The Reluctant Environmentalist

By Monica Wilcox

Sometimes, I could swear, the earth speaks.

I was at my daughter’s swim meet timing with another mom when her 9-year-old daughter joined us. We had timed a few events when the girl started shrieking; there was a bee on the diving block before us. It landed on the wet cement…buzz…rest…buzz…rest. The daughter grew increasingly upset.

I can totally relate to bugaphobia. As a child I was terrified of anything possessing an exoskeleton. I couldn’t touch an insect book. My parents never called in an exterminator because my brother and I were doing a fine job all by ourselves. For many summers our top pursuit was to rid our backyard of every grasshopper and we went about this task with gory enthusiasm. If we weren’t drowning them in a bucket, or throwing them high into the air to smash on the pavement, then we were cutting them in half with the garden clippers. Mother Nature forgive me! The fact that grasshoppers continued to exist in southern Cheyenne is a testament to the reproductive power of the insect population.

Eventually my childish fears were slowly replaced with a respect for the place “bugs” hold on our planet. What it took to accomplish this was age and a flip in perspective.

Or Not

“There’s nothing to worry about,” I told the girl. “The bee doesn’t want you, just a drink of water.” Even though Bee never came within a foot of us, the poor child couldn’t take it and fled.

Her mother stood, waited patiently for Bee to land on the cement again, raising her black Van, stopping my wee heart. I wanted to yell “Nooo!” as if she were about to run over a small child, as if a terrible crime was about to be committed before me and I was going to sit silently playing the role of frozen witness.

SQUISH. SQUASH. It’s always got to be twice.

“Sorry, but it troubled her,” said the mother, taking her seat. Her daughter never returned.

A deep sorrow washed over me, much deeper than was appropriate for the situation. A clarity came to me as clear as the blue California sky above. That’s when, I could have sworn, the earth spoke over the noise of coach whistles, the cheers and splashing arms. It whispered, a slight breeze in my ear, only not with words but in a language of history: diverse grasslands, thick oceans, expansive wild lands …cleared trees, slaughtered wolves, gloppy oil, and dwindling fish. If the Earth possessed a human face it did not come to me as a lovely, young woman with sky for eyes and flowered branches for hair. No, this was a weary, middle aged face; tired of always being second, an afterthought, ours to use.

That Makes Two of Us

That overwhelming weariness resonated within me. I’m really tired of witnessing our desires win out over the needs of this planet. We’ve got 7 billion people on this planet. That’s 7 billion people making environmental choices every day. And it doesn’t take all of us to create a long term effect. It can be one man dumping his trash into a river in India, or a little girl spraying gasoline on a field of grasshoppers in Wyoming.

I’m tired of the environment being a debate. I’m tired of “solar is expensive” and hydrogen fueled cars are a “concept.” I’m tired of companies marketing “disposable” and not “reusable.” What I’m really tired of is “green” always being the more difficult, time consuming, pricey alternative.

Maybe we can’t agree on the science. Maybe we can’t reach a conclusion on what we are or are not doing to the globe, but have we come to a place where we can agree that ONE demanding the majority of THE ALL is never balance? Can we agree that it is not possible to sustain 7 billion people (heading for 10) at this level?

The Reluctant Environmentalist

Okay Monica, are you really asking this mother to stop stomping on bees?

Well, yes. Because what I’d like to see is all 7 billion of us consciously putting Mother Nature above ONE of our own desires. I’m asking Anita to give up her bleach wipes for a washcloth, for Bob to sort the plastic from his trash, for Brittany to bring her own cup to Starbucks. I’m asking, if you have never put the environment above your own comfort and needs to start doing so. Yes, it’s going to be a “trouble” for you and your children. You don’t have to do it joyfully. Feel free to groan and moan and personally bitch me out while you go about it. I’m asking you to become a member of the Reluctant Environmentalist Movement.

Try it and I will promise you this: your reluctance will flip. Suddenly you’ll be able to hold a grasshopper book and discover that grasshoppers don’t have ears but can hear through an organ called a tympanum in their belly. Next thing you know you’re not freaking out when those scratchy legs land on you. And before you know it you won’t even “see” them anymore; they’ll start to magically blend in with the rest of the wild wonderful world, doing whatever it is grasshoppers do.

All it takes is a flip in perspective.

Is there something you are tired of with the environmental issue? Do you feel as if you are a reluctant environmentalist?  If so, join the movement on Twitter @ReluctantGreeny.

Monica Wilcox


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

Check out link

Mother Nature Needs Us

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe6 years ago

My sons think I am crazy because I want to recycle almost everything. One asked me why, and I told him I was doing it for his sons kids. He never asked again.

Elsa O.
Elsa O6 years ago

earth needs more people like you!

Pepper Hume
Pepper Hume6 years ago

AT LAST!! A voice of reason! You said what I've been saying, so of course you are brilliant. But, really, those of us who care will do what we can and hope others will catch on, too.

Lauren Tebo
Lauren Tebo6 years ago

Very interesting, thank you for sharing. I think everyone should do what they can for the environment, it's just the matter of discipline of a simple task, if people took the time and used reusable bags, made their own cleaning products, took shorter showers, buy second hand stuff as much as possible then they would see how much they impact the world.

Susan S.
Paul Stephan6 years ago

OH, YES! We do have such a long way to go--but let's at least make a start. There are things I struggle with every day like balancing trips to see aging parents against what it does to the environment--so I try to do what I can--buy local food, use only reusables whenever possible, etc. It's such a balancing act--but a necessary one--reluctant or not.

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

Those words "I'm really tired of witnessing our desires win out over the needs of this planet", echo what I feel so often. It's beginning to be more and more difficult to go into stores and see what we're selling our spiritual lives for, not to mention our physical well-being. Very disheartening.
Thank you for the eloquent plea. I hope it does not fall on deaf ears.

Dominique G.
Dominique G.6 years ago

Try eating less meat, please!!!
UN report Livestock's Long Shadow:

Lauryn Slotnick
Lauryn S6 years ago

Chad A., yes, spiders eat the "bad bugs!" There's a kids book called "be nice to spiders." When I find them inside, I trap them in a cup, slide a stiff paper underneath to cover the top, and bring them outside.