In my last foray into non-fiction, Dark Nature: A Natural History of Evil by Lyall Watson, I came across an interesting concept: ideas as viruses, using us as hosts to jump around and propagate. By this logic, I am ‘infected’ with environmentalism. Chances are, if you’re reading this, so are you. But I doubt it was my blog that ‘infected’ you with an acute case of planetary love; you found it because you were already concerned.
That’s the thing about blogs. They attract people who are already interested in what you have to say. In other words, we’re not spreading infection so much as forming leper colonies. (Possibly the least sexy metaphor I’ve ever penned.) Blogs create tidy, comforting bubbles of like-minded people. If my blog were about, say, how blind gray cats are awesome, and it attracted all the 20 other blind gray cat lovers in the world to leave enthusiastic and supportive comments, I might begin to think, “Hey, people are listening to me! People agree with me! Everyone must think blind gray cats are awesome!”
It’s the same thing with any cause, including environmentalism. I’ve insulated myself from the indifferent, the skeptical, the downright hostile with an online community that, in the real world, is a distinct minority. But I only interact with people who share my environmental concerns, so I sometimes forget how much of a minority we really are.
The result is a sense of utterly misguided complacency. As a profoundly introverted and reticent person, I can blog from the safety of my home, safe from unwanted human contact, and believe that a majority of people in the world care about protecting natural resources.
I’m calling myself out on this one. If we go back to the virus metaphor for a minute, it’s clear that I’m not infecting anyone who isn’t already infected. While I’m in here blogging about how to turn vegetable scraps into stock, I have neighbors who drive 50 feet to the laundry room, throw cardboard in the trash, and buy bottled water by the truckload.
Like diseases, maybe ideas need to be transmitted in person. It’s not enough to stay home and blog, or even to go out but only talk to like-minded people. The internet is powerful, but it is also distinctly limited when it comes to meaningful interaction with another human being. The real question all along has been about how to make green go viral — beyond a niche movement of Birkenstock-wearing hippies, beyond the scientific community. And like anything else viral, I think it has to be about social.
I hate that part. If I believed in spirit animals, mine would probably be the cactus cat, a mythical solitary creature with spines instead of fur. Social behavior is not intuitive for me. I will never be the, er, ebola of the green movement. But I care too much about the fate of this fragile little blue and green planet to stop here.
This is where I could use your help. Presumably you’re more social than I am. What can I do to make green more contagious to people who don’t give a damn? Frankly, I can’t think of anything I could say to my truck-driving neighbors that would not get me lynched, but I feel like I should at least try.