We Are Not Zealots

If you care about the environment, and if you try your best to make green choices, and if you speak up at all about the importance of protecting ecosystems, you have in all likelihood had someone, somewhere, at one time or another, call you a “zealot.” (Or “extreme”; “hardcore”; “fanatic”; or equivalent.)

However! You are not a zealot. Trying to persuade our fellow humans that we need to stop trashing our biosphere — our life support system — is not zealotry. It is good common sense. Caring that people in other places are being harmed by the thoughtless consumerism of the USA and other wealthy consumerist nations, and trying to do what you can to correct that, isn’t zealotry; it’s basic compassion and moral decency.

(This post was prompted by comments from some chemical-lawn-defender in one of the eco-friendly gardening groups. The person said something like, “I care about pollinators and all, but some of what I’m hearing in this group borders on zealotry!”) Yes, even in groups that are supposedly dedicated to eco-restoration, you can get called a zealot for being “too environmental.”)

Oh well. We can expect to be ridiculed (or worse) for daring to oppose consumerist, colonialist, extractionist norms. For suggesting that perhaps we might need a different set of norms, given that our existing ones are cooking the entire planet. Being labeled zealous or hardcore for upholding your core values is a thing that happens. Don’t let it stop you. Keep on doing what you do!

If anyone’s a zealot, it’s the person who reads the same news we do — the news of droughts, wildfires, floods, water shortages, food price inflation and food supply-line disruption — and still thinks it’s fine that the largest irrigated crop in the USA, by total land area, is lawns. Or that our landscapes are dominated by nonnative trees and plants that don’t feed anyone — wildlife or human. Now that is some kind of zealotry!

And our cult of consumerism is definitely some kind of zealotry! So is our rabid dedication to the personal automobile — definitely some kind of fanaticism there. (By the way, recently I heard about a fancy condo where you drive your car into a car-elevator, and the elevator takes you up to your own exclusive parking space, which is on the same floor where you live. Seriously, I am creative but I cannot make this stuff up!)

A whole separate category of zealotry is dedicated to the persistence with which corporate coffee shops and other corporate food places foist useless and toxic bits of plastic on us. Just trying to order coffee in a paper cup, without lids and straws and other plastic junk, can involve an extended conversation with the cashier — and sometimes you still end up with them giving you all that junk because that’s the default. (Note: My local Mom & Pop coffee shop doesn’t foist plastic junk on people, and they let us use our own reusable cups. Ditto my local Mom & Pop convenience store.)