I use the phrase “mailbag” loosely here, to indicate communication that comes my way via email, social-media comments, or whatever channel. Here are a couple that stood out for me as needing thought and response. (Some comments may be edited for brevity or to protect the person’s privacy.)
1. From a friend & neighbor (via a local group we both belong to on social media): “Jenny Nazak, you are such an inspirational neighbor. The evidence of your touch is constantly spreading. I’ve heard neighbors say, I really want to use some chemicals, but I’m afraid Jenny will catch me. LOL.”
This bugged me immensely but I had to think for a bit to figure out why. After reflecting on it a bit, I felt clearer. Here is the response I would give them:
1 – Why would you put the approval of one neighbor ahead of the wellbeing of our entire beautiful planet and all her creatures, including yourself and all other fellow humans?
2 – So if I have to move out of the neighborhood, or if I die before you, you’re going to feel free to start poisoning the pollinators, birds, pets, aquatic wildlife, waterways, your household, and other humans, just so you can have a perfectly neat lawn or whatever?
(Oh, and I would add that I would be happy to help them come up with healthy alternatives to deal with the situation that is prompting them to feel like they want or need to use chemicals.)
And, my response to the friend/neighbor who shared this bit of neighborhood intel with me:
Fear of my disapproval is the WRONG reason for them not to use chemicals. They should be motivated by concern for waterways, wildlife, & their own family’s health! (including pets). I do hope more people are waking up to the urgency of things!
That said, you are an awesome neighbor and thank you for respecting Mother Earth and caring for our fellow humans too!!
And thank you for prompting me to engage in this reflection!
2. From a fellow activist offering a rideshare: “Unfortunately, I’ll be driving a minivan. It’s not the most eco-friendly method of transportation, but we’ve been in the market for an EV for a while now. Anyway, if you’re okay with riding in a minivan, I’d be happy to give you a ride.”
Rideshare is always better than each person traveling alone. BTW electric vehicles are not necessarily “better” in eco terms. And the footprint of any new vehicle is significant (manufacture of new vehicle, etc.). The most eco-friendly vehicle is oftentimes the one that a person already has, coupled with ridesharing and errand consolidation and other basic ways of optimizing usage; cutting unnecessary trips.
What I would have said as well if I had thought of it: Seriously. You are offering me a ride. PLEASE don’t apologize for your car! Also, as eco-activists we need to be aware that electric cars are not some world-saving panacea that will rescue us from having to change our habits. If you want ideas for reducing your transportation footprint, I’m happy to help! Don’t apologize to me though.
3 – General comment to a lot of my fellow eco folk who say they look to me for inspiration, but who seem (rather than being inspired) to just be stuck in feeling guilty and apologizing: I’m here to support you in your stated aspiration to live more lightly on the earth; I’m not here to grant you absolution. If we should be apologizing to anyone it’s to the communities and ecosystems we have wrecked with our colonizer consumerist culture. But really we just need to stop apologizing & feeling guilty; just set about making changes.
PS. The main demographic I’m addressing, my target audience, is the same group that first made me realize I needed to write my book DEEP GREEN. The same group I myself belong to: white; self-described environmentalist or at least “environmentally concerned”; Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-64). I have literally never heard the abovementioned kinds of comments come out of the mouth of anyone who doesn’t fall into all three of these categories. White eco-boomers, our generation is huge in number; our cultural norms have done more harm to people and the planet than all previous generations combined; we have spending power; we have social influence; we have white privilege; and we need to use our power to dismantle the colonizer culture. No excuses.
PPS. My book was originally going to be titled GREEN SMACKDOWN, but I decided that sounded a bit harsh. I now think a bit of edge might be needed though. Call it a bit of tough love mixed with the TLC I set out to offer. Fellow white, environmentalist, Boomers, I’m calling you in!