Some of you liked “We Lost,” our April Fools’ item on green leaders throwing in the towel, but some of you didn’t.
“April Fail,” the comments read. “Stupidest idea ever. This is too big to joke about.” “This scared the shit outta me until I realized the date. Don’t do this to us.” Over on Twitter, @BobbyHertz complained, “Awful April Fools’ Joke, bad taste … trivializes the fight for Climate Justice.” Some readers reported tears.
Though we certainly didn’t set out to make anyone cry, we’ll never apologize for our attempts at humor here at Grist. We know some will work better than others, and one person’s laugh is another one’s gaffe. Chacon a son Grist.
We’ll also never cordon off any topic as “too big to joke about.” The bigger the issue, the fatter the target. Laughter keeps activists going. It keeps us here at Grist going. It has actual medical benefits, people!
There are April Fools’ gags that walk the line between truth and gag so gingerly, it’s hard to tell which they are. (Like this other one we ran, on artisanal “pink slime.”) “We Lost” wasn’t one like that. It was pretty obviously fake. Anyone who knows Bill McKibben and the rest of the luminaries in this story knows this: They’re determined people. If they were prone to giving up in the face of setbacks, they’d have thrown in the towel eons ago.
Sometimes I think we take that determination for granted. And that has its problems. On one hand, it’s a blessing that the people who have been leading the fight for saner energy policies and a more sustainable food system are dedicated and resourceful and unlikely to abandon the field. Hurrah for that. On the other hand, our confidence in their commitment can give us an easy out from making deeper commitments of our own. Their leadership lets us delegate our activism.
So of course I’m glad that this story wasn’t true, and we didn’t make a big effort to pretend it was. The point here wasn’t to fool you but to get you thinking about a counterfactual scenario. What would we do if these banner-bearers weren’t around: Rend our garments? Or try to fill their shoes?