Image credit: Martha Soukup, used under Creative Commons license.
There's been a lot of talk about rhetoric lately. And Brian has already asked whether there's now a chance of a more civil, constructive debate about environmental issues too. I sure hope so. I am as sick as the next compost-munching blogger of being accused of advocating euthanasia every time I mention population, but it's important to remember that angry—even unreasonable—rhetoric comes from "our side" too. I am of course aware that we greens receive our fair share of attacks, and I've covered the animosity shown toward environmentalists many times before. Whether it's asking why so many people hate TreeHuggers, or exploring whether trolls can be green, it is important we keep challenging unreasonable and irrational opposition when we see it.
But it is also important to acknowledge that all of us say and do things that may inflame passions and incite negative reaction. Whether it's vegetarians drawing analogies between meat eaters and nazis, or George Monbiot claiming that "every time someone dies as a result of floods in Bangladesh, an airline executive should be dragged out of his office and drowned"—there are plenty of utterances out there in the environmental sphere that could be taken as incitement to violence.
You only have to look at the violent 10:10 campaign climate video to understand that one person's satire is another person's death threat. And while each of us may laugh off any particular joke, analogy or argument—the fact is that political violence is on the rise among left-wing groups often associated with green causes too. Let's be careful what our own language can incite.
The last thing I want to see is debate neutered. The fact is that while we face very real, very daunting environmental challenges—we also face the political challenge of convincing a reluctant, distracted population that cutting our dependence on fossil fuels is the most beneficial, long-term path for humanity to take. Anger, rhetoric, satire and ridicule may all be valid tools in our political struggles—but they are tools that we should be using wisely and mindfully. Especially if we start pointing the finger at others for shouting too loud...
More on Debate, Disagreement and Environmental Politics
Violent Climate Change Video Lands 10:10 in Trouble
Can Trolls Be Green? The Role of Debate in the Environmental Movement
Will Calls to Tone Down Rhetoric Lead to Civil Climate Debate?