Not Evangelism

Friday, October 8, 2010

Shades of Green

There's an oft-cited example of poor English usage where a woman is described as being "a little bit pregnant".  Although it's common to talk about a woman being (particularly) heavily pregnant when she is close to term, pregnancy is an absolute (one might say binary) condition; a woman is either pregnant, or she is not.  There are no in betweens, there are no degrees of pregnancy. And so it's not possible to use the comparative (more pregnant) or superlative (most pregnant)1; one cannot be pregnanter or pregnantest.

The adjective environmental is also absolute; one cannot be more environmental, or most environmental. Using the word "green" in place of environmental is sometimes helpful (and much less of a mouthful to pronounce), but does have some consequences. For one, we're so used to dealing with different hues and shades of colours, that it's very easy to start thinking environmentalism in terms of shades of green.

It's true that there as many  different environmentalists as there are shades of green. From the so-called dark greens, for whom environmentalism is a consuming passion, often at the centre of their lives; to the light greens who are just dipping their toes in the water.

It's also true that environmentalism is a continuum. And some people assume that being towards one or another end of the spectrum is better than being at some other point; that being dark green, for instance, is better than being a little lighter.  There are even those that mistake the distinction for a binary condition; that because someone isn't as "green" as them, they're not green at all.

Which is obviously crap.

The point of pragmatic environmentalism is that there's one Perfect Right Choice for you, and one for the next person. Likely they're not the same. And that's fine.

Pragmatic environmentalism has room for these distinctions. It isn't about collecting shades of green like they were prizes, or achievements (you've just unlocked the Greenie badge!); that's not the point.  The point is to choose what you believe in, define what you want to do, be intentional about it.  It's not about bragging rights.  It's not recycling a bottle once, and touting your green credentials.

It's about doing what's right for you.

When someone questions you about your environmental principles, your personal green agenda, don't be shy about them.  Show your working, as it were; you've thought about this, you've made decisions, now share them. Don't be embarrassed; welcome the chance to talk about your choices, how they work for you, as well as where they don't.

Don't let anyone tell you it's not easy being green; it's as easy as you choose to make it.

And don't let anyone tell you that you're not green because you don't do it their way.

1 For more on the subject, search for comparative and superlative adjectives.

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