Everyone has their take on how much we should do to help create a healthier planet and some ideas are more informed than others. I have put together here a collection of anti-green quotes and moments that came about during conversations I or friends had with others about the environment. Some day hopefully we will look at these with the same humor as we now look at the idea that the sun revolves around the Earth.
1. “I think all you environmental people are just jealous.”
My friend was talking to his former boss about driving cars with better gas mileage and she made this comment suggesting that what environmentalists really want is more money to buy bigger cars. I must admit that those big SUVs can be fun to drive and give you a sense of power over other hunks of metal and plastic on the road, but I have no desire to spend my money on a large vehicle unless I am carrying gear or several unemployed workers to an organic farm to harvest food for ourselves. I get a certain peace of mind knowing that I can achieve 40 miles to the gallon in my Toyota Corolla.
2. “I’d just throw some gas on it and light a match.”
I was talking to my aunt’s ex-boyfriend years ago about what we should do with the accumulating underbrush on our dry hillside and he suggested this course of action. The problem was that many of the plants there were invasive and greatly increased the fuel load. A smarter solution would have been to thin the fuel load to prevent big fires from breaking out. There is also the danger that we might catch the house on fire if we did follow his plan. Sometimes human safety and environmental health go hand in hand.
3. Can’t we just burn our trash?”
I was doing a garbage sorting game with elementary students in Sonoma County and one of the students made this comment when I asked the students for ways that we can reduce the amount of garbage in the county landfill. Yes, we certainly can burn our trash, but have you ever inhaled burning plastic? There are nasty chemicals in plastics like dioxins, that have some pretty serious human and ecological health effects. Apart from the health effects of burning trash, most of what we throw away in the U.S. can be recycled so it is not even trash in the first place.
4. “Pour some beer on it!”
This is my personal favorite. I was on a Catamaran tour on Hanauma Bay close to Waikiki and we were having a fabulous time. The bar was open and so we the mouths of thirsty tourists. Someone spotted a whale near the boat and we began to approach it. As we neared the mighty beast everyone got quiet and there was a sense of wonder that took us over. As we were almost within an oar’s reach of the giant creature, an intoxicated tourist yelled out, “Pour some beer on it.” I had no idea how to respond to this, but I can rest assured that his intentions were less than green.
5. Trash burning parties in Cabuya
When I was in the small town of Cabuya, Costa Rica, several poor families in the area had trash burning parties. They would gather around sunset, crack open a cold beer, pile up their trash near the street and light it on fire. I never understood the draw of burning plastic and other petroleum-based materials, but it apparently held something wonderful about it for the locals.
6. “Can’t we just put our trash into outer space?”
This was another comment made by a student during out garbage sorting game in Sonoma County. There are a few problems with this solution: launching garbage into space is very expensive; the garbage could potentially collide with important satellites that orbit the Earth; we are not addressing the root issue of why we have so much garbage in the first place.
7. Q: Where does milk come from?
A: The grocery store!
I asked this question to some youngsters at an environmental summer camp in Hawaii and one of them gave me this response. His answer is a reflection of how removed we have become from the natural world and our food sources.
8. “I want to learn Arabic so I can jump out of plains and kill people!”
Not that our relationship with the Arabic-speaking world has ever been very green, but this is the peak of ignorance and waste! Surely, there are friendlier ways to interact with people of other cultures and greener ways to spend U.S. tax dollars than funding Arabic-speaking assassins from 20,000 feet!
9. My quest to cut down the entire forest behind my house.
Yes, even environmentalists have their weak moments. I developed this idea one summer when I was 12 years old and did my best to make my dream a reality. Fortunately, I ran out of steam long before I cut down even a sizeable portion of the forest. I believe that my current passion for teaching others about the environment is a coming of age that began with time spent in the forest behind my house. Isn’t it strange how the universe works sometimes?
10. “Go to Disneyworld!”
We all remember this one. It is what former President George W. Bush said to Americans after 9/11. It was a great way to stimulate the American economy and show that we were not phased by the attacks, but consuming massive amounts of plastic and energy in an artificial wonderland does little to solve our environmental problems. Perhaps a greener statement would be, “Get out of your cars and take a hike in a National Park” or “Plant a tree with your child!”