Image credit: UNEP
I asked before why so many people hate environmentalists, and concluded that it might have something to do with green living as passive aggressive preaching, disasterbation, not to mention the ever-familiar but oh-so-annoying pious eco-nag. It turns out I am not the only one pondering these thoughts. Tom Levitt and Kara Moses are asking over at The Guardian whether environmentalists' misguided talk of sacrifice may hinder, not help, the cause of sustainability. The only trouble is, they illustrate their point with a video that I can only describe as a teensy bit sanctimonious. The core point of the article, entitled do environmentalists hold back sustainability, is a solid one. Citing a major new report from the UN Environment Programme's Task Force on Sustainable Lifestyles, Levitt and Moses argue that the central tenets of sustainable lifestyles are actually as much about quality of life, health and happiness as they are sacrifice or self-denial.
This is something we've long argued at TreeHugger. Sure, sustainability means giving some things up—like pointlessly large houses or inefficient, expensive and dangerous gas guzzlers. But for every thing we give up, we gain something else—like vibrant, walkable communities, safe routes to schools and, of course, teeny tiny energy bills. So to sell sustainability, we need to focus more on the positives of doing things better, than on bitching about what folks are doing wrong.
So far, so good. I especially like the quote from the UNEP report that argues that all too often, sustainability communication is "prescriptive, patronising or disapproving." And yet, maybe it's just me, but the video from the UNEP that Moses and Levitt use to argue their point seems to fall into exactly the kind of preachy, sanctimonious "I know what's good for you tone" that they claim we should avoid.
Maybe it's just impossible to talk about sustainable lifestyles without sounding like you are telling people how to live. Because, after all, you kind of are...