My Ethics of Eco-Advocacy

My chosen approach to eco-activism is to effect systemic change by motivating people to make changes at the personal and household level.

This presents me with certain ethical challenges, which I attempt to navigate as follows:

• My target audience is my fellow environmentalists, not the general public.

• My target audience is residents of the USA and other wealthy industrialized nations, as we are consuming a disproportionate share of the world’s resources and are setting toxic cultural norms of a “civilized” standard of living. So, I’m not trying to tell residents of India and China and Mexico and South American countries and African countries and so on that they need to cut their footprint.

• I don’t ask or expect anyone to do what I myself am not actually doing. I’m not driving a gas-guzzling car and telling people they should ride bicycles, etc. Or would do if my situation were applicable. For example, I don’t have kids or grandkids, but if the time comes when I settle down with some nice old man and have some “Brady Bunch” insta-grandkids, if I have any input into their education I’ll strongly advocate for homeschool/unschool with a heavy emphasis on the three R’s plus earth-based skills.

• Furthermore, I accept that I’ve been privileged to enjoy things in the past that other people have never had a chance to do. The main example that stands out for me is travel. Just because I now minimize my travel and have pledged to quit flying doesn’t give me the right to tell people who’ve never gotten to travel that they should forgo cross-country trips, visits to other countries, and so on. (I do often try to encourage my fellow environmentalists to purchase carbon offsets for their travel. And I have become very vocal when it comes to flight-shaming politicians who jet all over the world for business that can just as well be done by phone or Zoom.)

• Although the prime motivation for my actions is to benefit the biosphere and all living creatures including humans, I never try to get people to do anything for just that one reason. As important a reason as it is. I don’t try to get people to make changes or take actions unless they’ll get personal benefits in addition to the planetary. So, for example, I never try to get people to purchase “eco” products that will cost them extra money.

— These are the principles I can think of off the top of my head, that govern my advocacy. I may think of more later.