Readers talk back about Wal-Mart, vegetarian jokes, hope for the future, and more
First let me say, I love Grist and appreciate the work you do and, mostly, enjoy the irreverent humor with which you do it. However, being a staunch liberal Protestant, a devoted environmentalist, and an ardent Democrat living in a deeply red state, I found your article on Al Gore’s appearance at the Wal-Mart gathering not just personally insulting, but also a vivid example of precisely what environmental advocates should not be doing.
I wonder if it’s possible for anyone to be a Christian and not be the target of snarky comments from you folks? Honestly, some of us are Christians out of a commitment to service and compassion. We don’t give a rat’s patoot about the wedge issues of abortion and homosexuality and all the other beside-the-point crap the cynical manipulators of the religious right are promoting to deliver their flock to the polls. Some of us work our butts off here in the trenches to let people know that our faith is about a great deal other than that — like, maybe, poverty, the disenfranchised, and stewardship of the planet. Having ridicule-by-association heaped on our heads for the BS perpetrated in our names by Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, and their ilk is bad enough. To have it reinforced in one of our favorite magazines really bites.
One a less personal level, don’t you think we need to cut the Other Guys a break when they move even a centimeter in the right direction? The smarty-pants, hipper-than-thou attitude of the Gore-meets-Wal-Mart article might build in-crowd cred among a certain number of readers, but it profoundly diminishes the amount of actual difference that can be made in moving the environmentally tardy toward the green.
Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the blabocracy wouldn’t stand a chance if the liberals, progressives, and greens hadn’t worked so hard at making the working-class stiff feel stoopid for his lifestyle and his choices. Their movement gets its oomph from the proud working person’s backlash against exactly the snarky attitude your article demonstrated.
If you want to keep appealing only to your core readership, carry on. But if your goal is to actually grow the environmental consciousness of this country and preserve a hospitable climate, you might want to take a look at your own prejudices and see what they’re costing our planet. If we want the green movement to be embraced the world over, wouldn’t it be a logical choice to encourage the most global of all global corporations rather than ridicule every step they try to take?
John Sellers’ and Barbara Dudley’s cynicism is disheartening, and their use of it to personally attack Adam Werbach is just plain mean-spirited.
There are many different perspectives on what are the best methods to use to achieve environmental goals, and they are often presented in opposition: work within the system (in this case a system the size of a small country), or oppose the system on principles compromising nothing. What if, instead of opposition, we allow each to work within their own framework and accomplish what they can within their own perspectives? In other words, work within the system, and continue to challenge the system from the outside. It’s time for us to use the word “and” rather than “or.” Every perspective has a piece of the truth, places of effectiveness and places of limitation. In the end, using many approaches, from many perspectives, working together will get us the environmental results we all want.
Kansas City, Mo.
To imagine a successful environmental movement without Wal-Mart is near impossible, absent an economic and political revolution. If we are to transform the market for consumer goods, using existing methods of delivery and outreach to consumers is essential.
Certainly the mission that is described for Wal-Mart employees is insufficient to move Wal-Mart. However, it is a necessary step. Why deride it? Are we to assume Wal-Mart will take more revolutionary, paradigm-busting actions without first moving incrementally?
Unfortunately, what this editorial did convey was a profound sense of self-righteousness that the authors are “doing environmentalism right.”
Personally, I reject the professional purity test and salute those among us who recognize that environmentalism must grow and change to be successful.
St. Paul, Minn.
I was dismayed to read John Sellers and Barbara Dudley’s myopic critique of Adam Werbach. As a strong environmentalist, I applaud Adam’s effort to engage Wal-Mart and other corporations in the environmental movement. Significant change will not occur if we continue to speak only to one another and shun the biggest players in the game –corporations.
I had the pleasure of working with Adam both in high school and college on environmental organizing, and I know he is a committed environmentalist who is comfortable enough with himself to risk such naive condemnations. I know if anyone can show Wal-Mart why a green company is a smart company, then Adam is the person to do it. Best of luck!
Los Angeles, Calif.
During the “Death of Environmentalism” debate, Adam made the correct point that “we” enviros should recognize that “environmentalism” isn’t just protecting the birds and bunnies (something environmental-justice activists will certainly agree with), but that it connects to a variety of broader issues of livelihood. If I recall correctly, Adam made the call that those who wish to wrap themselves in green cannot simply shun the issues wrapped in blue (labor).
Wal-Mart has no love for giving its workers the type of voice that can only come through collective bargaining, so it’s disheartening to see what appears to be an abandonment of a call made only a few years ago.
OK, I love your clever titles, they make the bad news much easier to bear. However, you’ve touched off a pet peeve of mine. Amazonian destruction is being fueled by soy agriculture. However, tofu is not to blame. As your source indicates, over 80 percent of soy production goes to cattle, chicken, and pig feed. So meat consumption is ruining the Amazon.
