lean heavily toward that comparison. These people are buying their way out of guilt, and going on to live the very way they “know” is wrong.
As an aside, Darryl Hannah is a great example of someone who practices what they preach. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, and would give her a microphone to say what she would about the environment any day of the week.
Since That First Salvo
In the years since, I’ve become older and grumpier. I’m more aware than ever of the way people trash the world.
Myself included! I’m completely aware of the waste that I generate, and that I can always do better. I’ve worked hard to be mindful and reduce/reuse/recycle. It even came to severely reduce my trinket-collecting habits because one day I realized…it’s all garbage. Eventually, even if they survive to my dying day, those who come behind me will find substantially less value in my tchotchkes than I did.
It’s maddening because there have been literal decades of education. Think about the anti-litter sentiment. Even if you’re not on the “save the planet” vibe, you can hate litter. Beyond its environmental horror, it makes the places we live uglier.
There have been ad campaigns and shame campaigns about the issue of litter. Yet people still do it. People don’t pick up the litter that they see because they’d rather just shake their heads and ask, “can’t someone else do it?”
Starbucks and Cell Phones
I’m especially fond of people who claim an environmental zeal while buying a new plastic cup from Starbucks every day. I know someone who’s all on board with even the most radical proposals to save the planet from humanity, yet purchases at least one cup of specialty something-or-other from the world’s favorite free bathroom chain.
Buying a new phone every two years is another terrific way to punch the Earth in the face while touting your environmentalist cred.
Look, I get new phones, too. I understand we’re in a place where we have to bathe our planet in microwave radiation that could be destroying key parts of the delicate environmental chain. But do we we really need to upgrade our phones more frequently, like Tim Cook suggests? Isn’t it OK to live with the phone until it dies?
There’s always the new generation of televisions, as well. You can’t be expected to enjoy This Is Us on a simple HD television, can you? 4K UHD or nothing…until the next iteration of home entertainment shows up.
Before You Jump All Over This Post
I know we’re all in this world, and we can only make so many changes. It’s not like I’m running off the grid and building a sweat lodge while sewing my own pelts. I’m not judging anyone, as I know that I could do a lot better, too.
I think what’s at the root of my irritation is simply the idea of being scolded by rich and famous people who fly all over the world to go to conferences talking about how pollution is killing us. If you look at Al Gore’s hockey-stick graph from An Inconvenient Truth, few were willing to point out that it lines up with the explosion of air travel. That’s because it would require them to change their lives. (It would collapse a lot of industries, too, but that’s a point for another day.)
People don’t want to change the way they do things. It requires sacrifice. They want to consider themselves “environmentalists” because they go on the occasional Twitter rant or post an Instagram picture of how much they love standing in the trees.
So yeah, I want everyone to do better, including me. I just don’t want someone who’s punching a hole in the boat to tell me that I’m not bailing out the water fast enough.