I used the term supermarket vigilante in my inaugural post, Green, in which I admitted to harbouring intolerant thoughts about my fellow shoppers, and having to bite my tongue lest I scold someone for their reckless environmental faux pas (such as — gasp! — bagging single items of produce), but I have to start this post by saying I’m quite certain Supermarket Vigilante is the wrong title.
In the first place, I’m not really going to be talking about supermarkets per se.
And in the second place, since writing my first post, I’ve taken the time to look up the word vigilante.
(Note to self: don’t presume to know the meaning of words. Maybe from now on — just to be on the safe side — look up anything over eight letters).
According to merriam-webster.com a vigilante is a person who takes the law into their own hands to “suppress and punish crime summarily”, usually due to ineffective governmental authority.
So yes, ahem … a person who professes to be teetering on the edge of becoming a supermarket vigilante is suddenly sounding a whole heckuva lot more, um … strident … than someone who is simply being vigilant or is practicing vigilance. After all, environmental faux pas aside, it’s not *actually* against the law to bag a single produce item, is it?
But if vigilante isn’t the right word, then what word(s) would convey what I’m teetering on the edge of?
Let’s see …
Busybody comes to mind.
And I’d be remiss if I left out insufferable haranguer.
(Can you see why I chose to leave vigilante in place in the title of this post?)
(Note to self: upon pain of death, do not use the word anyhoo ever. again.)
Moving right along … I’m sure most of you will recognize the message in the above World War II public service poster. This particular one is American, but exhortative messages, as seen in these war posters, were common around the world, as governments everywhere urged citizens to do their part for the war effort, to think about their actions, large and small, and consider the ripple effects those actions could have.
Plant a garden! people were told. Don’t waste food! Reuse and recycle! Conserve! Do without! Don’t hoard! Car pool! (because if you don’t, you are, in essence, riding with HITLER!).
Looking back on all this makes me wonder: was it possible to get everyone or nearly everyone on board with all of that? Is it ever possible to get 100% participation in choices that can be seen as infringing on a person’s freedom or lifestyle? And if it wasn’t possible, what was it like during the war years for people who chose, for one reason or another, not to get with the program?
Were they chastised, gently or otherwise, and told to step it up a notch? Did the polite societal norm of mind-your-own-business get put on the back burner for the sake of societal good?
So here’s what I’ve been wondering: can we draw an analogy between war and global warming? Do both represent a clear-and-present danger in which life-as-we-know-it is something we need to actively work to protect? And if so, are we to the point in the climate crisis where the bare-minimum, easy-to-do, no-brainer behaviours should simply be expected? Have there been enough governmental advisories (on recycling and saving energy and water, for example), and has climate change been in the news often enough such that we should all simply be expected to know and to act accordingly?
And by extension, if people are not connecting the dots between their actions and the massive problems we face, should those of us who are
inches from panic working extremely hard to keep calm and carry on deeply worried purposefully set out to have some serious conversations with oblivious insouciant happy-go-lucky devil-may-care friends, family, and neighbours, as well as random strangers we encounter in our day-to-day lives?
Should I be talking to my neighbour about the fact that their air conditioner runs all. day. long. even when the house is completely empty? Can I gently point out that their three children’s right to live on a less-than-completely-crippled Earth far outweighs their desire to come home from their eight-hour workday to an already-cold house?
Is it okay to ask my friend why she doesn’t use a refillable water bottle when she goes biking? Can I share some of these disturbing facts about bottled water and assure her it’s really not that hard to use a refillable bottle?
Can I pull the kindergarten teacher aside, and tell her that I have never — not once! — gone into school (and goodness knows I’ve been there a lot over the past four years!) and seen her without her morning’s (disposable) cup of Tim Horton’s coffee? Can I do the math for her and tell her that 4 years X 194 school days = 776 cups that she alone has garbaged? (And that that doesn’t even include her afternoon coffees, which I’ve had numerous occasions to observe, as well as the fact that this is only counting the four years I’ve been watching? (in a *totally* non-stalkerish manner 😉 )).
Just so it’s clear: I’m not looking for a free pass to start haranguing everyone I deem to be committing an environmental crime. Truthfully, I’m not even sure if the consensus is, Yes, we who are deeply concerned should all go forth and become environmental vigilantes (minus the arresting part, obviously, but yes, conveniently ignoring the fact that disposable cups, bottled water, and the act of wasting electricity are not illegal items or activities), that I would be able to do so. I’m usually quiet and polite, I rarely speak unless provoked or impassioned, and even then, I often trip over my words and embarrass myself.
But for the sake of our precarious planet, is it worth a try? Should gumption be gathered up and polite mind-your-own-business be tossed out the window? Can a geekish (and politely delivered) conveyance of facts and figures, numbers and scope, have any hope of swaying someone’s lifestyle? Can it counteract a head-in-the-sand or hmmmmm, I can’t hear you! mentality? Is the problem that people don’t know the numbers, or that they know the numbers but simply don’t care? Or is this simply a too-little too-late slippery slope to a busybody society in which neighbours slam doors, friends no longer pick up the phone, teachers duck into classrooms when they espy you coming down the hall, and supermarket managers whisk you aside and tell you to stop bothering the other customers?