Snore not taken

Zzz … so bored.

Zzz … so bored.

While climate-change skeptics drive across country with Sarah Palin, eating cold weenies and beans with plastic forks and shooting at circling birds out of their pickup windows—“Why, honey, yeah, I kin drive with m’one hand and shoot with th’other, so long as yew work d’gearshift”—perhaps the rest of us can circle up and address a question that’s bothered Auntie Ruth for many years: Why is environmentalism so frackin’ boring?

In these times of short attention spans and gigabyte-big distractions, with the planet headed to hell in a bike trailer, environmentalism remains a narrative with few story lines, all of them familiar: a) It’s all going to hell faster than you think; b) It’s going to hell and here’s the science that explains it; c) Here is a brave family (or legislator) in _____ doing _____ to save the planet; d) It wouldn’t be going to hell if you did with less; f) It wouldn’t be going to hell if people in China and India would do with less.

With too few story lines to capture the popular imagination—an imagination for which competition is high—Yer Auntie worries about what’s the next watershed for environmental good. At least Al Gore had a forklift.

How could the decline of an entire planet ever be boring? What numbs us to our own decline? Maybe it’s environmental film festivals. Take the Environmental Film Festival, which concluded recently in Washington, D.C.: in its 18th year, 155 films over 12 days, with movies called Dirt! The Movie, Garbage Dreams, Indigenous Plant Diva, Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience and So Right So Smart. While Aunt Ruth will applaud good-hearted efforts—she’s a sap for them, really—the thought occurs: Never has singing to the choir had so few notes.

Environmentalism is basically the same story over and over. As in early debates of abortion or the death penalty, the basic parameters of the environmental discussion are being set, and sides are being taken. They will, Aunt Ruth imagines, become increasingly intractable positions (as with abortion). And while environmental film festivals—the output of our creatives—can help juice the batteries of the activist few, the environmental movement clearly begins with small personal changes made in individual lives—millions of individual lives. What is the small change to be made that you think could catch the world on fire? Join Ruth on Facebook; let’s bat it around a bit.