Can Environmentalists Be Saved From Themselves?

Tree hugAt the farmer’s market last week, volunteers were canvasing for petition signatures on an environmental matter. One volunteer shoved a flyer at me, asking (more like telling) me to take it. I politely declined, indicating that I was aware of the issue, have researched it online and don’t want to waste the piece of paper. “I don’t understand why people say no,” she said as I walked away, in a tone that was not friendly, nor genuinely curious. Followed by “think of your children!”

Now I was angry.

I wanted to engage with her, but decided it wasn’t worth it – her tone and attitude suggested the conversation would require a level of energy I just didn’t have that day.

I take great pride in green living and taking care of the earth. Had she tried to engage in positive conversation, she would have learned that I focus a great deal of time and energy on environmental issues. Instead, she alienated me, and my friends, from her cause.

It reminded me of the environmental organizations and activists I’ve started following recently in my quest to make my home greener and healthier. And one of the main reasons I started the Green at Home blog – to get past industry bias and environmentalist exaggeration.

It comes down to wanting information without attitude.

The environmental movement is, and probably always has been, polarizing. It exists because some of our actions result in negative consequences on our well-being and the planet, or have the potential to. It’s not always out of malice or greed – we’re evolving and learning at an incredibly rapid rate and are bound to make some mistakes.

Finding solutions to these problems requires us to change, and people don’t like change. People especially don’t like to change based on someone attacking their choices. For me, this meant that I did not sign the petition that the woman ultimately was trying to pitch at the market.

How can we change the stigma environmentalists seem to have created for themselves? Instead of being angry at the woman at the market, I should have engaged in positive conversation to help her understand where I was coming from. It shouldn’t be an “us vs them” situation – we all share this planet we call home, and it’s up to all of us to come together to keep our home safe, healthy, and vibrant.

There’s no doubt environmentalists have passion. Let’s add some compassion so we can move the conversation forward.

How do you have positive conversations about environmental issues with others?

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