I’m not one to be super controversial. In fact, I dislike confrontation altogether. But as we all know, opinions are like assholes: everybody’s got one. Sure some of mine are based on personal preference (like the fact that I hate mushrooms and think they are nasty fungus), but many of them are based on data and verifiable facts. And because they are based on data and facts, I’m willing to change my opinion based on facts and new data that may be presented.
Climate change is real.
You can choose to disbelieve if you want to, but the science backs it up. It is indeed a real problem.
I am also aware and educated as to the pertinence of climate change reform. I spent 5 years working in international development, and climate change was a big piece of our portfolio of work. Climate change is important, and educating world powers and legislature on the consequences of continuing to ignore it is critical for change, but the irony of the sheer amount of waste produced and carbon emitted to gather in a city and marc/protest isn't lost on me. That said, I don’t know what the answer is to evoke change. No one really does, or it probably would have happened by now.
Last weekend in NYC there was a huge People’s Climate March for climate change. Over 310,000 people gathered from around the world to march/protest to show their support of the need to send a message about climate change to about 120 world leaders meeting at the U.N. summit to discuss the treat of carbon pollution. A noble cause, indeed. The march happened just days after the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that August 2014 was the warmest on record. Were they successful? Only time will tell.
Climate change is hugely important, but when supporters and advocates create a situation that causes the masses to discredit or question the work a group is aiming to accomplish, it isn't valuable to the cause. Those participating in the march were asked to agree to a code of conduct for participation and to adhere to posted logistics information for the march by the march organizers. Among other things, participants were encouraged to bring food and drink for the day, but apparently not reminded to “pack in what you pack out.” Now, obviously not everyone dumped their trash in the street or there would have been a helluva lot more of it, but it is pretty appalling when people litter, regardless of the event. Also, despite the request for peaceful protesting from march organizers, some were still arrested for disorderly conduct.
It’s the largest protest in the U.S. about anything in a really long time, maybe the largest ever. It's unfortunate that the actions of some make the whole group look bad.
Oh, the Irony of the Climate Change March NYC
The Gothamist—a snarky, local blog—ran a story on the amount of trash and waste left by march participants. It crowsourced information from Twitter and other social media channels to highlight some of the irony of the march day.
Sadly, at the end of the day, all media has a spin. It doesn't matter what is being reported and by whom, every single news outlet, reporter, and columnist has an agenda. It's what's wrong with journalism today (but that’s a whole other post). Every story is written to sell advertising and imprints, not to report unbiased facts. Whether it's a blogger or the Guardian, there is an agenda, and they choose to report what they want to report based on what sells, not what the people need to know.
Fact: The article is cynical. It probably does taint some of the potential successes of the march. The point of the article is to show the amount of waste created and lack of caring of many march participants. The irony and hypocrisy of the sheer amount of waste produced and carbon emitted to gather and march/protest isn't lost on me.
It's regrettable that some of the supporters created a situation that people felt the need to point out their behavior. Had the marchers walked away leaving the area cleaner than it was to begin with (or at least as clean as when they started) instead of leaving their trash as they felt fit and wasting 1,000s of sheets of paper and other resources, observers on Twitter and news outlets wouldn't have bothered to point out the trash left behind and the irony of the behavior of a bunch of environmentalists.
I'd gladly read an unbiased article comparing how environmentally sound they were or weren't compared to other groups that protest. If someone can get that data and write an article, I’d be grateful. Regardless, when people see the trash left behind, they have every right to point out and ponder how effective or environmentally sound that protest was or wasn’t.
The article in the Gothamist is no different than pointing out the irony of behaviors of any other group of protesters fighting for what they believe in. If you believe that strongly in something and choose to represent it, then you have the responsibility to conduct yourself in a way that embodies those beliefs. In this instance, it's clear that not all involved in this event behaved in a way that furthered the cause. I'm sure some environmental event organizers do take great care, as did many of the marchers did. However, chucking your shit on the ground because you are too effing lazy to carry it with you is abysmal and should be inexcusable anywhere, for any reason. Have some decency and respect for the people around you, especially when you are a tourist. And for the love of god (any god), if you are protesting for environmental policy change, don’t be an environmental douche bag.
It's simply the irony factor. Protesters supporting PETA that showed up with leather handbags and shoes would have had the same backlash.
Just One Reason Why I Didn’t Participate
I love a good vacation like the next person, but travel is horrible on the environment and causes a detrimental carbon footprint increase. I LOVE to travel, but travel is environmentally unsound, so I limit it. So, nope, I didn’t participate. Even if I’d had a free weekend, I wasn’t about to fly across the country to stay in a hotel to march. Travel has its own environmental waste and impact. Travel by plane is no better than travel by car. Hotels create a major environmental impact. Between hotel laundry and jet fuel, it’s hardly environmentally sound to travel across the country to protest climate change and environmental issues. And what about the A-listers there to support the march? I wonder if any of them actually flew commercial or if they all hopped on their private jets for the trek from LA to NYC? Oh, and people who flew from Paris for a march to invoke climate change reform thought they were being environmentally friendly how? Yes. Snarky, I know. But I think you get my point.
It’s not easy being green
I’m not as green as they come and certainly not as green as I would like to be, but I am conscious of the environment and conscientious of my actions and how they affect the environment. I would love to have unlimited resources to live off the grid on a farm to live a sustainable low-environmental impact lifestyle, but I can’t afford to and still allow my kids a reasonable upbringing with educational opportunities. I mean, check out our emissions footprint below. My household of 6 is well below the average for the country, desite our suburban living. (Check your footprint here.)
However, I do my part to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We support small local businesses to further local economy and to eliminate the amount of shit brought in from China that we are responsible for. When I lived in Vermont, I even chose to write for the local mom’s blog that was truly local and started by local moms who saw a need and all of the money benefits local moms and organization, not a franchised mom blog. We lived close to work to cut down on carbon emissions from commuting. My kids walked to school. I carpooled when it made sense (public transport in VT wasn’t very feasible for a family of 6 with young kids). We buy used toys and clothes. Our kids play with toys that were ours as children. Hell, we even got a recycled dog. The list goes on and on. I’m not perfect—far from it—but I also don’t walk around with my nose in the air pretending my shit doesn’t stink—because I do support causes I believe in, I do my part to better the world and invoke change, but I don’t purport to be flawless or think my actions and opinions are better than those of others.
Point in case: At the end of the day, it's challenging for a cause to gain traction when the actions of some don't match the goals of the whole. When news outlets and socety, climate change supporters or not, can find a flaw like all that litter to focus on, they will. It's one of those unfortunate instances where the negative can outshine the positive, but had the behavior of all participants truly been in line with the goal of the organization, there may have been less focus on the negative.