Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Activism, self-righteousness, and individual differences

Let me get one thing straight upfront: despite not being wired for outrage, I really do think activism is important. This is especially the case in areas like the environment where making people aware of alternative ways of doing things could well make the difference between the future of our species and no future at all. But it drives me up a tree (no pun intended) when activists are so self-righteous about the choices they make that they fail to take individual differences into account before encouraging other people to make precisely the same ones.

I'm talking about:

...people whose friends and relatives are all local encouraging people with aging parents in another part of the world not to fly--because refusing to use airplanes would be more environmentally sound.

...people who live in cities with adequate public transportation tsk-tsking people who live in the suburbs or in rural areas for owning and using a car--because taking the bus would be more environmentally sound.

...people who have never wanted children anyway encouraging people who really do want children to make the childfree choice--because their way would be more environmentally sound.

...people who don't take that much joy in food and drink anyway looking down their noses at the gourmets down the street who buy imported mangoes from Mexico and imported malbec from Chile--because eating local would be more environmentally sound.

I mean, sure, all of these forms of environmental activism are great, and necessary, and I applaud the people who find a way to fit them into their lives. I find a way to fit some of them into mine. But come on, can't we manage to promote our good ideas while recognizing that a minor sacrifice that rolls off the back of Person A might very well make the life of Person B immeasurably less attractive?


Anonymous said...

Thank you. I've been annoyed by that myself. In fact, I just took heat at a party last night for commuting to my workplace 20 miles away. Sure, I'd love to not have to commute, and sure, I wish there was a good public transportation option to get me there instead of driving. But the reality is telecommuting is only somewhat effective in this case, and there just isn't a public transportation option. It's not that I'm not continually interested in improving the situation (looking for more opportunities to work from home, looking into buying a hybrid car, vocally supporting discussions of policy around public transportation, etc) -- it's just that this is the reality I'm living with for now.

On the other hand, I do think there's benefit in holding each other accountable for the choices we're making. I just think it should be kept in perspective, which is what it sounds like you're saying.

FootInMouthDisease said...

I live in a rural location on a gravel road, and have a 4WD by necessity, which gets a work-out once a week if I organise it properly.

But being a greenie from way back, I get heaps from my greenie friends and to-the-right mates as well.

I do what I can to minimize my carbon footprint and tread as lightly as possible on the earth, but I tell 'em; when you're ready to go live in a cave without the home comforts, and hunt your food on the hoof, let me know and I'll come and join you.