The Green Religion Debate

The Green Religion Debate

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Nature Mom wrote a very thought provoking post that I first began replying to and then thought it was better suited as a post than a reply. She writes about whether going green is a religion or just smart and frankly, I think it has become both! When people compare going green to being a religion (like me) what they are implying is that it is becoming segmented and there is judgment (are you Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, etc). Yes, the guilt and confession is another component. Being more earth friendly shouldn’t be divided into “You do this so you’re this and you do this so you’re this.” Instead it should be all of us united fighting for the same cause and if some are doing more, great and if some are just joining the cause, super.  Let’s join forces but not point fingers, judge and make others feel guilty. This what I can’t stand about where I go to church and my religion it is segmented. I don’t feel supported, motivated to be involved with the community and inspired to do more….regardless of my beliefs and true feelings.  How do I know other moms feel this way when it comes to going green, they tell me every single day!

Next, Nature Mom brought up the guilt issue and whether this is a good thing.  People say over and over that you can’t make someone feel guilty and that is a load of crap. If you throw enough stuff at someone, manipulate words and truths and hit someone’s hot buttons or heartstrings, you can make someone feel guilty.  A mirror into the truth? Maybe but regardless making some feel guilty isn’t nice, healthy or won’t inspire change long term. If those “going green” want to help more people make earth friendly choices long term we need to do it in a constructive, positive, supportive fashion.  Guilt my children into doing the dishes or help them learn why they should help around the house? Guilt my husband into buying me a present or help him realize what a great wife I am and why he should go buy me that present. Same idea but different scenarios! 

Nature Mom wrote, “It irritates me when I read articles written by “green” people who say things like well, I know I should do this or that but hey “I am not that person, or that just isn’t my choice”…aka I am not the person who sacrifices for something I am supposed to care about. It sends the movement a step back”. How about thinking they are at least heading in that direction? They’re trying. Frankly, I know there are lots of things I can do better but you know what, I’m not moving to town tomorrow, I’m not going to drive a hybrid anytime soon and I don’t like tofu and won’t give up meat!  Damn it, I’m still doing something and care a lot and I’m sick of all the freaking judgment. I’m not going to be you or the neighbor or any other person, I’m going to be me and do things at my comfort level, when I’m ready.  So no, I am not that person and it is not my choice and I won’t make that sacrifice. This does NOT send the movement back. Me doing nothing that sends the movement back! Others judging and segmenting the earth friendly movement into who does what and I’m better than you because I do this and you don’t…that sends the movement back because it turns the masses off. The masses are people like me. People, who want to do better, want to make good choices, they care (a lot) about the environment but they don’t want to go to the extreme and this is indeed a choice. If a mom starts using non-toxic cleaners and thats where she starts this month or this year, she should be encouraged and supported not judged and made to feel bad because she isn’t using non-toxic cleaners AND doing this and that. 

I think Max Gladwell’s reply to my recent post on driving an SUV sums up my feelings nicely:

“When people get all high and mighty about their greenness, it starts to feel like a religion. I have little tolerance for judgmental zealots and fundamentalists of any stripe, whether it’s Christian, Muslim, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Environmentalists. Call it a flaw of human nature, but some people just need to feel like they’re better than others…that they are among the “saved” or “chosen” or “enlightened” ones. That’s precisely what this is, and I want no part of it.”

Hi, I’m Sommer (@greenmom) and I’ve been calling this my blogging home for 9 years. I’m a juggler of life, a protective mama bear and I enjoy travel, wine, sunshine and good books. I’m passionate about inspiring others to live a little healthier and greener each day. I’m many things but above all I’m a believer in karma and the good in people. I’m a children’s book author, public speaker and consultant. My full-time gig is working as a Marketing Manager for Freshbaby.com and helping to encourage everyone to eat healthier. Check out my about me page for more details.

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  • I am so glad I started his blog chain . . . From green, to smart, to religious and finally intolerance. Very interesting debate!

    Nobody likes to be lectured or coerced. Best is to lead through personal example, and providing solutions to people’s very real problems, as in public transportation for cash strapped drivers.

    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/smart-is-the-new-green/

    marguerite manteau-raos last blog post..Moral Obligations of the Artist in a Global Warming World

  • I would add to that that fundamentalists tend to be the greatest hypocrites. Look at the 9/11 hijackers who spent their last days in Vegas strip clubs. Look at the priests and all of the child abuse scandals. Look at the family values Republicans getting outed in men’s bathrooms and caught in extra-marital sex scandals. Is this who environmentalists want to be associated with? It sets people like Gore and other celebs up for criticism that they’re advocating for green and yet lead these carbon-heavy lives. The point is that they are aware, that they are doing what they can, and that they are spreading that awareness.

