The Proselytizer's Dilemma
So I'm back from my Labor Day travels, which saw the family throw the bikes in the old jalopy and head off for a long weekend at the home of a close Relative in upstate New York.
We arrive at 5:00 pm, just as our Relative is departing to pick up his commuting wife from the train station. We say hello, then farewell, and settle in awhile. So far so good. But about fifteen minutes later, I notice that virtually every single light in the house is on. Since we're unwinding in the kitchen and don't need much more than its overhead light, I travel dutifully around the house shutting everything else off.
When the Relative returns home, he turns each light back on and comments on my having disengaged them all. Well, yeah, I say. You know...climate crisis. Melting arctic. Rising seas. Crazy weather. My daughter's future. No, says the Relative. I hate walking into a dark room. I like to have every room bright and warm. So I leave all the lights on all the time.
And he really does. The place is lit up like a residential Mother Ship. Morning, noon, and night. Whether we're in a specific room or not. Whether we're inside or out by the pool. Whether or not we're even home. Every light. Every fixture. Every space. The place must have the carbon footprint of a small South American country.
Throughout the weekend, my gentle attempts to coax the Relative to adopt a more environmentally benign lighting strategy come to naught. Mild remarks, soft rebukes, easy humor -- all bounce right off a stiff and unyielding wall. The topic is closed. The lights stay on.
Perhaps most troubling, the Relative is no fool. He's informed, and when it comes to most issues, quite reasonable. But where energy is concerned (don't get me started on his cars), he's recalcitrant and unwilling to even consider modifying his conduct to benefit the common good.
So what do I do? How do you deal with a close friend or family member who displays egregiously un-environmental behavior? How do you broach the subject, deal with it without straining the relationship, and get the behavior to change? What is your strategy? We all need to have one, because these folks, people like the Relative, are the key to the future. Those of us who are already on the eco-bus need to figure out how to get them to join us.