Catching More Flies

In the last few days I’ve been involved in a conversation over here.  You can go read it if you want, since I’m not going to re-hash the whole thing.  I made some snarky comments, which I shouldn’t have, since they detracted from the message I was trying to convey.

As a side note, I think I never would have been involved in the conversation if I wasn’t on maternity leave, with time to spare reading blogs and going through the comments more than one time while I nurse my baby.  You can get a little cabin feverish when you’re used to going to work and being with people all day and then suddenly you’re at home while all your friends are at work, with nothing but internet to connect you to the outside world.  At least that seems to be how it has worked for me.  But I digress…

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about how we as environmentalists convey our message of sustainability.  For those of us looking to live more sustainable lifestyles, it’s important to realize that we’re not all at the same point on our journey.  To use the “green” terminology, we’re all different shades of green, for a variety of reasons.  As an environmentalist and as an environmental educator, I feel a responsibility to encourage people to care for the planet.

It’s tough to not be judgemental when we encounter people who might be better compared to “brown” than “green.”  But I think it’s important to step back, away from being judgemental, and realize that we are all different.  Even if it seems clear that someone will never choose to care for the Earth, I think it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.  I’ve always thought we can “catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” and I’ve written before about how I think it’s important for environmentalists to be role models and how our actions can speak louder than words.  I have lots of friends and family members who aren’t as eco-conscious as I am, but I’m not going to cut ties or start arguments with them.  And I wouldn’t refuse a new friendship based on someone’s shade of green (or brown).  How would I be able to spread my sustainable message if I refused to speak to someone?  And not to mention, nobody’s perfect.  Certainly not me! But that’s a post for another day.

What do you think? Am I less of an environmentalist if I associate with people who don’t care about the environment? Or is that an important part of being an environmentalist in the first place?


Filed under Sustainable Living

20 responses to “Catching More Flies

  1. Passion for something is a wonderful thing. Having learned the hard way from experience, forcing one’s ideals on others is rarely profitable. Usually it is frustrating….and disappointing.

    Good for you to have figured out that it isn’t worth alienating people. You never know when something will happen to change a person’s view. Sometimes it takes a few years before they grow into a new way of thinking. Just sit back and enjoy watching the changes.

  2. Lizz

    Being friends with people who have other beliefs is one of the most important things you can do! I’ve met people who didn’t believe in global warming, who immediately got defensive when I said I did. But when they realized I was actually listening to them, hearing their points and responding, they were able to calm down and listen to me too.

    Besides, how could you cut yourself off from any person who didn’t believe the same things as you? I’d have to say goodbye to so many beloved and extremely stubborn family members.

    Also, don’t worry about being “snarky,” you defended yourself and with good reason!

  3. Aunt Sara

    I read the Crunchy Chicken stuff and found nothing snarky from you…

    But even if you had been snarky, so what! Your baby isn’t even 6 weeks old yet, is he? Post partum has just set in, you are sleep deprived, hormones are still unsettled ( that from an English teacher to a don’t laugh!) If you can ever get away with being snarky, now is the time.

    There is a time and a place for everything, and all of us are at different stages of our life’s journey. I, for one, am extremely proud of you for your strength of conviction!

    I’ve written way too much, but I have to add that I was very surprised to see that you are a Republican! Never would have guessed that.

  4. If we don’t talk to people we disagree with, eventually we’ll be sorted out into all these little groups…and then those groups will splinter…and so on.

    I practice different conversational skills in different contexts. Blog comments are an opportunity to practice saying exactly what I mean, because the relational stakes aren’t that high. In Facebook conversations, particularly with “friends” who aren’t that close, I take risks, but cautiously. And with family member with whom I disagree, I’m even more considered about what I say.

  5. Seriously. Someone had a burr up their butt…and I agree with Aunt Sara… you of all people have the right to be snarky by merit of new-baby-induced-sleep-deprivation!

    Anyway, I’m having some trouble with this myself. Some people are all “go Laura” for composting and others find me disgusting for saving any waste I find to throw in there. And I honestly have not yet learned how to moderate my witty come backs so that I don’t leave a trail of highly offended people in my wake.

