Posts Tagged ‘rant’

Is your green blog bad for the planet?

Warning: snarkiness ahead.

My basic line is that there are lots of ways to be green — that is, to consciously try to reduce your impact on the planet, use resources more wisely, think about the effects of your actions, or care about the earth and its future. I respect that some people choose very different paths than I do in promoting sustainability, and I have tons of respect for the people who get out there more than I do and canvass, call, write, agitate, and activate (or whatever the verb is for what activists do). Plenty of people have smaller footprints than I do, try harder, and do more. Plenty don’t, are but are working hard to get there.

I really try to be fair, patient, and tolerant, but I fail more often than I let on. And although I don’t rant much on here, I have to say that certain types of ‘green’ behavior or ‘green’ blogs drive me quietly but absolutely crazy. (Note the Quotes of Scorn.) Regular programming will continue after I’ve gotten the snark out of my system.

Let’s talk about green blogs. I have one. If you’re reading this, you might have one, too. Everything we do has an impact, including blogging, and including green blogging. Does the amount of planet-saving mojo we create balance out the impact? Or are our green blogs quietly wrecking the planet along with everything else we do as first world citizens? 

Here, for your pleasure and enlightenment, is a totally unscientific and unapologetically snarky quiz to find out what kind of impact your green blog has on the earth. 

1. How much time do you spend on your blog, promoting your blog, or schmoozing with other bloggers so they’ll become your faithful readers?
a) 0-2 hours a week. I blog when I remember to.
b) 2-5 hours a week. I put some time and effort into promoting my blog.
c) 5-10 hours a week. I might be slightly obsessed in getting my page rank up.
d) 10+ hours a week. Whatever it takes to get companies to contact me for reviews.

2. Where does the electricity that powers your computer come from?
a) 100% renewable energy. I live off the grid and rigged my laptop to run on solar panels.
b) 50-99% renewable energy. I tried hooking my computer to a turbine, but it didn’t work out.
c) Less than 50% renewable energy (but my energy provider gets a little juice from solar or wind).
d) I have no idea, and don’t really care.

3. How many product reviews do you do each month?
a) 0-1. But mostly 0.
b) 2-3 on an average month (less than 1 per week).
c) 4-5 (at least 1 per week).
d) 5+ or as many as I’m given the opportunity to do. I heart stuff!

4. How many of them are for products you genuinely need and can’t find a local, lower impact solution for?
a) All of them (or n/a, since I don’t do any product reviews).
b) Most of them, with the occasional fun, green-ish one thrown in.
c) A few. But I’d review an eco-cupcake holder made from recycled plastic if I were given the chance.
d) I’ve never thought about the products I review that way.

5. Would you get green blogger business cards and/or stationery?
a) No way. Think about all the dead trees that went into those things.
b) They’re cute, but I don’t think they’re necessary.
c) I have the sweetest blogger cards printed in soy ink on 100% recycled paper.
d) Have you seen my laminated glitter business cards?

6) How do you feel about green blogger conventions?
a) The whole phrase is an oxymoron. Flying out to promote my blog and have ‘green’ products sold to me is not low impact.
b) I wouldn’t go to one unless it were in my town or within a short drive.
c) They’re OK. I picked up some great swag at the last one.
d) If a company sponsors me to go, I’m there. If it has green in the title, it must be eco-friendly, right?

Mostly As: you officially have a low impact green blog. You might also be just a little on the self-righteous and curmudgeonly side. Oh well — sustainability first!

Mostly Bs: your blog is pretty low impact, although you don’t have a do-or-die approach when it comes to reducing your footprint. Depending on how many people read your blog and take something away from it, it’s possible that the beneficial impact of your blog outweighs its use of resources.

Mostly Cs: You’re heading into the territory of the quotation marks, as in the ‘green’ blogger. You may have other motives for blogging, such as generating income or getting cool free stuff. You still think you can achieve greenness through buying stuff.

Mostly Ds: You think green is a nice color. But your blog is not low impact by any stretch of the imagination.

