The Common Good

My Green Hangover

Yikes. It has been a long month, and it is technically not over yet. Green jargon and advertising every place your eyes dare to settle. Global and local events to reduce waste, pick up trash and preserve wild places. Many stellar efforts worth applauding. But I confess I am a bit exhausted by it all. This past Thursday, on Earth Day, I flopped onto the couch after a very long day that included everything from the normal routine to an outing at our local tree nursery. My daughter stepped in every mud puddle and my middle son tried to run off while I picked out an Autumn Blaze Maple for the yard.

I am exhausted and tired of talking about green living.

That night I was fried so I clicked on my trusty Thursday line up that included the wiles of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. I noticed a little banner pop onto the bottom of the screen. It was telling me to consider a low flow shower head. "UGH, I am sick of all of this!" I moaned. "Can't I just watch 30 Rock in peace?!" Did the greeneies (of which I am one) need to hijack my formerly mind-numbing moments?

Earlier in the week I engaged in a radio interview with a host who was quite irked by the green conversation when taken as a whole. Thankful to be invited to speak about my book I sat on the end of the phone like a dim-witted rookie waiting for my turn. I wanted to tell the listeners what a privilege it is to care for this planet. I was excited to try and take the extremes of the conversation and whittle them down to manageable chunks a few listeners might want to hear while idling at a stop light in their cars. A formidable task but one I think worth the energy.

As it came time to "go live," this particular interviewer said this:

Tracey, I have to say that many of us are just sick of being told what to do. We are tired of green ideas cropping up everywhere. We feel like this conversation has been rammed down our throats. DEFEND YOURSELF!

Not exactly the warm welcome I was dumb enough to expect.

I stammered for a second and then the passionate extrovert in my came bursting forth and I did a decent job of recovering both my composure and the conversation. But interview aside, the comments of this host combined with my gut reaction to that little green NBC logo on Earth Day have me mulling over a few thoughts this week.

In general people hate to be told what to do. Even if the wisdom we are receiving is well-intentioned and makes good sense. If we feel forced to live into an idea or a task we wince, grimace, and often do just the opposite out of sheer frustration. Blame it on strong personalities, American individualism or stupidity, this is how many of us react to what we perceive as demands upon our lives. And when it comes to the current eco-conversation in our culture, there is no shortage of statements that feel an awful lot like demands. I shirk many of them off myself, and I consider my life fairly engaged in the green arena.

This radio interviewer happened to be a Christian as well--a person of faith who I have heard make many demands and statements that others must live into on multiple occasions. A person who engages a platform that tells others how to live and love and serve. I get that. I am a person of faith who engages in a faith community with some similarities to this person's platform. And it seemed just a bit ironic to me that this radio host was so bent out of shape by being told what to do but in the same breath he had no problem telling others what to do.

How is it that people of faith are so upset by being told to recycle, to reconsider their consumption, to redirect their waste, to take note of CO2? None of these are contra to their faith. Sure, some representatives of these conversations do not exactly play nice with the Christian worldview, but suggesting low-flow shower heads and water conservation does not spiral one instantly into pantheism. EVERY conversation, even those of faith, have extremes on either end. And to limit the entire issue to one end of that spectrum is to disenfranchise and disrespect those with balanced thoughts on the issue.

I wonder if for people of faith, part of the challenge here is that the rest of the world seems to be figuring out something that we should have been doing all along: caring for the planet that God gave us (Genesis 1:28-30). And when community activists and politicians start making suggestions we get nervous. We have no problem when they make statements that match their agendas but literally, God-forbid someone tell us to reduce our CO2. People keep making weak arguments like "well, all they want to do is worship the trees." But that is an old argument, a weak one, and no longer a valid point for most engaged in this chatter. For most, this conversation has shifted and is now about justice, opportunity, preserving a present and a future. It is about caring for those in need, those on the receiving end of my ecological crimes.

And as I lay on my couch wallowing in a bowl of jelly bellies and Thursday night TV, maybe I need someone to tell me what to do every now and again. Maybe I need to rethink why I get irritated instantly. Is it because I disagree with the conversation or perhaps, does it go deeper? Is it because I simply don't want to grow and change?

How about you? What are your thoughts on this conversation? Tired of it yet? Why or Why Not?

portrait-tracey-bianchiTracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at traceybianchi.com.

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