I’m big on the environment. I like trees. I like spending time among groups of trees over groups of people, although individual people I have known often prove themselves to be more engaging. I try to be cognizant of how my life impacts the rest of the planet. I recycle. I drive a hybrid car. I compost. I don’t have children.
I don’t usually talk to people about my attempts to reduce my negative effects upon the world. This is because I really only get two responses to my efforts, and both of them are pretty irritating.
If I’m talking to a self-described environmentalist, they will one-up me at every turn. If I recycle car batteries, they only use solar ones. If I replace all my bulbs with compact fluorescents, they put in skylights in every room and don’t use electricity. Life might be a game, but it’s not one where we need to keep score. Go away.
The more annoying ones, though, are the ones that feel I am doing more for the Earth than they are. Since they recognize that caring about the planet has value, but don’t act because it’s not convenient to do so, and they believe that I’m keeping score, they try to undermine my efforts. If I recycle newspaper, they ask me why I don’t recycle magazines. If I tell them I prefer using my own bags for groceries, they point out how much plastic packaging I bring home in those bags that I just throw away. When I mention that I’m not fond of the idea of Christmas tree farms, I get a litany of ways that I contribute to deforestation. Yes, I know I’m not perfect, and I know that I can’t be. Is it so horrible that I try to improve myself in this way? Are you so incredibly fragile that you can’t bear to think of me pursuing a goal, perhaps even succeeding at it? Yes, I now understand, yes. You cannot bear the idea of anyone succeeding, even in an area in which you have no interest in succeeding, if it means that you aren’t winning. What you think you’re winning by comparing yourself to other people and bringing them to your level at any opportunity, I cannot say. But clearly it makes you feel good about yourself.
I can’t say I wonder why intelligent people are unwilling to make the effort to care about the Earth. The more you do, the worse a job you end up doing.