Hypocrisy is the gap between your aspirations and your actions. Greens have high aspirations – they want to live more ethically – and they will always fall short. But the alternative to hypocrisy isn’t moral purity (no one manages that), but cynicism. Give me hypocrisy any day.” – George Monbiot
All environmentalists that I know are hypocrites, myself included. Some more, some less. I’m sure there are people who follow their ethics to 100%, I just don’t know anyone who does that when it comes to environmentalism except one remarkable green politician in Finland called Leo Stranius. At least he says he’s 100% vegan, never flies and cycles everywhere. Goals. I have just arrived in Dubai, by plane. We environmentalists know we are hypocrites every time we make an ‘non-environmetal’ choice. And if we didn’t know that we’re hypocrites already, there will be hundreds of people in line informing us about what awful hypocrites we are.
Like the guy with a 400 gram steak in front of him, telling me how unethical I am for tasting a tiny bite of my friends dish that contained meat. Or the anonymous commentator who thinks this zero-waste blogger is wrong to promote environmentally friendly sunscreens when in fact, flying is the worst part of her trip. Or all the millions of people who say Leonardo di Caprio isn’t an environmentalist because he flew in a private aircraft twice in a year.
I made an extremely hypocritical choice. I went on holiday to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with my family even though I think airplane traveling is not good. Flying by plane is something I should not do. I took the train to London because I’m really am trying to quit flying but it’s extremely tempting to do it. 7 hours direct flights for a very affordable price to see white beaches and another culture. It’s easy to make quite irrelevant justifications for myself like “but at least the flight is shorter than to Thailand, less fuel is required, no stop overs means less fuel for takeoffs too…”. But the truth is I’m going to a state that’s criticised for using slave labour, that has a very high oil consumption, a very high water consumption and promotes very much commercialism. I wanted to go out of curiosity, to see what it’s like. Dubai is very popular, and seeing many people going here made me want to go too. If I stay more true to my values than I did this time, perhaps I’ll never go again. I’m sorry if I let someone down by making this choice, I’ll try not to do it too often anymore.
The criticism does have grounds, but by calling environmentalists hypocrites you put the focus on the wrong thing. Saying “airplanes are bad for the environment” and taking an airplane OR saying “I never ever think about the environmental impact of planes” and also taking the airplane has the exact same environmental impact.The individual environmental hypocrite is in no way worse for the environment than the ignorant person. By saying “airplanes are bad” the environmentalist is at least more likely to start looking for alternatives. I’m less likely to go to Dubai or Thailand every year. I think companies who put millions of dollars on Greenwashing-marketing are the right subjects of being called hypocrites. They do it on purpose, to make money. I make hypocritical choices because of weak moments of temptation, that partly is a result of that greenwashing marketing. Like Norwegian air, which I’m flying to Dubai, saying they have the newest, least polluting fleet in the world. It´s still at least 3x more polluting than train but they don’t mention that in their marketing.
Dubai is a catastrophe environmentally. I didn’t know how much it is so, until I came here. I’m not going to regret coming here and I’m sure I’ll enjoy my time, but really this isn’t the best travel destination. It is still a massive construction site and the main thing to do is shopping. We’ll drive (yes driving is bad too) to the old town of Al Ain tomorrow because Dubai is so silly. The stupid thing is, after we booked this trip I started hearing from friends they didn’t enjoy Dubai too much either, but they didn’t say that on social media when they posted nice pictures. Please dear reader of this blog, be smarter than me: don’t come here. Don’t book a flight to Dubai, even if they are cheap.
Environmentalist are trying to change society. But sometimes we just want to wholly be part of our society. And our western societies include food wrapped in plastic or occasional very polluting airplane rides. My friends and family go for holidays, it look’s lovely, is it so hard to imagine I might want to go too, even if it’s against my ethical principles? Social media does things worse here. In the long run, we want to get rid of unenvironmental travelling but it’s a change that might take some time. Allow us to fail without judging too hard on our journey towards environmentalism.
So cheer us for the times we do choose vegetarian food, cheer us for choosing the sunscreen that doesn’t harm coral reefs and cheer us when we take the train instead of flying. Shouting “hypocrite!” just creates a negative feeling. If you feel an environmentalist could be even more environmentally friendly, share your tips with them in a friendly way! Tell them in what way life can be nice while doing something even better. Ugly words and blaming those who really try to change isn’t the best way of making society more sustainable.
Trust me, we know better than anyone how polluting airplanes are. We just think that occasionally, it’s nice to travel. Just like a smoker, knowing how unhealthy it is but still enjoying smoking. Some environmentalists have already stopped flying, other’s are still, just like that smoker, thinking that perhaps next year I’ll have more self control… Perhaps next year I won’t be as tempted to fly to a warm location for a quick getaway from the Finnish winter. We are weak sometimes and that is okay. We should love ourselves anyways.
Why don’t you join me and become a hypocritical environmentalist? Allow the changes in your life to take it’s time, maybe some of them never happen. Keep an open mind, accept that you’re a hypocrite and continue learning so that everyday you can become less of a hypocrite. I welcome you in the club of self-declared environmentalists, even if you do the smallest change.
The worlds tallest building is about the only thing I really like in central Dubai. But there are other skyscrapers in the world, go to Taipei, New York or Tokyo instead.