Y’all have totally demonstrated your ability to be funny and accurate. Keep up the otherwise excellent work.
As a daily reader of Grist, I know that pithy and funny article titles are part of the Grist style. However, this article headline is inaccurate and misleading. A better title may have been, “International Agribusiness and Their Flacks at Grist and ‘Environmentalists’ Who Consume Animal Flesh and Blood Are Ruining the Planet.”
San Francisco, Calif.
Editor’s note: Numerous readers complained about that headline, and we responded to them in Gristmill. That response, in turn, prompted some praise for our stupid humor:
Just wanted to let you folks know that I almost fell out of my chair with that “Vegetarians Are Ruining the Planet” — it was one of the funniest headlines I have seen in years of getting Daily Grist. I am a veggie and know the soy/Amazon connection, but can also laugh at myself sometimes. I would hope that people reading Grist are smart enough to take that anger out on Cargill and not your obviously joking and on-the-same-side writers. Thanks for making me laugh before I cry.
I can’t believe you got grief for that headline about vegetarians! Soy is a bad culprit in agribusiness here in the U.S., not to mention what’s going on in Brazil. Are veggies that thin-skinned? Just get a frigging grip, people!
San Francisco, Calif.
Don’t you dare cut back on the irony, sarcasm, puns, cynicism, or humor in your articles! If it weren’t for Grist’s irreverent yet accurate reporting, I would miss half the environmental news I need to know about. If any one group can’t take a joke, then tough for them! If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’ll soon be crying. Which would you prefer?
As much as I love Grist, I have to disagree with your interpretation of the Happy Planet Index. It isn’t ranking the happiest nations, but those nations that have decent life expectancy, life satisfaction, and low ecological footprint. It turns out that if you look at the individual scores, the top two “happiest countries,” Vanuatu and Colombia, in fact have considerably shorter life expectancies with comparable happiness compared to the U.S. It is only the fact that the U.S. has such a large ecological footprint that the happiness of its citizens is discounted to such a low number: HPI = (life satisfaction x life expectancy)/(ecological footprint). If you just look at satisfaction and expectancy (or a weighted combination), you end up seeing all of the developed countries of the world reach the top of the list — it just so happens that their relatively higher scores are at the expense of the rest of the world in terms of developed economies’ ecological footprints.
However, your assertion that “money can’t buy happiness” does seem true since developing countries have high happiness scores; but it does seem to buy life expectancy — a good five to 10 years over many of the happy developing countries. Equal happiness over more years might argue that total happiness is much higher in developed countries.
The Wall Street Journal‘s “Numbers Guy” concurs with my comments.
Name not provided
Editor’s note: You can find more discussion on the Happy Planet Index in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.
Gov. Schwarzenegger’s support of a mandatory cap on global warming pollution has yet to be tested, especially in the face of powerful industry opposition. While deserved of much praise for his environmental initiatives, especially with regards to solar power, the governor has yet to endorse the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that would put teeth to the governor’s own global-warming goals and test his resolve to stand up for true solutions to global warming. I look forward to dubbing him the “global cool-o-nator,” but until then, the heat is on the governor, and the rest of Sacramento, to get tough on polluters by passing a cap on global-warming pollution.
Bernadette Del Chiaro
What a relief to hear a voice of optimism! If I didn’t believe it was true, that there is hope for a healthy and happy environment for the next generations, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning to continue as an environmental planner. Doom and gloom are not inevitable; the reason so many of us work so hard is to ensure that Hurley’s vision is the one we achieve. It is too easy to shrug and give up.
I couldn’t agree more! I’m already seeing people sounding defeatist about global warming, which is not at all what we need. “Well, it’s too late, there’s no way we can fix it, so why bother doing anything?” The attitude and message really need to be, “This is exciting! We have the opportunity to work together and save this planet. Let’s do it.” It’s the only way we’ll make this work.
Editor’s note: Lots of readers dug this piece. Read their thoughts on keeping a positive outlook in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.
This article is typical of much of the simple minded “green” thinking going on, which zeros in on a couple of questionable statistics (hand-washing dishes “can” use “over 16 gallons” of water, a dishwasher only uses “between 3 and 4.5”) and then recommends an anti-wholeistic “solution” (buy a dishwasher) which is actually worse than the “problem” (water shortage).
First of all, to use 16 gallons of water to wash a sink-load of dishes, you would have to run the water full blast the whole time. Who does that? I fill one sink with dirty dishes and soapy water, wash them all, place them in the other sink, and then rinse them all at once, using maybe 2 to 3 gallons of water total and no electricity other than for the hot water.
