Some strains of environmentalism seem a little too much like fads, rife with inconsistency and hypocrisy. In “Greener Than Thou,” from the July issue of Boston magazine, Joe Keohane sets his crosshairs on his city’s sillier green initiatives and the smug satisfaction accompanying them. It’s a piece worth reading not just for his commenary on Boston’s environmental concerns, but for the wry manner in which he roasts his self-righteous subjects.
The tone is playful at first: Keohane gets off some irreverent shots at the culture surrounding an all-raw vegan restaurant—“all around me people talked earnestly about what they were eating, save for a troika of lesbians who talked about lesbianism for a while”—and pokes fun at the mayor’s repurposing of the city’s nickname, from Beantown to Greentown.
But Keohane also makes a good point about the guilt trips and competition that can infect green initiatives, with people striving to outdo each other’s ostentatious displays of eco-consciousness, then chastising those who fall short. “This is a city widely known (and reviled) for possessing an unapologetically liberal worldview generously varnished with moral vanity, so it stands to reason that an issue like this—which hits on politics, the environment, and social justice, and allows us to brag—would be like catnip here.”
Keohane also draws a clever analogy between the Puritans and this wave of environmental zealots hectoring their fellow citizens into Total Green Compliance. Faced with such a shrill brand of environmentalism, it’s tempting to throw one’s hands up in defeat and toss that recyclable bottle into the trash. Which brings us to Keohane’s final words of advice: “Do what’s right, go green to the fullest, sure, but at least try to avoid doing it in a way that makes people hate you and, out of sheer spite, do the opposite of what you do.”