How’d you do? I’m mostly As and Bs with the occasional C. (By the way, if you’re not sure what percentage of your power comes from renewable energy, it’s easy to find out through a quick web search. My provider gets about 30% from renewable sources.)

It’s completely impossible to quantify how much good my blog does in educating or reaching out, but it is easy to see what kind of resources go into it. Is it worth it? I have no idea. But I do think that a green revolution starts with consciousness, conversation, and real, meaningful change, and our blogs are one place to begin.

Do you think about the impact of your green blog? What are some ways to improve it?

Are you a ‘true’ environmentalist / vegan / feminist?

Well, looks like I’m not a ‘true’ environmentalist. I still have a car, I still don’t buy 100% organic, I haven’t eaten the carbon-intensive blind cat, I’m still on the grid, and yep, there’s even still a roll of paper towels (recycled) in my kitchen — mostly for said cat’s occasional hairball.

I have a bone to pick with the word ‘true.’ I’ve seen it slapped on a bunch of different labels recently, and a certain pattern is emerging. I’m not a ‘true’ feminist because I have reservations about Slut Walk as an expression of equality and a demand for respect. Bill Clinton, who chooses not to eat animal products for health reasons, is not a ‘true’ vegan. Hell, I’m not even a ‘true’ vegetarian because I have clam chowder once or twice a year.

Let’s decode this. Can I suggest that, in each of these cases, by ‘true’ the speaker simply means conforming to beliefs s/he personally holds, things that s/he already does? By implication, anyone we don’t consider a ‘true’ [insert label here] is, well, lame. I won’t deny that there are different levels of commitment. There are. But using ‘true’ to describe difference isn’t about one’s own commitment to a set of values. It’s about stepping on other people in order to feel superior and exclusive.

Worst of all, it doesn’t help anything.  Instead of encouraging the people who are most receptive to learning and perhaps committing more to a cause, it alienates. Making people defensive is a terrible way to promote your cause. Instead of reaching out, it closes off. And worst of all, people are more likely to judge an entire cause as being preachy, intolerant, and close-minded after even a few bad encounters.

I’ve been on both sides of this problem. I used to scoff at buying organic because most of the people I knew who did so were self-righteous Whole Foods shoppers. After an unpleasant encounter with vegans on my college campus, I chowed down on a hamburger. At the same time, I’m pretty darn judgmental myself.  I judge the people in my condo who don’t recycle their plastic water bottles, people with lots of kids in tow, people who accept a plastic bag when buying a single item, people who still think they can somehow shop their way into sustainability.  Not judging, not labeling — now that’s hard. But shouldn’t we try?

Labels are convenient, but they present the appearance of unity without acknowledging that one person’s idea of being an environmentalist or vegan or whatever will not totally coincide with anyone else’s. (And that’s good, because adopting a label does not give you the right to stop thinking for yourself.)  Deeming a ‘true’ anything is completely subjective and particularly unhelpful. Let’s cut it out already.

Have you ever used ‘true’ with a label you identified with? What did you really mean by it?

Being childfree: not an excuse for green smugness


Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

Being a happily childfree person does not mean that I agree with all childfree attitudes, and there’s one that’s been cropping up recently that I don’t like at all. It goes something like this: “By not having kids, I’m already reducing my footprint so much that I don’t have to do anything else to be green.”

Wow. That annoys me, and I don’t even have kids.

Here’s the thing. If you chose not to have kids mostly or even solely for the sake of the environment, that would be one thing — a true sacrifice if you were someone who always wanted kids. But I don’t know any childfree people who chose to be biological dead ends for primarily environmental reasons. Instead, most childfree people are childfree because they don’t want kids or the responsibilities that go with them. Full stop. The environmental benefit is a nice little bonus and might strengthen our resolve, but even if having kids were the best thing I could do for the environment, I wouldn’t do it.

