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Show, Don’t Tell


It’s an old principle of fiction writing that it is better to demonstrate something rather than state it outright. Put succinctly: narration over exposition. Realizing that a character possesses a certain trait by observing his or her actions is much more engaging than being told it.

I think the same idea can be applied to raising awareness about environmental issues.

That the twenty-first century has greeted us with some real and immediate dangers is undeniable. Given the urgency of our situation, it’s crucial that the issues are not conveyed in ways that might be construed as condescending. Living sustainably should not be used an excuse to patronize or criticize anyone. The green movement should be an inclusive one, not exclusive.

For this reason I believe it’s better to invest one’s energy in actually living sustainably rather than telling others how they should live. If you think about ways to change your own habits in order to be more environmentally friendly and then you implement those changes, people will notice. When you turn down a plastic bag at a convenience store, the person behind you will likely reflect on your reasons for doing so. And maybe he or she will refuse a bag too.

Sometimes your actions will inspire curiosity–especially if they appear particularly batshite–and you will be asked about them. This, I think, is the time to begin a conversation about environmentalism. Not a lecture–a polite, informative conversation.

Of course, the fact that I’m telling you this, on a blog with frequent posts about environmentalism, invokes another old adage:

Do as I say, not as I do.

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