Dear Umbra,

My girlfriend’s 14-year-old daughter lives with us, and she’s the most environmentally oblivious person I’ve ever met. She makes George Bush and Dick Cheney look like card-carrying members of the Green Party.

She throws trash out the car window or tosses it on the street. She never shuts off a light or turns down the heat when leaving a room. She can stand in front of the open refrigerator for 15 minutes, chatting on the phone with her friends while idly rummaging through the contents. She refuses to eat organic food, saying that it’s too “granola.” She is a total urbanite and dislikes open spaces; to her a park is just someplace to go smoke pot.

When we try to persuade her to act more responsibly, she looks at us like we’re from another planet. She can’t be bothered; there are far more important things occupying her mind, like boys, Metallica, instant messaging, cigarettes, and vodka ice drinks. So, what do you suggest? How can we help her to be more environmentally conscious?

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Montreal, Canada

Dearest Brad,

You, too, must take the pill of chill. Close your eyes and think back to being 14. What were your top four concerns? Sex? Cars? Grades? Sports? Sex? Beer? Friends? Getting beat up? Sex?

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Make like an ice cube and
chill out.

Everything you’ve mentioned about your girlfriend’s daughter sounds not only completely normal but also practically harmless. She can’t drive yet, and when she does her mother (I presume) will control how much. Her mother and you are in charge of household energy efficiency, vacations, food shopping, political donations, and other important environmental choices. Fourteen-year-olds have little access to the evils that make a true pollutocrat, such as fighting for pesticide exemptions from international treaties.

Your young friend may or may not eventually come around to your point of view on world affairs. Until then, as you should know from your own experiences, she will do whatever she can get away with on the path to learning who she is and what she believes in. Sit back, enjoy, and be thankful you don’t have to be 14 again yourself.


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