My writing professor walked into the classroom, set his paper Allan Brothers coffee cup on his desk, and hung his leather messenger bag over the back of his chair. His eyes swept around the circle of our desks, and came to rest on me. Looking both bewildered and bemused, he said, “can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I said.
“How does that work, you bringing a mug to class?”
I looked at the ceramic mug of tea on my desk. “Well,” I said, “instead of paying for a hot beverage I just bring a mug and some tea to school, and get hot water for free from the hot water dispensers.”
“And you just…carry it around in your backpack?” he asked, even more bewildered.
“Yeah…” I said. I mean, it was a mug, not a live manatee or a sewing machine. Mugs fit into backpacks.
He shook his head, laughing a bit, out of words. My classmates looked equally confused. “doesn’t it, like, break?” one of them wanted to know.
“They’re pretty sturdy,” I said. “And besides, you can buy another mug for 25 cents at a thrift store.”
“I’d be afraid of breaking it,” my classmate muttered. And then my professor took a swig from his paper coffee cup and we got on with the lesson of the day.
Still, the incident buzzed around in my brain.
Most of my professors make an attempt to hide their political affiliation, but this particular professor was pretty bad at it. “I don’t know who you’re voting for,” he’d say, “but I really hope I know who you’re voting for, based on the options we have.” He’d begin class with a cynically amused dissection of the latest terrible thing Trump had said, and when Trump won he was visibly shaken.
He never mentioned climate change specifically, but it’s fairly reasonable to assume, based on his obvious partisanship, that he believed climate change to be a real, human caused, threat.
So why, I mean really, WHY would he bring a new disposable coffee cup to class every single day, and look with bewilderment at the girl who used a mug?
Democrats and Republicans, I’ve decided, are like two people who passionately argue about whether a bridge is structurally sound, and then both proceed to cross it anyway, because going downstream to the next bridge is too much bother.
My campus is full of people who embrace liberal ideas but refuse to live their life any differently if it’s the slightest bit inconvenient. Their virtue lies in KNOWING the right thing, not in DOING the right thing. Granted, some people live very consistently with their values, and I respect that a lot. But SO many share “I’m right you’re wrong” climate change infographics on Facebook, but find carrying a mug in their backpack to cut down on waste to be too much bother. They may hope that governments and corporations make climate-friendly policy changes, but governments and corporations are made up of people. If none of those people are willing to go to a little inconvenience to live a sustainable life, why on earth would the corporations and governments be interested in doing so?
Me, I refuse to participate in your politicized climate change debate. I will try to live as sustainably as I can because honestly, I think consumerism is a form of gluttony, and I don’t want to be part of that system.
But don’t tell me that the system is killing us and then refuse to change your behavior, as though the mere fact that you know and I don’t will absolve you of guilt.
April Blogging Challenge day 6, written by Jenny.
April Blogging Challenge day 5, written by Mom.