Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t Pat – Guardian Climate Agoniser Madeleine Somerville, who has a BA Sociology, with a concentration in Criminology, Deviance and Social Control, has provided what might be the most hilarious excuse ever, for not personally practicing the green philosophy which she preaches.
… This hypocrisy is a delicate balancing act. It speaks to the seemingly inescapable reality of this North American machine we’ve built and which now runs our life.
In order to avoid it, one needs to escape to the woods, go off the grid. You’ll subtract most of your environmental impact by doing so. I think everyone fantasises about it from time to time (I certainly do), but you’ll also lose priceless human connection and culture, alongside the ability to educate or inspire change in others.
The fear of navigating this cognitive dissonance, as well as the fear of armchair critics declaring that you’ve failed is, I believe, at the heart of many people’s reluctance to adopt more green practices.
By doing so, you open yourself to harsh criticism; you’re asked to justify your decision to change anything when you’re not committing to change everything. It can be intimidating: suddenly you’re expected to have all the answers. “Why bother recycling when you still drive?” “How can you wear leather when you don’t eat meat?” “Aren’t those annual flights erasing the impact of anything else you do?”
My reluctant decision to continue owning a car came about as a result of a handful of carefully considered factors: the limited public transportation options in my city, six months of Canadian winter, car shares which can’t accommodate a car seat for my daughter, and a custody agreement which requires me to drive her to see her dad three hours away, twice a month. To be honest, it makes me feel bad, but I’ve also realized that choosing to try means also accepting that you’ll fail, at least some of the time.
You can either accept the status quo, or you can work towards something better. Doing so often looks less like an off-grid hut in the woods and more like finding a way to exist in an uncomfortably unsustainable society while also trying to change it. …
You see, it is not reluctance to give up modern life, and live in a mud hut in the wilderness, which stops greens from practicing what they preach; It is the fear of being mocked by armchair critics, when they dial out for a pizza delivery.
So Madeleine works for a future in which we all live in mud huts, and nobody has access to pizza delivery – except perhaps for a handful of special people like her, who may still need access to planet destroying fossil fuel powered badness, to travel the world, to inspire the rest of us stay on message, to be certain that ordinary people don’t slide back into embracing the evil conveniences of modern life.
Keep writing Madeleine. Now that we are aware of your heroic efforts, to navigate that fine green balance between recycling urban kitchen waste, car ownership, and racking up air miles, I’m sure we are all looking forward to you sharing more pearls of green wisdom, to add to your growing list of titles, which includes How to make your own toothpaste and lotion – and help the Earth in the process, and How to green your home: make your own cleaning spray for every task.