Why Environmentalists Make Me Cuss

Greens need to tell more stories, not pass more laws


| January-February 2000



I live near a small town, about 300 people. In that town is a café that has one good-sized, well-lit dining room. Around the edges are tables for two and four with silk flowers in vases or seasonal holiday decorations. And right in the middle of that room is a big long table, long enough that it needs three of those little racks that hold the napkins and the ketchup and the salt and pepper. There are never any flowers on it.

When you walk into this room for the first time, something tells you that there is a politics attached to this table. Less clear even to locals is what the actual rules are as far as who sits there and who doesn’t. But at the very least, people know that it is possible to be unwelcome at this table and that being either unwelcome or welcome is something that gets earned.

A common trait of those who sit at this table is that they have been unable to discover any redeeming qualities in what we like to call the “goddamn environmentalists.” You almost never hear just “environmentalist.” It’s always “goddamn environmentalists” or sometimes “motherfucking environmentalists” or even “goddamn motherfucking environmental hippie sons of bitches.” The café’s owner has a cuss bucket she puts on the table every time talk turns to environmentalism. She claims that, at 25 cents a word, she can buy a week’s cigarettes with a morning’s proceeds.

Myself, I’m kind of an odd bird in that I happen to agree with environmentalists that the planet is getting screwed as a result of our collective obsession with greed and convenience. I speak up as often as I can without wearing out my welcome at the table, but I should also say that I think my neighbors are entitled to the hostility they feel toward environmentalists. In fact, I would probably have to say that I feel pretty much the same degree of hostility. Increasingly, I’m having a lot of trouble saying “environmentalist” without putting “goddamn” in front of it.

“Hey, Mike, how the hell you been?” says Alden. Alden is 90 years old and about as much a part of the decor of that café as the pie case and the milkshake machine. When I walked in he had just torn too much off the side of his packet of Sweet’n Low and was trying to spill at least most of it into his cup of coffee.

“Oh, all right I guess. It’s slicker than snot out there this morning.”