    • I already used that as an excuse to scrape the side of my bumper on the garage door…

    • Shana

      Well, either it was a burr up their butt or they thought “huh, I wouldn’t have expected that” and had the misfortune to voice it in a place where someone was a mite defensive and someone else did a little misconstruing of someone’s words and character. FWIW, my tendency to associate mostly with like-minded people is specifically BECAUSE of what you describe — I live in Oklahoma, and there’s a big green backlash going on here, with a lot of people feeling pretty free to trash/mock “greenies,” which makes us a lot less likely to extend an olive branch and try to educate. People make clear that they think you’re an idiot/sucker/delusional weenie and it doesn’t make you think “hey, I want to get to know that person better.” It’s pretty aggressive here, and I only live a bit less than 2 hours, I think, from Pioneer Woman. I live among her commenters, and every time someone of a greener persuasion comments at her blog, they’re emphatically shouted down. Which is where I’m coming from when I’m surprised at a pretty freakin’ green blogger hanging out with a pretty freakin’ un-green one, you know? I didn’t condemn Deanna (Crunchy Chicken), but I think it’s been made out here, on Facebook, and at Deanna’s blog that I somehow did.

      Anyway. You defend Abbie because you know her and say she has every reason to be snarky at this point in her personal life, and Deanna had people defending and commiserating with her, but I didn’t have the same, bloggy friends jumping to my defense, so nobody knew or cared why I might have thought as I did. Context matters, as you clearly point out.

  6. you wrote: “Am I less of an environmentalist if I associate with people who don’t care about the environment?”…

    i say: you can’t really tell who cares less (or more) about the environment than you do, so this is a moot point. everyone has different priorities and a different agenda.

    we all think our beliefs and practices are “the right way”, so instead of focusing on our differences, we should continue to set a good example of what we believe to be “the right way” and hopefully people will come to follow our example.

  7. Tia

    I definitely think we can and should be friends who have beliefs different from our own. How boring would life be if we were all exactly the same. When it comes to my close, personal more intimate relationships, having a very similar environmental mindset is very important to me, but in my friendships, even my closest friends, what they do in their homes, in their jobs etc…is not for me to judge. I just keep setting examples and it is always coming up in our conversations. 🙂 i think you did a great job of standing up for yourself and were only a teensy bit “snarky”. 🙂

  8. Bonniejean

    Personally if I found out the head of Seventh Generation was friends with the head of Procter and Gamble I’d be genuinely intrigued and wonder what they learn from each other. That’s what life is all about! You go Farmer’s Daughter! (p.s. your baby is beautiful!!)

  9. I don’t think there is an easy answer.

    If we live our lives respecting others as well as ourselves, I think we have to make choices about companions.

    That is, we should avoid people that express disrespect or bigotry toward others. As for any given person – I think Pioneer Woman was mentioned – I think if she is respectful toward others that would be fine.

    Some people’s natural “colors” are autumn, some are summer. That shouldn’t be the basis for “you can’t be my friend, because I look good in red and you don’t”.

    On topics like AGW, sustainability, peak oil, and monogamy – some people are respectful of themselves and others while still holding firm and unthinking, unchallengable convictions. Others are radical, living the moments of their lives by “If you aren’t with me you are against me, and I will defeat you.” Anyone would harm themselves, trying to be friends with a bigot, regardless of where the bigotry is aimed.

    When talking “sustainable” – that makes getting the best use out of every resource even more important, perhaps especially the human resources.

  10. No, you’re not less of an environmentalist.

    My husband is definitely not the same shade of green as me. I have loved him for almost 20 years now, and he has been with me through thick and thin. I’m not going to leave him if he buys water in plastic bottles from time to time. Yes, we talk about it, and over time we both make changes. But just as he respects my choices, I have to respect his. That’s how relationships work.

