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The Reluctant Environmentalist

Monica Wilcox's picture

Monica Wilcox-The Reluctant Environmentalist

Sometimes, I could swear, the earth speaks.

I was at my daughter’s swim meet timing with another mom when her 9-year-old daughter joined us. We had timed a few events when the girl started shrieking; there was a bee on the diving block before us. It landed on the wet cement…buzz…rest…buzz…rest. The daughter grew increasingly upset.

I can totally relate to bugaphobia. As a child I was terrified of anything possessing an exoskeleton. I couldn’t touch an insect book. My parents never called in an exterminator because my brother and I were doing a fine job all by ourselves. For many summers our top pursuit was to rid our backyard of every grasshopper and we went about this task with gory enthusiasm. If we weren’t drowning them in a bucket, or throwing them high into the air to smash on the pavement, then we were cutting them in half with the garden clippers. Mother Nature forgive me! The fact that grasshoppers continued to exist in southern Cheyenne is a testament to the reproductive power of the insect population.

Eventually my childish fears were slowly replaced with a respect for the place “bugs” hold on our planet. What it took to accomplish this was age and a flip in perspective.

Or Not

“There’s nothing to worry about,” I told the girl. “The bee doesn’t want you, just a drink of water.” Even though Bee never came within a foot of us, the poor child couldn’t take it and fled.

Her mother stood, waited patiently for Bee to land on the cement again, raising her black Van, stopping my wee heart. I wanted to yell “Nooo!” as if she were about to run over a small child, as if a terrible crime was about to be committed before me and I was going to sit silently playing the role of frozen witness.

SQUISH. SQUASH. It’s always got to be twice.

“Sorry, but it troubled her,” said the mother, taking her seat. Her daughter never returned.

A deep sorrow washed over me, much deeper than was appropriate for the situation. A clarity came to me as clear as the blue California sky above. That’s when, I could have sworn, the earth spoke over the noise of coach whistles, the cheers and splashing arms. It whispered, a slight breeze in my ear, only not with words but in a language of history: diverse grasslands, thick oceans, expansive wild lands …cleared trees, slaughtered wolves, gloppy oil, and dwindling fish. If the Earth possessed a human face it did not come to me as a lovely, young woman with sky for eyes and flowered branches for hair. No, this was a weary, middle aged face; tired of always being second, an afterthought, ours to use.

That Makes Two of Us

That overwhelming weariness resonated within me. I’m really tired of witnessing our desires win out over the needs of this planet. We’ve got 7 billion people on this planet. That’s 7 billion people making environmental choices every day. And it doesn’t take all of us to create a long term effect. It can be one man dumping his trash into a river in India, or a little girl spraying gasoline on a field of grasshoppers in Wyoming.

I’m tired of the environment being a debate. I’m tired of “solar is expensive” and hydrogen fueled cars are a “concept”. I’m tired of companies marketing “disposable” and not “reusable”. What I’m really tired of is “green” always being the more difficult, time consuming, pricey alternative.

Maybe we can’t agree on the science. Maybe we can’t reach a conclusion on what we are or are not doing to the globe, but have we come to a place where we can agree that ONE demanding the majority of THE ALL is never balance? Can we agree that it is not possible to sustain 7 billion people (heading for 10) at this level?

The Reluctant Environmentalist

Okay Monica, are you really asking this mother to stop stomping on bees?

Well, yes. Because what I’d like to see is all 7 billion of us consciously putting Mother Nature above ONE of our own desires. I’m asking Anita to give up her bleach wipes for a washcloth, for Bob to sort the plastic from his trash, for Brittany to bring her own cup to Starbucks. I’m asking, if you have never put the environment above your own comfort and needs to start doing so. Yes, it’s going to be a “trouble” for you and your children. You don’t have to do it joyfully. Feel free to groan and moan and personally bitch me out while you go about it. I’m asking you to become a member of the Reluctant Environmentalist Movement.

Try it and I will promise you this: your reluctance will flip. Suddenly you’ll be able to hold a grasshopper book and discover that grasshoppers don’t have ears but can hear through an organ called a tympanum in their belly. Next thing you know you’re not freaking out when those scratchy legs land on you. And before you know it you won’t even “see” them anymore; they’ll start to magically blend in with the rest of the wild wonderful world, doing whatever it is grasshoppers do.

All it takes is a flip in perspective.

Is there something you are tired of with the environmental issue? Do you feel as if you are a reluctant environmentalist?  If so, join the movement on Twitter @ReluctantGreeny.  


Sarah Mac's picture

A while ago I became

A while ago I became vegetarian mainly because it significantly reduces my environmental footprint but sometimes especially when I'm having a larger get together I just want to go back to the days when I could just go to the store and grab some hot dogs and hamburgers. Recently I was throwing a party at my moms house and she got pretty annoyed that I wanted to find other tastey options besides these staples. Sometimes I think for me the hardest thing is dealing with this kick back from people, espeically those close to me, even though I try to never tell others what they "should" be doing or to pass judgement, but it always makes me feel like I'm too demanding and judgemental and not worth listening to. But I agree, I love the approach of empowerment, that we really can make the environment first with small steps and although its uncomfortable we will be ok and can feel really good about it. Sometimes I think I do take steps backward because of the resistance of the people around me and my own desire to just be normal haha but this article inspires me to keep going and that I'm not a judgmental idealist for caring for, as in your example, a single bee.

Monica Wilcox's picture

I can relate

I know exactly what you're talking about, Sarah. When I go to my in-laws and they pull out styrofoam plates for every meal for all 17 people, I cringe. They live in the boonies and so they still burn all their trash and do no recycling. It's really hard to see them making these daily choices that are so hard on our environment and keep quiet.

So proud of you for becoming vegetarian. Lowering our consumption of beef alone is a HUGE step. Keep living green, girl.



Monica Wilcox's picture


You've made my day, girl! And it sounds like you've been reluctantly green for years. Keep taking one more green step, one more green step, and you'll end up walking a very long green life.

One of the things I hate the most about the environmental establishment is the amount of guilt and disempowerment they tend to lay on the population. It strikes me that the best way to take on any issue is in a positive, empowering light. That's where true motivation can be found.

Thanks for the feedback!! May you find sunshine on your face and a smile in your heart!


Bethany's picture

Okay then!

I'm sold! I've been a reluctant environmentalist for years although I've never named it such and the moniker makes me giggle. I will, however, spend more time making green choices (grumbling the whole time I'm sure) in this year of 2012. I already Freecycle, pick up trash on my daily walk and recycle my plastics but there is probably a LOT more this one person could do. Thank you for this humorous post that didn't make me feel guilty but instead, left me giggling and inspired. :)

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