Environmentalist – the professional of the bad news?

Here I am, during the Earth Hour of November 24, 2012, by candlelight, writing this text that the energy absorbed by the battery of the computer allows me to write. Living in a city that is far from being considered sustainable-Columbus-Ohio, I have researched about the environmental movement, or rather saying about the people who promote this movement. And the question that I ask myself and now share with you is: "are the environmentalists the professionals who always bring the bad news?".

Consider, for example, the case of water to illustrate what I'm trying to say. Here in the U.S. (and some other countries too) people can drink water straight from the tap. According to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, 90% of the systems providing water are safe. This means that 90% of American households, or about 280 million people living in this country has good, brackish, and practically free water running out from their taps.

However, about 30 years ago, when industries such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo realized the Perrier water (the first bottled water sold in the U.S.) success, the decrease on soft drinks sales, and the subtle tendency of consumers to adopt healthier habits, they decided that they should also invest in this product, which does not benefit from any patent for its use: the water.

Considering that the trend was already there, the consumers were already looking for alternatives to get healthier products, the task of selling water was definitely not the most difficult the market has ever faced. I mean, imagine if you were an advertiser now, what are the words that come to your mind to talk about water? This way all of a sudden the commercials were full of phrases like " Nothing but pure refreshment ", " Approved by your body as a source of youth," " Make your body happy. Drink more water. ", among others. Unlike the shameful slogans that Coca-Cola had used until then as "Live on the Coke Side of Life" and "Life Begins Here," the slogans meant to sell water would at least, make sense. After all, finally such companies had a healthy product to sell.

Many artists, concerned with the high rates of obesity, engaged in promoting campaign "Drink more water," confident that with this not only they would enrich and help companies get richer, but also, believed they were frankly educating consumers about the role of water to maintain our health.

It didn’t take very long and everybody had a plastic bottle, I mean a dozen of them. Everyone was happy: companies, which besides having exorbitant profits were also selling a product that is worth mentioning here, is basically regulated by their own regulations; advertisers were happy with their successful campaigns, artists were making money through a good cause, and the consumers now had a healthy and handy product to purchase. Guess who were the ones not happy with the bottled water?

Exactly, the environmentalists or the "tree huggers" as some insist to say.

In this case, they were the first to realize that the rivers were getting polluted due to disposal of plastic bottles, and that those bottles, particularly the PET bottles, have high levels of toxic compounds that cause cancer. It was also the environmentalists who were stunned when the mayor of Atlanta, during the water crisis in the region, asked people to pray for rain. Wouldn’t investing in a water policy management be more effective than praying for it to fall from the sky?

It was the environmentalists who saw the bottle of water as a great example to analyze human behavior in our society: we want everything customized, personalized, only for us. We don’t even want to do the dishes. We simply want to throw things out and end the problem. We also want things to be immediately available and convenient for us. Only by flollowing these rules something can be part of our routine. But is it possible that 7 billion people have these same requirements?

What skills should an environmentalist have to expose the environmental problems that certain activities cause? And although there are earnings, employment generation and consequently improved quality of life brought by these new activities, there are also a number of other challenges to make these activities sustainable on the long term.

It lacks the environmentalists to recognize that they are the ones who usually bring the "bad news", things that nobody likes to know. Many would disagree with me and say that environmentalists are actually dreamers, hippies without the slightest perception of reality.

Well, this is an impossible discussion unless one day "reality" means the same for everyone. If on one hand reality is that we live in a capitalist system, and people need access to jobs to pay for their health care, education, nutrition, welfare etc.. On the other hand, it is also true that for these people to survive they need clean water, clean air, productive soils, etc.. And from what I understand one reality can no longer ignore the other.

It's fact: the environmentalists do not always say what people want to hear, but to be called a tree hugger is certainly not a positive thing for the cause the environmentalists advocate. It is part of the environmentalist job to expose mature ideas and to observe their attitudes. Only this way they will be, over time, taken seriously.


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