Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Little Debate

Colin Beavan, Michael Shellenberger and I have been engaged on a little back-and-forth in the comments to the Gandhi post on the Breakthrough blog. Here's my response to the discussion. (If you want the full discussion, you'll have to visit the post, but it's not strictly necessary.)

Michael, you know I love you, but I think this is a straw-man's argument you're making here.

If you look at Colin's first comment, he was specifically talking about "resource consumption" NOT income. Neither of us started discussing income until you brought it up. I'm not against money, I quite like money actually. And I won't speak for Colin, but, considering his wife works for Business Week, I would venture he'd agree with me.

I actually disagree with Bill McKibben when he talks about how it would be a-okay if we all made less money. I'm pro-growth. That's why I believe in creating a new economy, because I think we could be happier and maintain our income levels if instead of spending and making money on stuff, we were spending and making money on experiences. A world with a more piano teachers and fewer Gap clerks if you will.

But Michael, I think we agree much more than we disagree, and I think there's an opportunity here. As you know, I found the part of your book where you discuss "building an environmental church" particularly compelling. I agree with you completely, but I think what you're perhaps missing here is that we are BUILDING that church. That's what people like Colin, and Deanna Duke, and to a lesser extent myself, are doing day after day.

Every day, hundreds of "personal environmentalists" read and blog about their sustainable living adventures. These people are mostly women (Colin's a lucky man), and many of them are stay at home mothers. These are women who are not environmentalists by training or schooling, but are simply women who have started to look at the crises ahead, and are asking of themselves, "What can I do?"

Will any of my actions (not buying, driving less etc) by themselves stymie global warming? No, of course not. I'm not under any illusion that they will. But I believe I am out there, helping to build a social movement. I am building that church. I am reaching out to my fellow women, who, by the way, have been the cornerstone of every social movement from abolition onwards.

You talk extensively in your book about how we need to follow the paths of evangelical churches in creating an environmental movement. That we need to get people invested so they do more than merely throw a $25 donation to the Sierra Club once a year. I completely agree with you. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what the personal environmental movement is about. I think you possibly underestimate the satisfaction derived by us when we walk rather than drive, or buy local food from the farmers’ market, or make our own butter. 

Not only that, but these environmental bloggers, these women, are doing so much more. They’re investing in their community both online and offline. When an important member of the community is going through a rough time, they do the electronic equivalent of baking a casserole, they create a blogger tribute. Closer to home, they’re going to their city council meetings and demanding city-wide composting programs. They’re challenging Brita to recycle their water filters. And they’re slowly learning about the policy, reading books by Sachs, McKibben, and yes, by you and Ted. After all, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation in the first place if I hadn’t read about your book on a personal environmental blog.

So regardless of whether you think what Colin or I do makes a tangible difference, remember, we are your number one allies, Michael. We are doing this because we ultimately believe in the same things, because we’re trying to build a movement. We are building our church, we’re building your church, the best way we know how. So instead of focusing on where we disagree, let’s focus on where we agree. There’s a lot of energy here, and a lot of passion. Together, we can harness this energy. We can build a better future. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Michael. Come help us build that church.

9 comments:

Student Doctor Green said...

holla to the women gettin change done!

arduous said...

Yeah, you know what? I initially left off the feminism tag on this post, because I thought, well it's not exactly about that. But it IS exactly about that. I'm putting that tag back on.

Green Bean said...

What the hey, man! I was just sitting down to work on my post about the "environmental church" we are building. Seriously. And where did I learn about Break Through which I just finished last week. From this blog. Yup.

You go, Arduous! I'm with you all the way sister. Look out for my post on the same subject next week. Dang, I meant to finish writing it now but got all wrapped up in your post and then I had to go back and read the original (even though I peeked at the photo earlier) and now, I really really need to sleep but, honestly, we ARE building that church right here.

arduous said...

We're so in sync GB, it's like we're mind twins! Can't wait to see your post next week!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Hey you two. Get a room!

Green Bean said...

We are, Crunchy. Arduous is coming to visit me next week. Oh yeah, she says its to see her mom but really it's me. Well, me and CindyW. And it's more of a restaurant than a room but still . . .

arduous said...

It's true. Though now I'm wondering why the hell we're going to a restaurant, when we could be eating like queens at Chez Green Bean! ;)

Green Bean said...

Arduous, dear, I'm going to set you up with a few Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I just can't send you back to singledom, busy work-dom without them.

arduous said...

Awwww, you are so sweet! Yay, I'm excited!!