A few weeks ago, the internet had an all too familiar meltdown over yet another ‘eco’ issue and Prince Harry’s royal family were at the center of this one. The issue, as I understood it, was simply this: they had flown in a private jet for a family vacation. Now admittedly, some of the outcry came from certain disgruntled individuals who have proven time and time again that any and every opportunity could be adapted to attack the person of Megan Markle. Regardless of this though, an impressive percentage of the public outrage mostly came from some members of the eco-community who felt that Prince Harry had put our environment at great risk by flying by private jet on this trip.
Put differently, since Prince Harry is well-known for his public support on global environmental issues, when he flew on this private jet with his wife and child, he seemed to have compromised his values on climate change issues so much so that many environmentalists labeled him a hypocrite. This leads me to the questions: If you had to make a long distance trip with your wife or husband whilst nursing a baby, would you ditch the option of a private jet if it were presented to you? If you were a celebrity in your chosen niche, isn’t travelling publicly wrought with a litany of security challenges, more so if you were with your family? When compared with the million other grave challenges we all face in our various countries, what really is the huge tragedy to be gleaned from Prince Harry’s trip? When did our eco-activism translate into haranguing even the ‘good guys’ at will?
I recently had a conversation about all these with a close friend and from his perspective, it seems as though the eco-community seeks to completely control what you do, what you buy, where you buy and how you use it. You are told not to eat beef, but if you absolutely must have meat, you could settle for the lab-grown kind which could be more expensive and which is man-made. While you’re at it, you are told to boycott commercial fishing because abandoned fishing nets make up about 48% of ocean plastic. You are told to eat vegan; to avoid travelling by air and when touring certain places and reserves, to reject the offers of animal rides by the locals (never mind that these local guides really need the money).
You are told not to drive cars, but if you absolutely must drive, not to take your car to the car wash. I mean, there are even campaigns urging people to boycott the internet for fear of leaving their digital carbon footprints behind. Perhaps the most irksome is the recent call for individuals to boycott having children in an effort to save the planet. Now let’s be clear; the decision to have or not to have children is a very personal one. However, when an environmentalist preaches saving the world on the one hand and boycotting children on the other, I have found that it is a tough pill even for me to swallow. I mean if we were all to quit having children to save our planet, then whom exactly would this better Earth we all labor towards be presented to? And just how would our species survive?
We all lead personal lives and we all know that people generally do not like being told what to do or how to live. But somehow, when it comes to eco issues, we totally forget this and become overbearing. For some reason, it seems that most eco-activists appear to have all the answers on how everyone else should live; but flop when it comes to following their own rules. And the problem with enforcing our own eco ideals upon others in overbearing ways is that with this kind of “enforcement” we actually tend to punish those honestly making an effort. We look at the people who are actually trying and accuse them of not doing enough regardless of the fact that most of us are actually unaware of just how much would be ‘enough’. I think this was the major reason why Prince Harry got such a backlash and was labeled a hypocrite for flying with his wife and little baby.
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The truth is that most members of the eco-community are downers. Or in some cases, vicious one-one-uppers. When an organization makes a commendable step towards sustainability, a whole section of the eco-community is quick to remind everyone that the company has not done enough. The result is that people outside the community liken many environmentalists to that annoying aunt who complains about everything. Or the surly eight-year-old who throws a tantrum at every opportunity when he or she doesn’t get their way. And you know what? After some time, we tend to ignore this complaining duo because there really are better things to do with our time.
Now a lot of these “complaints” by eco-activists are justifiable because individuals, governments and organizations must be held accountable for their unfriendly environmental actions. However, it is important that while we police the public, that we police our intentions, methods and goals as well. In a lot of cases, these complaints come from a sense of entitlement stemming from the belief that if you choose to place the environment first, everyone else must do the same in the exact way that you do. And life just doesn’t work that way.
As I have pointed out in some of my essays, by mere reason of birth, my life as an average Nigerian is remarkably close to the ideal lifestyle advocated by the eco-community. It mostly comprises of vegetarian diet, preloved clothes and little or no plane rides; and many earth lovers would agree that there is nothing wrong with all these. In the same vein, I am not by mere virtue of my aspirations to own two cars automatically to be labeled an eco-hater. Most of my friends work hard to afford more plane rides, and shop more luxuriously and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this as well.
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To state otherwise would be to somehow ‘extoll’ suffering and poverty and in case you had no idea, there is absolutely nothing to be extolled in eating a cob of corn while dreaming of a platter of steak you couldn’t afford. There is nothing poetic in cramping with your young family for a long trip, alongside other passengers, in an old rickety bus not as a result of choice but because you have no car to secure the comfort of your loved ones.
In our bid to put the welfare of the environment first, we seem to be forgetting all about the welfare, the comfort and the desires of people who live in it. And this needs to change. It is vital to remember that we are saving the earth for all our sakes. It is important that we recognize that we come from various cultures and that we all have different needs. And it is very important that the eco-community employ a people-first approach to environmental issues from time to time.
Because when all is said and done, we really are saving the planet for the sake of the people who live in it, aren’t we?
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