Derek Markham is passionate about the environment, and he wants to know why so many men don’t want to talk about it.
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.
Fuck the environment, what time does the game start?
—Photo Highways Agency/Flickr