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March 07, 2008

The 12 kinds of environmentalists

When I first decided to go green, I didn’t really have a model for what I was trying to do. I didn’t have an environmentalist friend or relative that could show me the ropes. All I had was a picture in my head of what an ‘environmentalist’ was.

Frankly, that picture frightened me. Somebody who truly embraced being green seemed to have dreadlocks, keep chickens, pedal recumbent bicycles to work, wear clothes made out of hemp, and give really touchy-feely speeches about Mother Earth/Gaia.

Since throwing myself into the environmental fray, I’ve learned that the people who support the space are much more diverse than my previous stereotype lends itself to. And as “normals” like me join the club, it’s becoming more and more diverse all the time.

Still, the deeper I go, the more I see there are “types” of environmentalists. Some people care more about certain issues than others. Because it’s fun, let's see if we can pigeonhole some of the types of environmentalists that are out there.

1. The Nature Conservationist
The nature conservationist loves wolves and polar bears and whales and owls and all manner of fuzzy creature. The really hardcore ones even worry about frogs, birds and bugs. Because animals live there, they also love the outdoors, and want to preserve as much of it as possible. They probably donate to the world wildlife fund and volunteer on the weekends to take rubber bands off turtles.
Personal mascot: Hayden Panettiere, saver of dolphins.

2. The Organic Fanatic
The organic fanatic is a unique environmental breed that believes in the purity of natural products produced by natural methods. They’ll glaze over if you talk to them about emissions or peak oil, but dangle a handmade soap in their face and they’ll perk back up. They may do this for environmental or for health reasons.
Favorite store: Whole Foods

3. The Eco-Zealot
The eco-zealots, who have received an enormous amount of press in the last week, give all environmentalists a bad name. They prioritize saving the environment above all other considerations, and they enact all sorts of extreme measures to get their message out. Take this woman, for example, who sterilized herself to ensure that she would never bear children that would contribute to the earth’s demise.

You may find them physically chained to trees in old growth forest, but more like they are hidden from view: plotting their next sinister move in solar-powered underground facilities. If you spot one, exercise extreme caution!
Weapon of choice: Nunchuks. I'm just kidding, those are totally environmentally unacceptable. Matches and lighter fluid are a much better way to go.

4. The Eco-Yuppie / Eco-Soccer Mom
The eco-yuppie and eco-soccer mom have common roots. Last year, they saw “An Inconvenient Truth”, and though they can’t quote any data from the movie, it super inspired them. Green is so trendy right now, almost as trendy as leggings!

They are eager to go green when it’s most convenient for them. You’ll often find her toting around her “I am not a plastic bag” while barreling down on you in a Cadillac Escalade. They would never understand the irony of entering an environmental contest with a grand prize featuring an eight-hour flight to Hawaii.
Personal Mascot:
Paris Hilton, who now drives a hybrid SUV. Any celebrity will do though, really.

5. The Fearmongering Eco-preneur
The sky is falling! Temperatures are rising! Buy our carbon offsets! We’ll fix it! But not before we buy some yachts with your money. Oh, but don’t worry. They’re wave-powered.
Favorite Color: Green: the color of money.

6. The Guilty Offsetter
Far too busy and important to actually reduce their footprint, the guilty offsetter partners with the Fearmongering Eco-preneuer to alleviate their green guilt.
Personal Mascot: Al Gore (sorry, Al!)

7. The Eco-Geek*
*No slander intended to the famous, incredibly interesting environmental blog of the same name.

Technology will save us all. Eco-geeks firmly believe that there is no need to change our lifestyles because our free market economy will automagically make our smartest people figure out short-cut answers to our toughest problems.

In the year 2020, we’ll be making oil out of the air by sucking out carbon dioxide. We’ll figure out how to shoot laser beams of solar energy from Earth-orbiting satellites to fuel our homes. Cars will be powered by the positive thinking of children and airplanes will only put out emissions of love and jellybeans.
Our capabilities are only constrained by our imaginations and the laws of physics. Only sometimes the latter.
Favorite Food: Single-celled protein combined with synthetic aminos, vitamins, and minerals. Everything the body needs. 

8. The Sensitive Agnostic
Sensitive Agnostics can be found hanging out around environmental types, but usually don’t count themselves amongst them. They are still “gathering data” on whether climate change is really a problem, or whether peak oil really exists. They’re interested in debating the issues, but aren’t committed yet to doing anything about them.
Favorite Hobby: Reading. Lots and lots of reading. Thinking too. Pondering.

9. The Oil Conspiracy Guy
It’s a conspiracy, it’s a conspiracy! The government is run by oil companies! 9/11 was an inside job so we could invade Iraq and increase oil company profits! Oil is already completely run out and gone, they just haven’t told us yet! Put on your tin foil hats because the New World Order is imminent!
Favorite Website: Prison Planet

10. The Anti-Consumerist Caveman
The anti-consumerist caveman is obsessed with reaching a zero footprint. And they’ll do whatever is necessary to reach zero footprint lifestyles. In many cases, that means forsaking all modern conveniences like electricity, clothing, transportation, and of course, consumer goods. There is an enormous movement of these people, some living as Freegans, sucking at the teat of a wasteful society via dumpster diving and squatting.
Personal Hero: No Impact Man

11. The “Too Late” Doomsayer
The “Too Late” doomsayer knows with fatal certainty that it’s too late to do anything about climate change. The die is cast, our future is locked into place. They are quietly stocking their fall-out shelters on some tall plateau isolated from the rising ocean. There, they prepare to ride out the inevitable apocalypse.
Favorite Movie: The Day After Tomorrow

12. The Environmental Pragmatist
I think most greenies like to imagine that they fall into this category. I know that I certainly do. While I’m prone to wear a few of the above hats occasionally (particularly eco-geek), the Environmental Pragmatist in me subscribes to a balanced point of view.

The pragmatist sees climate change and peak oil as possibilities, and considers it irresponsible to not try to do something about them. Pragmatists quietly look for the low fruit to reduce their footprint, and do it. They educate themselves and stay informed. They vote with the environment in mind, and might occasionally write their government representatives. They tell their friends about their green knowledge, but only when asked.

They don’t spend a lot of time doing this, but enough to make a difference. Will it be enough of a difference? We hope so.

What other environmental types have you met?

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What a great post! Really enjoyed that :)

I suppose I'm with you at number 12 comprising of a few of the others although not so much the eco geek as points 1 and 2.

Oddly enough, I'm actually working on a post about eco-yuppies at the moment so that should be up on my blog soon.

I'm totally a combo of these, depending on the day! Mostly 1, 2, 3, and some 4 and 7, but on a bad day I'm def. an 11. I think you forgot the vegans- some of them are more into animal rights than the environment, but many also use the environmental arguments to support their cause. IMHO, anyone who really cares about animals as a veggie or vegan should automatically care about the environment...if an animal's habitat disappears due to global warming or human destruction, it's not going to have a place to live, right?

Dang, I think I'm an Eco Geek. I can't wait until they invent solar-powered robots to do our bidding!!

Great job! This was hysterical, but with truth. (Found you through Beth at Fake Plastic Fish, btw).

I feel like I am a bit of #4 with a mix of 10 and 11
Also I had never heard of prisonplanet, thanks for upping my 'sky is falling' anxiety!

Okay, these are GREAT! I think you pretty much nailed all of us in this post. I think it is always wise to laugh at one's self and keep on learning how to be a better person, so thanks.

this was a great post, i might use some of this in our blog, i'll link you ofcourse, i think i am #2, #8 and #12! ;)

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