Not everyone loves the green life, but that doesn't mean they can't live lightly on the planet
Every summer I join my family for a week of fishing and relaxation along a lake shore in northern Michigan. It’s always a pleasant time, much of it spent sitting in the shade of a big pine tree talking and catching up after a year apart.
But it also reminds me that they don’t share my passion for protecting the environment and trying to adopt a sustainable lifestyle – in fact, they see it as a tad weird. They tell me they can’t remember to take reusable bags to the store; it’s not practical to dry clothes on a line; composting takes too much effort; there’s plenty of oil in the ground so they don’t really need to conserve gas; all this stuff about carbon emissions and climate change is just a bunch of alarmist rhetoric. Sigh…
I try not to preach to my family – I know they have very different views on environmental stewardship. But I do cheer them on when they adopt a change that is beneficial, even if environmental action is not their driving force.
For example, my niece bought a Honda Insight this year, primarily because it made economic sense for her, not because she thinks using less gas is a good thing. Another niece takes public transportation mostly because it beats driving a car around a big city. My brother put up solar panels at his house to save money on his electric bill. My nephew, a truck driver, is opposed to the Keystone pipeline because he has seen the effects of the oil spill in Michigan. He doesn’t care about global warming or climate change, but he hates to see natural areas harmed.
My point is that if we really want to make a difference, we have to talk to people outside our bubble of environmentalism in terms they care about and in ways that don’t raise their hackles.
There’s a big difference between sharing ideas and preaching, between setting examples and demanding that everyone follow suit.Is it really necessary for people to be alarmed about climate change in order for them to change how they get around, or consume less energy? Or is it enough for them to take positive action because it’s more convenient and saves them money? People may start taking their own bags to the store when plastic bags are banned, but not many are motivated by thinking about the infinite life of plastic.
I don’t have the answers, but these are things I think about after a week with my family – real folk – who aren’t part of my choir of environmental activists and never will be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep talking to one another.
Carole Mintzer is chair of the Angeles Chapter's Executive Committee.