In the last episode of Modern Family, Jessie Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg in the Social Network) plays the character of an environmental hero. His character walks down the street to talk to his neighbor, Mitch Pritchett (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and engage in a friendly conversation about innovative technologies and the moral imperative to protect the living creatures on Earth. For those of you who didn’t see it, here’s the clip.
Stings, doesn’t it?
Eisenberg brings a holier-than-thou attitude of extreme environmental superiority. He insults, demeans and one-ups Mitch in every single sentence. He is a smug, judgmental, rude, obnoxious, snobby and disdainful know-it-all. He is a modern environmentalist.
Many believe that the best neighbors are the ones you never see or hear. As a result, most neighbors don’t interact very often. Nobody likes an asshole, but it’s particularly poignant when someone you share so much in common with—your block, trees, air, fences, backyard, schools, places of worship—turns a rare interaction into an unpleasant one.
The result is that this very personal, very high touch criticism is very motivating. Mitch’s reaction, while absurd, is not at all uncommon. Most people would react negatively to being treated like that.
Multiply this interaction times 16,000, the approximate number of environmentalists in the world.
Individually, we are total assholes.
As a community, we are screwing ourselves.
The opportunity cost of this kind of behavior is huge. Mitch’s character, like many, is actually an environmentalist himself, the most likely to actually care about the message that Eisenberg’s character has to deliver, and the most likely to actually take action on it. Instead, he’s completely alienated, and possibly now engaged in community self-loathing. He receives no recognition for any of the behavior changes he’s made already. His Prius, his profession,… None of it is good enough for the planet.
What if, instead of criticizing other people for their shortcomings in conservation, we invited our neighbors to join us in some positive action, together? What if, instead of comparing greenhouse gas expulsion lawn by lawn, we focused on shared, public spaces in the neighborhood? What if we worked to be better neighbors first, then focused on solving bigger problems, together?
ioby is interested in this problem exactly. So far, 2% of ioby donors have become leaders of projects themselves. Something in their experience in the community project, initiated by one of their neighbors, made them consider that they should, too, step up to lead and create. We’re working on a project to increase that percentage from two to ten percent. If you’re interested in the way that ioby’s network of 750+ leaders can provide opportunities to their neighbors to become more involved through local investment, advocacy and volunteering, let us know and email us. You can find all our contact information here.