Second, mining the raw materials for, manufacturing, packaging, transporting, installing, powering and — ultimately — disposing of the damn dishwasher creates far more problems than it solves.
Third, yes, I’m a hypocrite. I have a dishwasher. I also have a wife, and not having a dishwasher would create more problems for me than it would solve. So I do a lot of dishes by hand so I don’t have to do something else by hand.
Happy Valley, Ore.
Re: Jam Session
While I am a Pearl Jam fan, I have a suggestion to make to the multi-millionaires that comprise the band in regards to their desire to reduce carbon output on their tours. Halve the amount of tour dates, or don’t tour at all! They can certainly afford such a sacrifice.
I just read Umbra’s advice on what to do with those unwanted video and cassette tapes. I also had a lot of unwanted video tapes — there were programs on them and they could still be used to record, but I knew I would never need that much recording capacity and didn’t want to view any of the programs again. I put them on my local Freecycle website, and a couple of days later, I had a taker! Actually, I had two takers — one for my assorted videos and one for my (nearly complete) collection of Charlie’s Angels episodes taped off of television. Yes, one woman’s trash is another’s treasure …
Shell Rock, Iowa
Aluminum cans? When was the last time you used a can that was made solely out of aluminum? Soft drink and beer cans are bimetal (aluminum all around except for the top which is steel). As far as I know, these are harder to recycle than any of pure aluminum and the result is either a lower quality metal or requires more energy to separate the metals.
Takoma Park, Md.
Just read Umbra’s column on what to do with old clothing, and I was shocked that you didn’t bring up Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe. Did you not know about this? Seems like valuable information to pass on.
Happy Jack, Ariz.
Editor’s note: Find more ideas on what to do with your ratty old clothes in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.
One aspect that Umbra didn’t mention about green moving is that some trucking companies, such as ABF, will let you use one of their tandem 28-foot “pup” trailers, with any unused space sold to small businesses for deliveries along the way. This makes shipping more fuel-efficient per cargo mile by ensuring all shipping space in the trailer is fully used.
It was also a way for me to save time and money — no driving for 700 miles, no hotel stops, and no refills of the rental truck tank. The cost was less than half of that of an equivalent rental.
Re: Range of Notion
I wanted to clarify that your great summary of the New York Times article quoted me a bit out of context. While I am definitely critical of grass banks, I am also a supporter of these efforts. My primary concern is cost-effectiveness and effective conservation benefits. The summary reads like I don’t promote the strategy at all, which is definitely not true. In the primary article, I also state, “Grass banks can be cost effective if there is a way to avoid the capital outlay for a ranch, through donation or another source.”
I am writing to point out a potential misinterpretation of the roadless petition process. The article says that petitions to protect roadless national-forest areas have been approved for Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The use of the word “approved” here is misleading. For those three states, as well as New Mexico, the federal government has accepted the roadless petitions. This, however, only represents the first step in the petition process, meaning that these areas are not yet officially protected. What comes next is a formal, state-specific rulemaking process. The Forest Service will work with each state to develop and publish proposed rules that address the management requirements set forth in the petitions. This upcoming rulemaking process will include any required NEPA analysis and also invite public input through the standard notice-and-comment procedure. There is still plenty of opportunity for these petitions to be changed, and the USDA has the authority to accept final rules in this process.
I am highly offended by the tasteless headline that you’ve chosen for the story about pesticides and Parkinson’s with news, by the way, that is very old. Your last sentence also leaves a lot to be desired. If you think for one moment that Parkinson’s disease is a yuk, you’d better think again. I watched my mother’s suffering from this horrible disease and it’s a nightmare. Your editorial approach is in the worst possible taste.
Name not provided
I used to subscribe to and read numerous environmental and political email services every day. I got so bogged down in the awfulness of all of it — all the constant negative news, especially considering the Bush administration — that I was in a real “gloom and doom” reality tunnel. Honestly, it got so bad that I’d see an older person, say 65 or 70 (I’m 45), and actually be envious of them because I’d think, they won’t be around for peak oil, survival mode, no more grocery stores stocked with food trucked in from 1,000 miles away, collapsed world financial markets … you get the picture.
My poor husband finally sat me down and said, “You gotta stop this — I can’t take it any more!” So, I unsubscribed to every one of them, except Grist. I couldn’t sever the ties completely with what’s going on in the environment and politics, and my Daily Grist is the only news source that can make me smile while I read about the Bad Stuff Going On (and the occasional good stuff). I can read the linked articles for more info if I want, or just get the highlights from the daily email. As always, I hear from others or on NPR breaking news stories about the environment, and I’ve already learned about them from Grist.
You guys and gals are great. Thanks for helping me to stay connected to what’s going on in the environment without losing my sanity!