Up For Debate: Environmental Responsibility

April 8th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Has the green movement gone too far?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project


There’s a new sin in town.

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, philosophy professor Stephen A. Asma believes that eco-judgmentalism — Too long in the shower! Not enough sustainable shopping bags! — is getting out of hand.

While brushing his teeth recently, Asma recounted, his six-year-old son “scolded me for running the water too long. He severely reprimanded me, and at the end of his censure asked me, with real outrage, ‘Don’t you love the earth?’”

As Asma sees it, green guilt has reached biblical proportions. “Instead of religious sins plaguing our conscience, we now have the transgressions of leaving the water running, leaving the lights on, failing to recycle, and using plastic grocery bags instead of paper,” he says. His “New heresies” also include “failure to compost, or refusal to go organic.”

None of this is to diminish the need for environmentalism, says Asma. “But we have a tendency to become neurotic and overly anxious, especially when we are regularly told, via marketing ploys, that each one of us is responsible for the survival of the planet. That’s a heavy guilt trip.”

Tell us what you think: Is there too much emphasis on environmental responsibility?