Two weeks ago, I talked about nostalgia in the environmental movement. The other side of this coin is the doomsayers – the people who spend their days telling everyone how the world is going to end if we don’t change our ways. The people who make their impact by strictly observing a set of rules that makes no impact on the environment, and who fiercely criticize those who don’t.
This is the other end of how people view the environmental movement. We are either naive hippies or angry activists.
I just finished reading a book that spent the whole 120 pages telling me how things that seem to be green or seem to be helpful are really just as bad. The point of the book was that the best solution was to simply have less stuff, because it’s all bad, but it made me feel stuck. I am damning the earth if I don’t try to lively greenly and I’m damning the earth if I buy into the myth of green advertising.
This is where doomsayers get us. They lead us to a place where we can do nothing, where our hands are tied one way or the other. Instead of inspiring change a little bit at a time, doomsayers hold a knife to the earth and insist you choose between the earth and your life.
But, like the nostalgia people, I think there can be a happy medium here. We need that sense of urgency to propel us into continually making those little changes. We need that sense of urgency to motivate our policy makers into taking climate change threats seriously. But we also need to have some vision and understand that we can ‘catch more flies with honey.’ I think it’s much easier for people to understand the impact of environmental hazards in their daily lives, if we take it one thing at a time.
It’s true that changing your lightbulbs to CFLs won’t do much to save the environment. It’s also true that a lot of recycling ends up being burned anyway. And eschewing all electricity won’t make the impact that we need because you’ll never get enough people to join you. But rather than tying our own hands, let’s remember that those little things can change the way people look at the world around them. If recycling is easy, maybe it’s even easier to find another use in your house for that bottle. These thoughts only come when that first step is made.
There are a lot of people out there leading environmental movements who toe that line between urgency and doomsaying really well. I think the envrionmental movement is growing up in that sense. The only problem is that we still have the stereotype to combat. But I think we’re up for that.