For many years, despite my deeply held beliefs about the environment, politics, eating meat and many other subjects, I’ve kept my mouth shut. There are Republicans in my family, and one of my nearest still believes that global warming is a conspiracy cooked up by evil scientists and poseur do-gooders in order to swindle the government and private sector to create and keep their jobs. I’ve been asked (again, by my immediate family) when I was going to go back to eating “normal” (meat) food, and I’ve sat smiling through dinner at Peter Luger’s, while everyone at the table, and the waiter, mocked me none too gently for sticking to the spinach, salad and rolls.
As I may have mentioned in these pages, I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work lately, gathering donations and helping with transport of dogs for the Center for Animal Care and Control. It has been immensely rewarding work — I’ve never felt so appreciated, so useful as I have when I deliver 800 pounds of donated dog food, or help someone with no money get their desperately ill dog to a pro-bono vet appointment. After one of these missions, a kind social worker asked if he could buy me lunch, to thank me for my help. “There’s a Popeye’s and a Burger King across the street — my treat,” he offered, and I accepted. I had to admit my vegetarianism, as Burger King’s veggie burger is the only thing I would eat from either menu, and off we went.
Standing on line, he gently questioned me about my eating habits. Why? What do I eat instead? Is it difficult? With each question answered I realized how much information I had stored away over the years, how much I had to say on the subject. And I watched with growing pleasure as, rather than growing bored or being annoyed by my preachiness, the guy got more and more interested. By the time we reached the front of the line we were up to our necks in the environment, politics, health and animal welfare. And then it happened. HE ordered a veggie burger. And he liked it. And swore up and down he was going to order it again.
Of course, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t first “admitted” to being a vegetarian. And he would then never have tried the veggie burger. And I wouldn’t have gotten to have an amazing and interesting conversation about several interconnected things that matter very, very much to me.
The very same day I preached the gospel of green at Burger King, a friend forwarded me an email about presidential candidates and global warming, with an analysis of the kind of questions being asked (whataretheywaitingfor.com). The gist? Of 2,484 questions asked of the candidates in major debates and television interviews, only three questions have mentioned global warming.
Are you kidding me?? Don’t these old farts (Russert, Blitzer, Wallace and Schieffer) have children and grandchildren they care about? Don’t they understand that this is the issue that underlies all the others? Wanna know what “the immigration debate” is going to look like when millions are displaced by rising oceans? When Floridians all start moving inland to escape the rising waters? We’ll have civil immigration issues. Think the war in Iraq is an issue? Oil’s running out, sure. So’s fresh water, come to think of it. I can’t wait to wear a “U.S. out of Canada!” button (they control one third of the world’s fresh water). Concerned about the economy? Jobs? If crops fail, and all our topsoil disappears, and American industry isn’t following the same environmental guidelines the rest of the world’s put into place, you can just flush the whole economy down the crapper. With all that extra seawater lapping at the door.
It’s time to open our mouths, on both a personal and a national level. Tell people what you think, and what you think about. Start a conversation. Don’t be an ass about it, but don’t be afraid of being persuasive either — you might be surprised by how willing to listen, and learn, some people are (and I do mean some — choose your battles wisely). And if you care about the environment, aka your family, other people’s families, nature, culture, animals, or children, make sure global warming is on the minds, and lips, of pundits and politicians alike. Say it with me now: “It’s the ENVIRONMENT, stupid.”