Monday, October 15, 2007

How to Start the Conversation

It was over at No Impact Man, where I often contribute my MomVoice to the discussion. They were talking about the following scene:
When my friend Elizabeth drops her son off at school in Connecticut, the moms gather in the courtyard to chat. There is a cool new feature to their SUVs which allows them to lock the doors while leaving the engine on. They stand around, a bunch of them, having a nice chat, while their motors idle in the parking lot, keeping air conditioners going in cars that have no one in them and are going nowhere.
I volunteered that I am not the sort of person who could observe such a scene without commenting on it. Furthermore, I would welcome the chance to make that sort of comment at school, in front of my kids, because:
when the conversation takes place at school, I'm giving my kids a "responsible adult" role model. The other moms may not realize it for a long time, but everybody benefits when there are kids in the group who can say "Wait! This isn't right! Let's do something smarter!"
I was surprised when another poster said that she didn't have the guts to initiate such a conversation, and wondered how it was done.

I thought about this all day yesterday, as I did outdoor chores in the (finally) fall weather. I realized that I have, over the years, developed a technique for initiating these conversations. Here it is:

Sibylle, my script for starting these conversations goes something like:
I used to.....(fill in the offending behavior), but then I realized .....(fill in the new information or better practice.)

"I've been drinking out of these one-way plastic bottles for years, but lately I've read about how bad they are for the environment and how the water in the bottle isn't any better. I guess I might as well just drink tap water."
I used to let my car idle to keep in comfortable inside, but when I read that the carbon dioxide coming out of my tailpipe is going to warm the earth for the next fifty years, well that puts everything into perspective. I guess I can just crack the windows and let it breathe a little.
You don't have to get anyone to agree with you on the spot, just plant the seed. You don't attack anybody, just give them the information they need to make a better decision. And it is about information! Even veteran environmentalists are having to rethink their ways in the new light of global warming. I recently said this to one of my farmer friends:
I used to think I would end up being cremated when I die to "save space for the living" and all that, but now I realize that this body has already sequestered a certain amount of carbon, and why would I want to put it all back up into the atmosphere? I hope my kids can figure out how to compost me....

I didn't realize it until I read Effect Measure, but today is Blog Action Day for the environment, when bloggers are encouraged to write a post about environmental action. I think that having conversations in everyday life are much more important, and educational, than spewing words out into cyberspace. There is simply no subsitute for speaking up!

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