The environmental impact of having children is hard to deny. My grandmother had seven children, who went on to produce 13 grandchildren and I don’t even know how many great grandchildren (we’re just reaching our mid twenties and thirties), many of whom live in the US or Taiwan and lead fairly typical and cushy lives as consumers. Although my entire paternal side of the family is deeply dysfunctional, the family tree isn’t going to end with the great grand children. In relatively few generations, my grandmother will have been partially responsible for a hundred or more new people, most of whom will still be alive. And that’s just one family. I look at family reunion photos and am amazed at how two people created so many more. How many fewer people would there be if she’d stopped at two? How much lower would the total impact of this family be? (I wouldn’t exist, but that’s OK — it’s not like I’m going to find the cure for cancer or anything.)

If you want the stats, Oregon State researchers conclude,

[T]he carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.

Not bad, huh? I totally think talking about population and making sure every fertile person in the world has easy access to reliable contraception and sterilization options is a huge and often overlooked piece of the climate change puzzle. I love the way the childfree movement is gaining momentum and population is starting to creep into more mainstream discussions. But.

Not doing something you weren’t going to do anyway does not give you mad brownie greenie points. To me, saying that being childfree means you’ve done enough is like saying that not flying a private jet to work every day reduces your impact so much that you’re totally off the hook. I try not to impose my version of what it means to be green — to think about all my choices in terms of total impact, to strive to make both small everyday changes as well as effect bigger ones — but I can’t help but think that you may be missing the point if you think being childfree is a get out of jail free card for everything else you do. 

I don’t think there’s ever a point at which we can sit back with a satisfied smile and say, “Great! My life is now totally sustainable!” I’m a vegetarian, I cook from scratch, I’m childfree, I heart reusable everythings…and there’s still so much more I could be doing. And there always will be, because this is one big, messy, all-encompassing problem, and compromise is inevitable.

Childfree anything is controversial. What are your thoughts on the intersection between being childfree and being green? 

P.S. You can read more of my childfree entries here.

How to sabotage your cause

I overheard an older couple in the grocery store the other day. The woman picked up a bottle of organic V8, to which the man grumbled, “If it’s organic, I don’t want it.” Clearly the word ‘organic’ meant something different to him than what it means to me — grown without synthetic pesticides with [hopefully] more sustainable farming practices. At a guess, ‘organic’ meant to him what it used to mean to me: something that only snooty, yoga-practicing, more-sustainable-than-thou, upper middleclass white women bought.

We can blame some of this bad rap on mainstream media. They’re a wonderfully convenient scapegoat for both left and right. However, I think we also need to take responsibility for our own PR problems. They’re not unique to us; every movement has them. Inevitably, passion and enthusiasm lead us to do things that impact how we are perceived and effectively limit our ability to promote our cause.

Well, hell. Might as well make a guide out of it. Here’s the slightly tongue-in-cheek Not Easy to Be Green guide to sabotaging your own cause. Go on, fill the people around you with a murderous rage to take your cause and stamp on it.

OK. Start with a generous heaping of intolerance. Intolerance for people who don’t share your cause, who don’t see how obvious it is that you’re right and they’re wrong, who even think there could be any room for uncertainty or doubt. Call them stupid, selfish, ignorant, or brainwashed. Exclude anyone who doesn’t share 100% of your views on the subject.

Next, stir in a few fistfuls of impatience. Disregard the fact that people respond to different things at different rates. Jump on friends for continuing to buy factory farmed chicken, for exploiting bees, or for not switching to a composting toilet already. Even if they’ve made some strides to support your cause, belittle their efforts as meaningless and ineffectual in the face of what they should be doing.

Now toss in some self-righteousness, because nothing wins people over to your cause so quickly as being told how much better you are and how much you do for your cause. Judge everyone who doesn’t come up to your standards (slackers). Ignore everyone who goes further than you (overachievers). 

