From my limited and begrudging social interactions with other people – outsiders – this week there are a few things I’ve come to learn about how we environmentalists are viewed by the rest of society. There’s definitely a stereotype (something I try to clamp down on straight away by displaying my complete disregard for convention. I am neither a vegan, wear sandals or weave my own clothing from hemp. I do occasionally have a beard, mind). But there is also a sense that we are, well, just a little bit..full of ourselves.
It’s not a shock to say some of us can be a bit ‘holier than thou’ on occasions. This isn’t something that only extends to our interactions with outsiders, but is even more rampant amongst ourselves. The fact is, we just love to preach about what we’ve been up to in our own quest to save the world. Can’t resist it. You can see why this might rub people up the wrong way. I’m more of a passive non-conformists myself. An outlier through apathy rather than design. However, it appears I work in a sector where I am viewed as something of a degenerate for the rebellious act of not cycling everywhere. Some people in the sector love to march, but sometimes you can feel this is more for the kudos of saying ‘I marched’ than through belief in the cause.
It’s like outsiders talking about how much money they earn, or how well their career is going, only when we do it, it comes across as so much worthier. No one likes to have their own value systems questioned, and when we force people to suspect they’re not quite living up to our standards because they don’t compost their teabags, then it’s not surprising they find us a bit supercilious.
You can see where this type of talk gets us. And if I could stretch the point out to a wider issue, I think it’s something we need to get smarter about now that open-season on charities has begun. If you’re keeping up with the latest fall-out from the Kids Company shambles, you might have noticed the not-so-subtle change in tone in which charities are now being discussed.
Is it the thought that we think we’re better than them, or the thought that we might be right to think that? Either way, I believe there is something of a psychological desire amongst a section of society to knock us off our pedestal, as much to reassure themselves of their own value and contribution to society as anything. We need to promote the good works we, as environmentalists, do whilst resisting the urge to rub how worthy we are in other people’s faces. It’ll be a difficult trick, and that’s one of the reasons I’m glad I don’t work in PR.