Why I Don’t Want to Talk About the Environment

Every time another guy asks me, “So, what do you do?” the conversation plays out in the same way.

I tell him I’m a writer, and he asks, “Oh, what have you written? Who’s your publisher?” When I say, “I’m my own publisher. I’m a blogger,” you can see the look on his face change from wow to meh, instantly (It’s like I said “I’m an athlete…on the company softball team.”). And then comes the inevitable question, “What do you write about?” “I usually cover environmental issues, water, food, social justice, activism, you know, the most pressing issues on the planet.”

Big silent pause.

And then I hear, “So, Bob, how about that game last night?” followed by a highly animated discussion about who has the best defensive line in the league, during which I smile weakly and excuse myself with some lame reason and wander off.

Occasionally I do run into a guy who wants to go toe to toe on specific environmental issues, and then I generally get to listen to this dude regurgitate some bullshit they remembered the talking head saying on the news recap last night (before the game starts). Again, it’s almost always the same.

It’s strange. When discussing “manly” topics such as sports, or cars, or business, or whatever, I generally see a bigger divergence of passionate opinions. But with the environment, you’re either “green” or you’re not. You’re either about saving the whales or you’re about fishermen’s rights. You’re about cheap energy now, or you’re about investing in clean energy for the future.

So when a guy wants to go toe to toe on an environmental issue, sometimes I rise to the challenge and offer my rebuttal to their talking points, based on facts and figures, hard science and data, taking into account the long-term effects of the issue.

And again, there’s a big silent pause.

Now contrast that scenario with a fictional encounter, with me talking smack to that same random group of men about sports: “I can’t believe you guys spend so much time watching other men fight homoerotic mock battles, grunting and sweating and patting each other on their tights-clad, overdeveloped asses.”

You can probably almost see the steam coming out of their ears, followed by a heated discussion about how I just don’t get it, and maybe even a summary of studies about the positive aspects of sports or a pithy quote from a popular athlete or coach about how noble it all is.

There’s no lack of courage there—or in defending one’s favorite team or favorite player—and there’s no shortage of facts and figures.

This is when I scratch my head. Why is a professional athlete’s record, or a team’s statistics, or the outcome of their next game, more important than talking about not poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink and the food we eat?

I know men who are environmental activists and fundraisers, journalists and biologists, green business owners and socially-conscious philanthropists. I know men whose outward appearance is to the contrary—tree-hugging cowboys and such—who go to great lengths to conserve and preserve our natural resources in their own way. And I also know ruthless businessmen who are all about “going green,” as long as it saves them money.

But for the most part, these guys are too afraid of being branded as capital-E Environmentalists to ever give impassioned speeches to convince their friends and peers of how important these issues are.

I don’t see very many men willing to say “Them’s fightin’ words, son” when it comes to protecting our environment.

Which leaves me wondering why I bother to do so at all. It’s all so much work, talking about real-life issues and taking action on them, trying to get people to educate themselves and to think critically about the issues affecting them.

Maybe I should just switch sides.

F*ck the environment, what time does the game start?

[Note: This post was written as a tongue-in-cheek piece, and I’m not attacking anyone who likes sports or talks about them. I’m merely wondering why we can’t get the same attention for environmental issues. It was previously published at The Good Men Project, and it has some pretty passionate comments on it there.]

Image: Highways Agency at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

7 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About the Environment

  • September 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm
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    I often wonder if guys think it isn’t manly to talk about the environment? Like people will think they are some crazy hippy who doesn’t shower and only eat carrots or something?

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  • September 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm
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    the environment is boring and blogging isn’t a job.

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    • September 16, 2011 at 8:22 am
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      Ooh, once again, I’ve been schooled by an (anonymous) ‘real man’. Thanks for your precious advice.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 1:47 am
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    A reason behind those responses you get is that if you disagree with a point of view on sports you will not be branded a hater of the planet or other less pleasant words. There is place in sports for many different opinions, without one who has set itself up as the messiah to the others.
    This is the issue. Not personal to you but the “environmentalists” who get media space are usually in the mould of a bible bashing team player for the Spanish inquisition.
    There needs to be space for other views and free debate without feeling you will be labelled by the righteous green brigade.

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    • September 16, 2011 at 8:27 am
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      You should read the comments on the original posting at the GMP – I got told this was bullshit, called one of the “most annoying people on the planet”, and a bunch of other BS by someone who thought I was attacking their sacred cow. So I don’t know if I can agree with you on this. Another aspect is that if someone disagrees with you on sports, they can back themselves up with facts and figures, whereas with environmental issues, it’s usually a bunch of knee-jerk reactions, and rarely will someone actually tell me why they disagree with me and back it up with facts and figures. I guess because it’s ‘boring’ to know what you’re talking about. Cheers, from a member of the not-so-righteous green brigade.

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  • September 16, 2011 at 7:59 am
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    nice piece, Derek.. been there.

    to the guy who says ‘blogging isn’t a job’: if you make money to support your family doing it, i’m pretty sure it’s a job. it is for me — a very good one — and i’m sure it is for derek too

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  • September 18, 2011 at 6:56 am
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    Fight on. Real men fight for the environment. You have a very real job. It doesn’t get any more real than fighting for the fate of our planet. I love your blog. Keep up the great work.

    Reply

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