  11. Forgive me for stating the obvious but I can’t help but see the similarities between being green and being a Christian, or a religious follower of any kind. Most churches would strongly discourage their members from isolating themselves from non believers and instead encourage them to make new ties and connections. I don’t see why being green should be any different if the whole idea is to spread the word.
    I took the way wrong approach on this one with a few of my coworkers and it has taken me a long time to get past that. If you make people feel bad about not doing things they’re going to avoid thinking about the topic all together.
    That’s true even with your blog. If you put things on here that made me feel inadequate I would have stopped reading a long time ago. Instead, you just share your experiences and we all learn from you. You’re doing great, IMO! 🙂

  12. Shana

    Here’s the thing: I don’t understand how you got from “wow, you hanging out with PW, rather spectacularly un-“green,” surprises me” to “you’re less of an environmentalist because you associate with people who don’t care about the environment.” That’s not what I said, and that’s not what I meant. My comments were informed by living in a town that could not at all be considered an environmental melting pot. People here are pretty unabashed about their “green fatigue,” or whatever, and do things like see a small “animals are friends, not food!” button on my backpack (a gag gift from a friend and a nod to my bleeding-heart vegan hippie-crunchy ways) and say things like “you don’t really believe that crap, do you? I’m having TWO steaks tonight, just to cancel you out! *snicker*” People don’t hide their opinions, and when people know they’re in the majority, they don’t tend to tread as lightly w/r/t others’ opinions. There’s a lot of pretty aggressive anti-green-ness, so I do tend to hang out with people I’m not going to get boatloads of guff from, KWIM?

    This is in making new friends, however. As far as family and current/old friends go, I’m very live-and-let-live. I answer any and all questions, tailoring my answers to the “greenness” and level of understanding of the asker, and don’t go around evangelizing. Most of my family lies wayyyy at the other end of the environmental and political spectrums (spectra?), and I’m obviously very used to dealing with to that. I don’t tend to have that filter on with fairly like-minded people, which Deanna is, environmentally, and there tends to be a lot of conversation in “green” circles about how we can do better, the messages we send, etc. etc. etc., so I didn’t expect that she’d take it as a personal indictment of her values or friendships or way of being, or whatever.

    Anyway. I absolutely agree that it’s vital to mix with those less concerned with sustainability, both because good people come in all flavors and because that’s the only way to bring people into the conservationy fold :), but I don’t tend to do so with people who make clear that they are not interested and don’t respect MY views on things. A significant part of what bugged me is that Deanna gave PW at least three mentions on her blog, and I have yet to see PW reciprocate, which made me feel like there really wouldn’t be any exchange of ideas. And this may be wise on Ree’s part, because her blog’s become huge business, she has more to lose in reputation/readership than Deanna does, and I’ve never seen ANYTHING from her (Ree’s) commenters that would lead me to believe that they’d be open to Deanna’s message, so perhaps a reciprocal link would just get Ree a hard time from her commenters (ooh, I feel a zinger coming my way there!). I never said we needed to segregate ourselves, nor that that’s the way to preach (for lack of a better word) consciousness about the planet. It’s possible to think “wow, strange bedfellows!” without meaning “OMG GET A CATTLE PROD, WHAT ARE YOU DOING FRATERNIZING WITH THE ENEMYYYY???!!!!”

  13. Jena,

    Golly, I hope your Christian analogy doesn’t hold too far. I mean, the early Missionaries spread disease and cultural intimidation as well as the gospel. Just look what they did to the Native Americans, Hawaiians, Amazon peoples, etc. Then there were the witch hunts in earlier Europe, the Spanish Inquisition, even the Crusades.

    A less violent approach might be what liberals have done in the public schools. Take your social engineering agenda, bake it into the math and social studies and literature curricula and indoctrinate your neighbor’s children at the same time you raise your own children to your beliefs. Wasn’t it Hitler, that said, “Give me your children, and I will take your nation.”?

    I recall the day an eight year old, third grade foster child told me I was killing the earth, because I threw out a 2 liter bottle instead of making a terrarium out of it.

    Aside from the fact neither of us had a use for a 2-liter terrarium, re-use is a much better goal than recycling the base material – recycling conserves material, but often at a horrible energy cost. Except for glass. Glass is still energy and cost efficient to recycle, once the federal subsidies are taken from the equation. I also resent schools telling children that their parents are killing themselves by smoking. True or not, that dismantling of family bonds is social engineering run amok, heartless, and despicable to be turning children against parents to achieve, roughshod, a pet social agenda. Unless, of course, you figure that your message is more important than any number of people’s lives.


  14. Rob

    Well being a yellow dog democrat, (i would rather vote for a yellow dog than a republican) and very left wing, I can say you can’t pick other’s politics or how “Enviromental” they are. You also cannot limit yourself to just one viewpoint. There are alot of sides to every storie/problem, so you just have to go on faith that you are picking the right one!

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