Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can I be an environmentalist without turning into a sanctimonious twit?

I love the environment. I have been known to both talk to and hug trees. I have looked at the data, read analyses, and done heavy thinking about where the world is headed. I understand - at least deep enough that I can say some things with confidence - global warming and climate change, peak oil, the dangers of drilling natural gas, the ramifications of a factory food system, the as yet unfulfilled but amazing promises of alternative energy sources, the impact of our chemical society on our bodies. But...

Man, the environmentalist movement is filled with self-righteous, sanctimonious twits. I'm talking zealots of the first degree, who believe anything that they read that supports their world view without doing any further research.

Really, they aren't that much different than many Fox News viewers.

For instance, I have been reading about a great debate that is splitting the environmental movement. Can you be a good environmentalist and still eat meat? While many think that you can, there is a very vocal minority that disagree.

Never mind that that vocal minority mostly chose not to eat meat for their own moral reasons (and like good zealots they want to force their morals on you). Never mind that their argument that land that is used to raise animals would be better used to raise crops doesn't apply in many places that cannot be usefully converted to human-edible crop production. Never mind that a true closed system of food production includes animals for many reasons, including aeration of the soil and manure production, much less the high-quality protein production that humans are evolved to eat. Addendum: most importantly, never mind that meat-eaters actually have a smaller carbon footprint.

Of course, then there's the very obnoxious animal rights movement (as opposed to the animal welfare movement, that actually recognises that a cow is a cow and a pig is a pig and neither is a human being). Yes, this really is beyond the scope of what I'm writing about, but it is an area that overlaps a great deal with the environment movement and is filled with self-satisfied zealots.

So, I believe in protecting the environment, because we as humans cannot survive without it. I also believe that pollution, etc, is infringing on our individual rights -- I have a right to breathe air that hasn't been fouled, drink water that isn't swimming with pharmaceuticals, eat food that is free from horrible substances that cause cancer, birth defects, and endocrine disruption. I should not have any of this forced upon me.

But how can I tell people about all these things, that are very important to all of our lives, without coming across like the sanctimonious twits above? I understand that people aren't making enough money right now to shop at the places that I'd prefer. I understand that people don't have time to cook a homemade meal of organic food every night. So how can I help others understand whats at stake, and help the world be a better place, without forcing what I believe on them?

Maybe if I keep asking myself, always, "Am I being a tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood? Am telling other people that they MUST believe something, when I should just be encouraging them to investigate the matter and make up their own minds?" Maybe that'll help me from being such a delusional, holier-than-thou airhead.

Then again, I'm right. ;)


Phoebe said...

Actually, I am one of those you call "sanctimonious twit," and after reading your post I have to say that I am proud of it.

But ... kidding aside ... maybe you should follow your own advice and do your research before you spout your truth. Most of us vegans are into this because we do not believe that the five minutes of pleasure you might get per meal from eating animal-derived products are more important than the pleasure animals get from living a life that is cruelty-free and fits their needs. So yes, it is about value judgments. Vegans see that using animals for our purposes--be it for food, vanity, entertainment, and yes, medical research--cannot be defended when we see how much cruelty this creates. Have you ever been to a factory farm? I have been to two of them. Still makes me sick to my stomach. Have you ever been to a slaughter house? I have been to a horse packing plant. I still have nightmares about this one. Maybe you should tour these facilities, and then sit down and reconsider your stand on the issue.

That our life-style is also more healthy for us, the animals, other humans, and the planet is just a nice extra.

Best regards,
One of your "sanctimonious twits"

Tasha said...

@Phobe That's awesome for you. I have done investigation, and I am adamantly opposed to factory farming. I believe that we should treat animals as humanely as possible, but I still recognise that they are not my species and therefore I do not ascribe the same feelings as to my species (and yes, I've been around animal slaughtering operations). You're free to feel differently, and its awesome that you do so. I'd hate to see an entire world that all thought the same as me!

I just don't like when people use spurious arguments to condemn others. I have no problem with vegans being vegan, and being vegan doesn't make anyone a sanctimonious twit. Its a moral choice that I totally respect. Telling other people that you are better than them (especially without knowing or understanding their situation) makes people sanctimonious twits.

Thanks for your comments. You don't seems like a sanctimonious twit at all - you made your decision based on your morality, you said that, and that's all I ask.

hassam said...

so very nice article