June 13, 2022

Markets & Free EnterprisePolicy

Are You a Dr. Seuss Qualified Environmentalist?

By: Kelvey Vander Hart

When asked to think of a fictional (and orange) environmentalist, the Lorax created by Dr. Seuss may come to mind. And, The Lorax contains iconic words that many activists of different stripes know by heart: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” But is it necessary to, as Dr. Seuss writes, care a whole awful lot about the planet? Then this logical question follows, what kind of environmentalist are you? 

If you were to think about the environmentalists that care a whole awful lot, what comes to mind? For many, vivid pictures of kids from the Sunrise Movement wielding ‘eat the rich’ signs at climate protests may be the first thing that comes to mind. That is a mental image that tends to stick in your mind, especially when you have been the target of their ire for ‘not caring enough.’ 

Others may think of the ones we deem radical. The anti-whaling vessels. The hardcore vegans. The hunger strikers. The Greta Thunberg idolizers. 

Do you know what comes to my mind when I think of environmentalists that care a whole awful lot? Hunters and anglers engaging in conservation efforts to save their sports. Innovators who are working to solve the sustainability problems we still face. Wind turbine technicians and solar installers working in my community. My friends at the American Conservation Coalition who are convincing folks on the right that yes, conservation IS conservative and can be achieved with the market in mind. 

We live in an age where we accept as normal measuring the level of someone’s concern by their tweets and how closely their actions align with ours. I know this to be true in my own life. I am a vegetarian who worked in renewable energy advocacy, powers her home with renewable energy credits, and limits all food and plastic waste. But to some vegan, climate protest-attending, free market-hating folks in my life, I’m considered to be a fake environmentalist. 

Nothing is achieved by attacking the level of someone’s care and concern and demanding it visibly match your own. In fact, that is not at all what we need. Sure, we certainly need people who care a whole awful lot about the environment. But that should not be all of us. If people only put all their effort into caring about the environment, every other bit of our society would crumble from lack of attention. 

Environmentalism needs all degrees of concern and all ranges of people, from the folks who do not believe in climate change but like having clean water and air to those who would quit their jobs to go lobby Congress all day long. And, we should be okay with the fact that care does not necessarily mean agreement. The Sunrise Movement and I are never going to see eye-to-eye, but I can respect the fact that they care. 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Is that true? Dr. Seuss may have thought so, but the sentiment is pretty vague and leaves a lot of folks out of the picture. Instead of demanding that everyone care the same way, let’s know ourselves and our levels of environmentalism while inviting others to take small steps forward in caring for our planet. After all, not everyone is the same kind of environmentalist, and caring a whole awful lot looks a whole lot different to each person you ask. You do not need to be a Dr. Seuss qualified environmentalist – you just need to care in your own way.