Why Do Environmentalists Fear Me?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm certainly not the first person to re-post Ezra Klein's Washington Post article, but I felt I should, given that he not only mans up and admits that meat consumption is a major contributing factor to global warming, but as a meat-eater himself, this may have more impact than it does coming from an extremist liberal hippie like myself.

Now, "extreme" isn't a word I would use to describe myself, but as a vegan it's consistently foisted upon me. Apparently I scare people. I guess I can see how me coming towards you with a plate full of dairy-free cupcakes might be terrifying. In all seriousness though, I'm talking about my first-hand experience with people within the so-called "green movement" fearing use of the "v-word." As Klein notes in his article:

The visceral reaction against anyone questioning our God-given right to bathe in bacon has been enough to scare many in the environmental movement away from this issue. The National Resources Defense Council has a long page of suggestions for how you, too, can "fight global warming."... The word "meat" is nowhere to be found.That's not an oversight. Telling people to give up burgers doesn't poll well.

Vegans have long criticized Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth for conveniently ignoring the issue of meat, along with countless other environmentally-focused organizations. I too, shared the experience of writing for a "green" online publication where I was consistently told to tone down my vegan message for fear of alienating our readers.

Now I agree that it's important to at least talk about the way you position your message with respect to your audience, but I couldn't help but think that this was less about alienation than it was about willful ignorance of a problem. To wit, in one of my earliest weeks on the job, my colleagues and I had a booth at our local green festival.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the festival organizers had made a choice to feature only vegetarian food vendors. Many of my colleagues were less pleased and complained loudly about this. In fact, when it came time for lunch, they actually left the festival grounds, and walked a few blocks to grab carne asada burritos. They wouldn't sacrifice meat for one meal at a GREEN FESTIVAL! If they had gone out to get "free-range-organic-locally-raised" chicken salads, I would've rolled my eyes, but at least been a little more understanding. But who knows where the meat in those burritos came from.

As I write this I've already posted a link to this story on Facebook and even my supposedly liberal friends are commenting in backlash. It's funny how everyone's an environmentalist until it calls for some tiny amount of personal sacrifice.

(P.S. It's not a sacrifice. I eat really well.)


Ryan said...

Terrible memories this brings back, Sharon. Terrible. It's all the more amazing that so much of the content produced by our former employers concerns "greenwashing."

Sharon Troy said...

Ugh, sometime not on the internet, I'll have to tell you about a greenwashing lecture I once got.