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What Do Greens and Mothers Have in Common?

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJune 6, 2011 9:18 PM


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It drives my mother crazy that I won't take a multi-vitamin. The woman raised me on a steady diet of Ring Dings and Yoo-hoos and now she knows what's best for my health. I get the mantra every time she visits: "You're run-down, you don't get enough sleep, you need to take a multi-vitamin." "Yeah, okay," I always say in my least dismissive tone. Mother Kloor will then turn to Mrs. Scape: "He never listens to me." Mrs. Scape, sympathetic to the no-listening part, shrugs. The funny thing is, I know my mother is right. After all, what's the harm in taking one multi-vitamin day, on the slim chance I'm not getting enough nutrients from my daily intake of Lucky Charms and Chip Ahoys? Sometimes I waver. But then she starts with the guilt trip: "Do you want to be around to see those two beautiful boys grow up?" That's the deal-breaker. When she plays that orphan card about my kids, I reach for the Oreos just to spite her. I've always wondered if, on a larger level, society rejects similar well-intentioned nagging from environmentalists. An energy company CEO, discussing Americans' reluctance to grapple with climate change concerns, gives voice to my theory:

The problem is a lot of global warming messages come off as authoritarian. "You must reduce your carbon footprint. You must recycle. You must use less energy!" The commanding tone of environmental advocates is certainly understandable. Climate change is a critical issue and there is an urgent need to address the problem. We're trying to save the planet and we want people to move "“ Now! There's simply no time for subtle discourse. This intensity can backfire in the US, however. Americans aren't going to change their behavior just because someone tells them to. Tell an American he has to stop using so much electricity, and he's likely to start using more. Tell an American she has to conserve water, and she may start taking longer showers. It's not that we're contrary; we just don't like being pushed around.

So that's really it, in a nutshell. Nagging is counterproductive. Mothers will never learn. Will greens?

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