Finally, pick a fight with other people who, for all intents and purposes, also support your cause. Nothing shows how wonderfully mindful, compassionate, and admirable your cause is like a whole lot of petty in-fighting. Come to blows over whether CFLs or LEDs are better choices. Quarrel over who is harming fewer animals. Quibble over motivation. And best all of, form divisions within your cause. Because that whole ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ thing? It’s insignificant rubbish compared to your cause to eradicate the evils of toilet paper on the Earth.

Include all four elements in every conversation you strike up, and you will no doubt end up having a net negative impact on your cause. Note: I am not liable if you get punched, ostracised, or otherwise negatively impacted by following this guide.

Did I miss any? Do you see this happening in the causes you support? Do you ever find yourself doing any of these? (Obviously, I am susceptible to the intolerance part. Sigh.)

6 Things You Say that Annoy the Hell out of Childfree Women

Childfree: adj. describing someone who has opted not to have children; often used in conjunction with the term GINK.

It’s hard to be a childfree individual in this society. Admittedly, it’s gotten a lot better in the past few decades, but people, especially women, who have opted not to have kids still deal with plenty of crap. First are the suspicions of lesbianism, sexual anomaly, and/or child-hating misanthropy. Next are the stream of impertinent questions — often from people who barely know us — about our reproductive choices.  Here’s a list of six things you say that really piss us off. Please. Stop.

1. Kids are great/wonderful/fantastic/fulfilling! You should reconsider.

Imagine that I went up to a pregnant woman and said, “Hey, the childfree life is fantastic! Why don’t you reconsider?” This is what it feels like when you tell me to reconsider my decision to be childfree. I respect your decision to have a child and am willing to accept that you have good, valid reasons for doing so. It’s your turn to return the favor.

2. You’ll really miss out by not having kids. I feel so fulfilled by having produced genetic offspring.

I can see why this would be true from your perspective, but I’m not you, and what I find fulfilling may be very different from what you find fulfilling. In fact, what I find most satisfying – reading, writing, going out for solitary walks, spending time with animals – would be significantly hindered by having a child. Moreover, there are so many different experiences that an individual could find fulfilling that it is entirely possible to lead a highly fulfilling existence without all (or even many) of them. Maybe I’d find skydiving fulfilling and enriching if I just tried it. Thanks, but I’ll pass.  

3. Having a child is an essential part of the female experience.

Rubbish. I don’t believe in gendered experiences; I believe in individual experiences. Having kids may well be a part of your individual experience, but that doesn’t make it essential or even rewarding for other people. Not following one particular biological imperative doesn’t make me an inferior, incomplete, or unfulfilled person.

4. But you’d make a great mother, and we need more smart/conscientious/whatever people.

We don’t need more kids in the world; we need to make sure that the kids already here have supportive,  affectionate adults around them and access to the resources and education that will make them conscientious and thoughtful adults.

Morever, it’s pretty clear to me and the people who see beneath my mild-mannered facade that I wouldn’t be a good mother. I’m unabashedly self-centered, a few cents short of a dollar in the empathy [for humans] department, and savagely territorial about my independence, time, and space.  I have no maternal instincts to speak of and am at a total loss when presented with a baby. (Not fuzzy enough to be cute, and not conscious enough to have an intelligent conversation with.) There are plenty of people who should never be parents. I am one of them.  And even for people who would be good parents, they don’t owe it to anyone to make that decision.

5. Don’t you like kids? 

Of course I do. I work with them (ages 10 and up), and they are some of the coolest and most interesting people I know — kind of like adults without the smarminess and social posturing. But there is a striking difference between enjoying working and interacting with kids and wanting my own child, for whom I would be responsible 24/7 for years. I would go completely crazy. Relationships don’t work for me unless they’re with other, mostly autonomous individuals.

6. You’ll change your mind later.

Don’t patronize me — and that refers to doctors, too, who refuse voluntary sterilization to women with no children. Most people who don’t want kids have known forever that they didn’t want them. I figured it out years ago when I joined the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and have become increasingly certain that I neither want kids nor would be a good parent. I’m willing to bet you anything that I know myself better than you know me.

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