The sustainability narrative is a conflicting one to its core, hypocrisy as sport shouldn’t take anything away from people trying to do the right thing
I’ll admit it. I used to thrive on calling people out on any scrap of hypocrisy around not eating meat. I would be the person gagging to point out the little things. ‘Oi, that’s a delicious plate of kale, better not take a picture of it with your analogue camera, all film contains gelatin you know.’ Or ‘you believe in animal rights eh, what was that sugar substitute you were reverse sneezing through a bank note in the bathroom?’
You only need to look up to see hypocrisy on a bigger scale. Climate change warning Al Gore? Better stop knocking around in that private jet, mate. Leaders are too easy.
Obama? How long have you got? Religion? Let he has not sinned cast the first stone (inside the glass house). All of this is nothing new of course, since man’s first grunt he was probably pushing the importance of berries before sneaking off for a spot of mammoth bashing.
That said, hypocrisy hurts more with a cause attached to it. When somebody tells you they’re trying to do something that breaches the status quo in aid of a larger issue for a moral or ethical reason, there’s charged emotion attached to that. To see them contradicting that results in an inevitably charged response. You shouldn’t make a sport out of it, but it’s tough to take. You question them and you question the message.
Calling out hypocrisy is troublesome though. Although important, it can become addictive and counterproductive. The classic example is the smoking one. If a teacher tells a kid not to smoke because it’s bad for their health and then burns through a pack outside in the school car park by themselves, they’re a hypocrite. That doesn’t however mean that the kid should question the link between smoking and cancer. If anything, it shows despite the likeliness of cancer, the teacher is so addicted, they can’t quit the habit.
There’s examples throughout this very magazine. Wearing clothes and eating food have a negative effect on the environment. So do drinking drinks and watching films. There’s people trying to limit this negative effect, but they are by no means perfect people. Their own lives will contradict their work and their causes, whilst their causes will inevitably contradict other causes in different areas. That doesn’t take away from the reality of their message.
An awareness of hypocrisy is vital, but we shouldn’t thrive on calling people out when they are trying to do right. All of this is especially important in the arena of sustainability. Whether you’re the stereotype of a hardcore Tory or a Corbyn-loving left winger, unless you’re a packet of silicon gel, you’re going to need water. Preferably clean and from a sustainable source. Even rich contrary people need water and when hotter temperatures start drying it all out, is Al Gore’s private jet really going to be your biggest concern?
Needless energy channeled into hypocrisy hunting could be spent more productively. Although he’s spoken extensively about sustainability issues since, I was surprised to see food critic Jay Rayner respond to the original G9 chef’s manifesto with a load of sassy ‘who do they think they are?’ in response to their Lima conference. Not that he used it, but let’s please retire the ‘did you swim to that [insert positive message related event abroad?]’ rhetoric, it’s boring.
If you’re not going to raise your head above the parapet, don’t spend your time picking holes in other people’s attempts at sustainability. Everyone can do more and if doing more leads you into an ever more hypocrisy-addled battlefield where people thrive on an impossible all-encompassing perfection, then so be it. There’s nothing sustainable about cutting down those who are trying to do better. DB
Words by Davey BRETT