    The reality, like or not, is that rich people pollute more than poor people. Billionaires are worse than millionaires. The average American is worse than the average Mexican. And the average Mexican is worse than the average Nigerian. Do you celebrate abject poverty because it’s more green? “Good for them. They can’t afford to eat, but they’re carbon neutral!”

    It’s about being healthy and responsible. It’s about being conscious. It’s about doing what you can and want to do without standing in judgment of others, especially not those who are on your side.

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  • Well, first of all I don’t believe in shaming and guilting kids…I am a peaceful, respectful parent so I hope no one draws THAT parallel from my post. I also don’t think it is a good idea to set out to shame people in general but netiher do I think we can back off and sugar coat things to make people feel nicey nice about everything. We are treating many of these issues with kid gloves so we don’t offend anyone and I am not sure if that is the best course of action. MANY scientists are saying that we may already be to late to make a dent in global warming because we didn’t come down hard enough on the need to curb our impact. No one wanted to hear the words “drastic life change”.

    I am not a very religious person although I used to do missionary work. I got out of Dodge when I started seeing hypocrasy everywhere. I hate to see the same kind of thing in the green movement….aka I am GREEN but stop the presses I can’t go THAT far…what does that make the people who DO make that sacrafice? As you inferred many want to say those people are going to an extreme.

    Vegan, hybrid driving, city dwellers, who eat tofu are extreme? No that is admirable in my book….not weird and hippie. Honestly I think there is less finger pointing going on than there is people who just feel guilty about their choices and are looking to blame someone for it. In fact deeming someone hippie or “extreme” is casting judgement and not even for what they say but what they do…it is like saying “their choices are making me look bad darn it!”

    Anyway, I really think it cuts both ways but the issue is so important I think I can give the greenies more leeway.

    Max, that abject poverty just makes Americans look even worse. Here we are debating on whether or not we should give up our SUVS and country homes and many have nothing to eat. It makes our American arguments look pretty silly if you ask me. Maybe Americans can share their overstuffed piece of the pie with those Nigerians. 😉 Americans are already doing what they “want to do” and they want others to stop making them feel guilty about it. Will our great-grandchildren be able to do the same or are we borrowing from their future?

    Tiffanys last blog post..Is It Green, Religious, Or Just Smart?

  • Tiffany,

    Anyone that reg. reads your blog knows you’re a wonderful mother, that is not being debated. They were scenarios or examples. I 100% disagree that those going green are being hypocritical because they aren’t doing everything and make the same sacrifices as the next person. Tell me who then are we comparing ourselves to? Am I comparing myself to you? Should I compare myself to another mom and what she is doing? Who hold the title for us to live up to so we know what truly being “green” is? The person who make the most sacrifices? Isn’t that up for debate on what is and is not a sacrifice?

    It’s not that offending someone is as much of a problem rather than turning people off who we need to help us with changing the future and making an environmental impact.

    No, Tiffany there is finger pointing and judgment. I’m looking for nobody to blame for the choices I’m making to justify how I feel. I don’t feel guilty. I feel frustrated that people are sitting around comparing who’s doing more, who’s making what sacrifice, who’s more green and gave up this or did that. I’m sick to death of that and how it’s turning off moms who are just doing their best everyday to be a little green. To some, yes doing everything that you mentioned is extreme and weird. To me, it is honorable and works for that person. I think it’s great, regardless of what a person does, so long as they do something. I guess a better was of phrasing this would be there are different ends of the spectrum. Neither is right or wrong. Neither is better or worse. Instead we are all on the same spectrum.

    What we dwell on and focus on we bring upon ourselves. Let’s focus and think of the positives happening and encourage that.

    Sommers last blog post..The Green Religion Debate

  • I have to say, that it feels a little judgmental to be called “extreme” when you’ve gone a little further than someone else. It’s not an extreme position to give up driving or eating meat, and it is pretty rude to call someone “weird” or sometimes “a hippy”. I’m all about celebrating even the baby steps, but those baby steps have to be your “first steps” that are followed by more and more steps as you travel down this road of lifestyle change. Instead of looking at those who have traveled pretty far down the road and seeing them as judging you or as “weird” or “extreme”, it would be good to just see it as a spectrum with some having traveled farther than others. What can we learn from each other?
    I have decided to live my life guided by my values, rather than by our popular culture. In that process, I have been called some unkind names. Perhaps that alienation from the “mainstream” is what makes some people become judgmental of those they see as “less-green” than themselves. And some of us really do want to make all those sacrifices that you said weren’t for you. We’re not extremists, or weirdos.

    Saras last blog post..Waterwise dishwashing

  • I’m pretty sure nobody is saying so and so is weird or extreme but rather to some people this might seem weird or extreme. Name calling is not necessary and isn’t really happening. It might seem weird to some I drive an SUV but that doesn’t mean they’re calling me weird. The extreme can go in the other direction as well. We can’t take this out of context and lose the meaning of this discussion.

