Climate Change and the H-Word
May 19, 2021
I have a confession to make: I just finished eating a double bacon cheeseburger.
I drive a car. I’m writing this on an iPhone. I’ll later edit and submit it to the Times with one of multiple laptops I use.
I love air conditioning and hot showers. I’m a night owl who keeps the lights on until the wee hours of the morning. If I had the chance, I would love to hop on an airplane and travel to just about anywhere in the world.
I’m also a climate change activist.
Contrary to popular belief, most of us advocating for a habitable planet are not solitary hermits living in zen monasteries who’ve learned to produce our own food through photosynthesis. A few of us are, sure, but those folks are definitely in the minority. And yet somehow there’s this idea among many that being a part of the system we’re trying to change automatically invalidates the work we do.
Earlier this week I was called a “Hypocrite!” (explanation point) by a stranger online for my support of the Green New Deal. The conversation we were engaged in didn’t actually have anything to do with climate change. Rather, I’d made a comment on a wholly unrelated topic, and the apoplectic gentleman in question evidently saw fit to dig through my Facebook profile, where he uncovered my dastardly support for the GND.
And so this lovely individual denounced me as a “communist useful idiot,” and told me to “park my car, turn off my gas and electricity, and smash my phone.”
Let’s set aside the fact that the Green New Deal is specifically designed to help us preserve such comforts of modernity without totally annihilating the biosphere we depend on to live. As far as this gentleman was concerned, the fact that I was using or had ever used a single amp of electricity was enough to totally disqualify me from advocating for solutions to one of the greatest existential threats ever faced by our species.
I’ve frankly just about slashed the word “hypocrite” from my lexicon altogether at this point. It’s become so casually hurled to and from every direction across the political spectrum that it’s become almost meaningless. With the possible exception of a few supernatural religious deities, no one who’s ever subscribed to any philosophy or ideology has ever done so perfectly, or without contradiction. We’re human beings, and we’re flawed. The only people who believe that that’s a valid reason not to try and improve the world we live in, are the ones who have zero actual interest in things getting better.
I’ve met some truly incredible people during my time in the climate movement. A lot of them do far better than I do at walking the talk on sustainable living. But none of them are perfect.
For crying out loud, Greta Thunberg once crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a carbon neutral sailboat in order to attend a climate conference without contributing to air travel emissions. She’s basically a climate saint, and still some merry band of inquisitors managed to track down a photo of this teenage girl eating from single-use plastic food containers once in her life, and acted like it was proof that she was some kind of deceitful charlatan.
There truly is no such thing as a perfect climate activist. Honestly, just about every night I go to bed feeling like I’ve failed at doing what needs to be done, and every morning I wake up, determined to do better.
You can either decide to accept your flaws and realize that the only moral choice is to fight for this planet, however imperfectly, or you can sit on the sidelines, gleefully criticizing those who dare to try and improve things.
I know which of these two paths I need to be on. Do you?