Monday, January 20, 2014

Killing the Messenger

Just read this article from the Calgary Herald wherein one of the editors criticized Neil Young for his energy-intensive entourage at his Calgary concert.  Here is the e-mail I sent her.  I'd be interested to hear any comments you may have - here in comments or on Facebook.

Hi Licia,

Just read your article about Neil Young and his running buses on the Calgary Herald website.  

I come across this topic all the time - people criticizing David Suzuki, Neil Young, Jim Cameron, Me (although the criticizing of me mostly comes from me) … if we all talk the talk we need to walk the walk.  Not fly anywhere, not drive unless it's absolutely necessary.  And I agree that it is definitely hypocrisy at it's finest.  But here's the problem - for someone like Neil Young or David Suzuki or Jim Cameron to be heard, they have to travel and speak to large numbers of people.  Which means getting on planes, in some cases transporting equipment and large numbers of people.  Or making movies - which sucks down tonnes of resources and produces God knows how many carbon emissions.

Now, I agree that Neil Young shouldn't have 5 motorhomes running for hours outside the Jack Singer.  And certainly private jets are a little out of the question.  But people are still going to criticize, even if David Suzuki flies coach or uses a computer to telecommute to lectures in other cities.  People will always criticize - "he's using electricity - is it solar?"

Thing is that one person's actions aren't going to make a damn bit of difference.  Whether Neil runs his buses or David Suzuki flies coach or I take a plane to go on vacation.  What's going to make a difference is legislation where the actions of everyone are changed.  And without these guys speaking to large groups, not enough of the general public are going to be educated on the issues to cause that legislation to happen.  Without David Suzuki making television programs (energy-laden, I'm sure), or Neil Young putting on a resource-sucking concert, or James Cameron making an entertaining movie, those thousands of people aren't going to listen.

So do we criticize everyone who is trying to make a difference and undermine their message to give anti-environmentalists more grist for the mill, or do we highlight their message?

It's a hard call to make, but I don't see where criticizing them is going to help a whole lot.  I do understand it, and I think it, too (even of myself) … but it seems self-defeating.

Sandi Ratch, M.A.

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