When Green Ethics Go Brown
In my life I once enjoyed the ultimate environmental ‘get out of jail free’ card. I grew food. Not only was I a farmer, but I come from a long line of farmers. I had a funny experience during my tenure as a farmer. While retreating at a dharma center in the furry foothills below the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia I met an environmentalist. She wasn’t just some garden variety tree hugger, but more like a serious zealot.
My wife, kids and I had driven from Massachusetts to Virginia on that trip. We took my work truck. A fringe benefit I enjoyed at that time was fuel reimbursement and we were naturally eager to take full advantage. My work truck, while a full size 1 ton truck, was happily outfitted with all the amenities of any luxury vehicle. This made both my job and long trips with kids somewhat more comfortable. 12 mpg, but it could burn biodiesel if I wanted to. See how green I was?
The environmentalist knew virtually nothing about me, but was perturbed with what she could deduce quickly and easily as the mode of our arrival. It was frankly hard to miss it, our grand entrance was me jockeying my mammoth F-350 Lariat Crew Cab among the lot full of sensible little Japanese and European sedans. We were late and the parking lot was conveniently adjacent to the outdoor pavilion where the group of obedient Buddhists were enjoying an arrival lunch buffet and trying to listen to the retreat organizers give their customary welcome spiel. I stress they were TRYING to listen but me doing a 87 point turn in my roaring diesel truck, complete with backup alarm. Did I mention the 40 people sitting at picnic tables 20 feet away?
So we finally get parked, hop out of the saddle, saunter through the crowd and settled at a partially empty picnic table, with our new green friend.
“Why do you have such a big truck?”
Not only was this the very first thing out of her mouth, but it was punctuated with a disapproving, wrinkled brow. Years of clean living and non-sentient protein eating blessed her with remarkably smooth skin for such an advanced age. The frown was not to be confused for the oft seen permanent furrows of unhappy living. She clearly did not approve of my sovereign right to pick out just any car on the lot. I fell for the trap right away, feeling the crush of social pressure to justify my choice.
“I’m a grower, that’s my work truck.” I utter meekly, not a hint of self-righteousness in sight.
“Oh, I see.” That was it. That was just too easy. You’re gonna let me get off without a warning? The conversation moved on to the mundane niceties that often plague conversations. I had dodged the bullet of justifiable green rage simply by being so much more than green, brown. The irony? If this bunny loving lady only knew the truth.
I was a man responsible for purchasing $300,000 worth of agricultural chemicals annually, and for the oversight of spreading these drums of pesticides across the largest farm of its kind in the world. To the weeds, insects and fungi of Southeastern Massachusetts I was Genghis Khan. To the chemical salesmen I was a prized acquaintance.
Family business being what it is, I eventually left that dirty job filled with sunshine and pesticides for the shelter of an education and a return to the university opportunity squandered in my youth. Did I leave because my deep moral fiber could no longer withstand being torn apart by my professional polluting? Nope, I just got tired of rinsing neurotoxin jugs in the middle of the night. That and I got passed over for a promotion by a newcomer with a college degree.
I hear a lot now about green ethics in college, and there sure are a ton of hybrid cars in the parking lot at school. Now I drive a VW. Boy those Germans can build a fun car. Was that an ethical decision, to rid myself of the 12 mpg diesel hog because it was the right thing to do for the planet? Again, I confess the truth. I just got tired of paying 70 bucks to fill it up. Hell, it wasn’t getting reimbursed for it anymore. Duh! I am an American, and you will pry my wasteful ways from my cold dead hands, unless its expensive and hard work. Make NOT saving the planet expensive and hard work, and maybe I will join the cause.