Image credit: Lisamarie Babik, used under Creative Commons license.
When I wrote about Tom Philpott's assertion that locavores can be snobby, I was roundly derided by commenters who chided me for contributing to a false stereotype. While I would maintain that there is a problem with snobbery and judgmentalism in the sustainable food movement, and environmentalism in general, I must also concede that these commenters may have a point. After all, as folks who try to walk our talk, we greens are often subjected to judgment and mockery too. First I should clarify that my previous article was no means intended to suggest that all greens are eco-snobs—far from it. Most environmentally conscious folks I know are more interested in living their own lives right, and searching for systemic solutions to systemic problems, than in pointing the finger at others who do not share their values.
Having said that though, it's hard to ignore that eco-snobbery exists. I myself have been scolded by friends when I confessed to a long shower, accosted in check out lines for not using a reusable bag (hey, I forgot it...), and even faced the outrage of a stranger who overheard me telling a friend in a private conversation that the acquisition of a certain well-known natural personal care brand by a leading supplier of bleach was not the end of the world.
These eco-snobs may be in the minority but they exist, and their actions are unhelpful.
Nevertheless, commenter Tdennerlein had a point when he/she argued that as a vegan locavore he/she often faces ridicule from people living "this so called status-quo. I don't push my beliefs on others, yet they feel the need to do so to me." It's true that it seems to be culturally acceptable to laugh at or criticize people who live a lifestyle different from the mainstream norm, and yet when those same people choose to comment on or criticize the mainstream, however constructively, the accusations of judgmentalism are quick to follow.
As I noted in my post entitled Goddamn Treehuggers: Why Do So Many People Hate Environmentalists?, it may not be fair that we face such opposition, but it won't do much good complaining about it. Instead, we would do well as a movement to figure out what it is that creates this impression in the general population (whether it is our own actions, or the corporate spin of anti-environmental forces), and strategically tailor our communications and our actions to counteract this message.
One final thought that Tdennerlein's comment prompted about judgmentalism, on a personal level, is that it is perfectly possible to be perceived as being judgmental or snobby, even when that is furthest from the truth. With so many people slowly waking up to the environmental crisis we face, people's actions are lagging way behind their awareness—and that creates guilt. I have found friends and family explaining this "transgression" or that "indulgence" to me—whether it is flying business class, or eating non-organic meat—despite the fact that I try, to the best of my ability, to avoid being the eco-nag as much as possible (and have probably been 'guilty' of many of the same actions too). It is, of course, possible that I subconsciously convey judgment or criticism, but I suspect it may also be that the slowly growing eco-conscience of my loved ones is making itself known—and that results in projecting opinions onto others.
Yes, eco-snobs exist. Yes, they are counterproductive. But to all the vegans, locavores, back-to-the-landers and buy-nothing advocates getting on with living their lives, and who have faced the mockery of their peers, I apologize if I tarred you all with the same brush.
I hope you won't judge me for it.
More on Eco-Snobbery and Green Preaching
Tom Philpott on the Dangers of Locavore Snobbery
Will Green Religion Sink Us or Save Us
Green Living: Leading By Example or Passive Aggressive Preaching
Can We Preach Green Without Being Preachy
Enough Pious Eco-Snobbery: But What Next?
Climate Campaign Turns Down Airport: Eco-Snobbery or Drawing the Line?