  • Agreed…I am in no way the perfect green person but I am always trying harder…that is all we can do. It isn’t a race…just a journey. I am glad for the strong words and ideas of others though…it makes me work harder and aspire to be greater. It doesn’t turn me off in the least. Its like a challenge for me.

    Tiffanys last blog post..Eco Wrap – Cancer Free, Summer Kitchens, and Yard Sales

  • Goin’ green is not an overnight process. Rome was not built in a day, go to Italy and you will see why! The guilt always disturbs me, and pushes me away. If I do a little at a time, I feel good. Thanks Sommer for the post!
    http://lifeislikechampagne.blogspot.com/

    happyathomes last blog post..How does your garden grow?

  • While I do not like that we cannot tolerate people who pollute our environment (Honestly, I wish I could just be and let them be), it will need to go that direction. Public pressure needs to build. Laws need to change. Certain behaviors need to become unpopular. All this is a result of people getting fed up. So, intolerance is not bad if you need to change something. It seems that if you tolerate everything people do, people do whatever they please. Is a little bit of child pornography tolerable? Is a little bit of rape or child abuse acceptable in the name of tolerance? I don’t think so.

    This is not to say that it is correct to not tolerate and encourage people who try their best in regard to the environment. We all have to begin somewhere. It is valid though (in my opinion) to point out to them if something could be done better or if they claim to have needs that are not considered needs in other areas of our planet under similar circumstances. What you need can and should be discussed. It is discussed in every advertisement you see and most people do not have a problem with that discussion or even manipulation. What you need is relative to your surroundings and the society you are part of. It used to be just your immediate area. We are now forced to look further and learn from those who have already learned how to do it better. They may not be North Americans. They may not live as we prefer to live. But they may have figured it out already. Is it not OK to look and learn? Is it not OK to be exposed to other people’s habits and their feelings if what they do or know works better than what we do or know? Because it “feels” bad? That’s it?

    I find it a strange, wide-spread American thing to reject “finger pointing” or being made to feel guilty. We now live in a world in which most human actions need to be considered everyone’s business. Freedom is not unlimited any longer (as if it ever was!). If I point out that something seems to be not going right, I do not mind being “proven” wrong. Nonetheless, I think that not accepting reasonable criticism on those grounds is pretty lame. It is a strategy to reject the messenger, not the message. It is personal rather than issue-oriented. Accusing someone of finger-pointing or judging distracts from the arguments made, claims moral higher grounds, and shifts the discussion away from the facts to the character of the person questioning the actions.

    Let’s talk about how to best change and how to encourage each other to do even better than we do (notice the change of tone!), not how suggesting better solutions or how learning that other people make bigger steps makes you feel bad. It feels kind of whiny and selfish (sorry, that is how this feels to me!) in the light of the urgent situation.

    Karsten

    http://www.polluteless.com
    Practical (some good, some better) Advice to Pollute Less

  • nadine sellers

    The divisive aspects of group-think are evident in all religious activities. The green movement must rely on the validity of its intent rather than individual’s actions.
    Competition and judgment lead to inadequacy and resentment, so each one of us needs to feed the positive earthling within and act comfortably, accordingly.

    it has become a joy for me to find fervor and idealism in the discourse, the quiet personal nature i knew has expanded to the larger social spectrum, is it possible to bring mankind back to awareness?

    Man, the indiscriminate polluter, the believer of his own superiority above all else? Egosize me, man the large animal gone blind. Yes i think each one may learn in due time, and soon see.

    nadine sellerss last blog post..back to the food factory.

  • To Think Is To Create

    This is all so interesting! I think that you and Tiffany are both right, which is why it’s difficult to find the exact “truth” here.

    Yes, it’s true that without a good amount of public pressure a lot of change will not or would not have happened. I enjoy being held accountable by people I respect and admire. However, there is a fine line.

    At the same time we do need to be aware of the “message”, and be able to welcome newbies into the fold without scaring them off or making them feel guilty. It is very much like religion in that way, but frankly that’s how all organized groups with a cause need to be run to be successful, so it’s not something the religious people corner the market on. Once they are a true “convert” then the deeper change and sacrifice can happen. It won’t work to *make* someone guilty because they will find excuses and never really commit. If someone feels convicted and–yes, guilty–on their own, through their own discoveries, then I think there’s nothing wrong with that.

    You ladies rock, btw. 🙂

  • Kelly

    Thanks for the information on religion.

    We recently wrote an article on religion at Brain Blogger. How do we really view religion? Could it be the very source of belief comes from our brain?

    We would like to read your comments on our article. Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Kelly

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