Plea to My Fellow Greenies: Please Minimize Needless In-Person Travel to Meetings

My comment just now on a fellow eco activist’s Facebook post asking folks to show up at a county council meeting. The post mentioned virtual attendance as an option. (Even before the pandemic, this is how I felt. We eco/climate activists need to walk our walk by using appropriate lower-footprint technology to minimize our need for in-person appearances that gratuitously burn petroleum or jet fuel. Now, with the pandemic — and any future pandemics coming down the pike — my opinion has extra justification.)

Hey fellow local earth guardians!! <three green hearts>

As your friendly neighborhood “carbon footprint conscience” eco activist, I strongly encourage virtual attendance rather than in-person.

Too much in-person running around is contributing to the road-traffic that is a big part of what is leading to sprawl development, road congestion, and other damage that is precipitating the need for the very “land preservation” we are advocating for.

My two cents: Unless you live in walking or cycling distance of this meeting (or any other meetings), I strongly encourage you to attend virtually, or else just give your comments by email or direct phone call to your officials.

As a bonus, you will save yourself hours of time & energy between having to get dressed up for an outside-of-your-neighborhood event, sitting in traffic, finding parking, sitting inside a closed-in environment with no outside fresh air circulation, etc.

* And — Special Eco Karma Hearts and Stars: Thank you so much <name of grassroots local eco warrior leader who wrote the original post> for keeping us informed, and for all you are doing to lead us in preserving our precious bioregional treasures. <numerous star, green heart, & butterfly emoticons>

Response later from the activist who made the announcement: “I’m sorry Jenny, but in person is IMPORTANT with this situation. It makes a HUGE difference.”

My response to them just now:

That’s what people often say, for every meeting. But — Reflect on the success you have created here — mostly via emails, online petitions, Facebook posts, and other things that don’t involve people needlessly getting in cars.

I am 100% supportive of this [land preservation] effort, as you well know <heart>. [Side note for my readers here: I donated $1,000 of my economic-stimulus money to the online crowd-fund for the preservation effort led by their group. Before that, behind the scenes, I encouraged them to do said crowd-funding campaign in the first place. I have also spent many hours publicizing their posts, often taking additional care to custom-write an intro for specific audiences. Not trying to brag; just pointing out the power of online, as I did all of this without getting in a car.]

I’m just calling on the folks who are willing to contribute from home, and/or are unable to be there in person, and/or prefer to model use of alternative modes. Think of my call as an EXPANSION of the field of participants.
Some people are inevitably gonna keep driving to these things no matter what; I have little or no influence over that. But, both for this immediate meeting and for the long term, I am trying to support expansion of participation, via alternative, low-footprint modes.

We cannot afford to keep modeling car-dependence, least of all in our eco activism.

And (in response to a subsequent comment where they told me they’d been enduring a lot of criticism):

Shame on any armchair critics who have the gall to malign you and your awesome efforts. It makes me sick to hear of a fellow activist getting attacked.

BTW please do not take my plea to minimize driving as criticism; it is directed at all efforts by all fellow eco activists. I’m trying to help us conserve our human energy, as well as model a commitment to minimizing the car travel that is a huge root of the problems we are now tasked with trying to solve. You know I totally support this cause.

And yet another comment I added later, regarding the topic of activists getting criticized for one thing or other:

BTW re criticism: As a person who first began thinking of herself as an eco activist about 30 years ago, and actively participating in actions accordingly, I have all that time been hearing criticism from non-environmentalists, regarding the fact that people call themselves environmentalists yet they needlessly drive or fly to environmental protests.

Frankly, I had no good response to their criticism because I feel, and have always felt, they are right. Instead, I have sought to practice and promote non-car-dependent, non-airplane-flying style of activism.

In that vein, over the past year I have attended probably two dozen conferences/meetings, action planning, etc, with a total of possibly 10,000 activist-type people or maybe even more. Online.


(By the way, I suspect that the compulsive need felt by some of us activists to appear in person at meetings may sometimes be ego-driven. Often, however, I suspect it stems from everyday citizens’ legitimate fear of not being seen and heard by officials. But continuing to burn fossil fuels needlessly isn’t the answer; building person-to-person relationships with officials is. And quite honestly, these days that is simpler than ever, thanks to social media and multiple other online channels in addition to the good old standard mail and telephone — which are still very effective, by the way. If you want/need tips for building/strengthening such ties (other than what you’ve read in this blog and my book), contact me and I will be happy to help you/your organization. We need to set a good example and break the knee-jerk reflex of jumping in our cars needlessly.

Also: A major advantage of online channels, which is often overlooked by the “adamantly in-person-is-a-must” crowd, is the greatly multiplied broadcast potential. Virally compelling tweets; Facebook Lives reaching across both distance and time to reach thousands of hearts; etc. In essence, we each have our own free TV channels, radio channels, advertising agencies, and publishing companies! Think 20 or 50 or more people showing up to a meeting in person with signs or matching t-shirts is powerful? It can be, for sure — but a creatively designed broadcast version of this has the potential to increase the power many-thousand-fold.

Just one little example (you can come up with any number of variants that might be much better ideas): Ask your 20 or 50 cohorts to snap selfies with the sign or t-shirt. Gather the snapshots into a big digital collage, post it on your City or County government page, plus pages of individual officials, plus Twitter, NextDoor etc. And takes a tiny fraction of the time and footprint of 20 or 50 people getting in cars, sitting in traffic, looking for parking etc.

For extra boost, do your selfies where your neighbors, who are by definition “naturally in person,” can see them.