J500 Media and the Environment

Ask Dr. Dolittle by jkongs
April 28, 2008, 11:16 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

My hands full, I fumbled through the front door, cursing whomever turned off the porch light as I tripped over an anonymous object in my way. Most of the lights inside, though, were on – as was the radio and a box fan. The culprits were clear : Bijou, Luna, and Linus – my feline house mates – were lounging in the family room, enjoying a little late night NPR. It was at that moment that I had a revelation. All of our discussions about how to reach people, how to get people to make daily behavioral changes to lessen their environmental impact – this whole time we’ve been going at it the wrong way. We need to learn to speak to the animals (If only Rex Harrison were still here… at least there’s always the movie).

Let’s replay last night, shall we? I come home, again cursing the porch light, and then once more cursing that I’m juggling books and bags and trying to find the kitchen light switch. That’s right, the lights are all off, the house is silent, and there is little air circulation. My human house mates did not spontaneously decide, ‘Today is the day I remember to flip the switch off before running madly out the door because I’m already 15 minutes late’. No, my feline house mates, equipped with the knowledge I imparted upon them after learning to speak cat, leisurely turned off all the electronics and lights they did not need after the humans were gone. A few more sessions and I’ll have them unplugging any appliances not in use – then we’ll really be in business!

We spent this class working to figure out how to really reach people, how to make the environment a part of their decision-making process. We oscillated between meeting people where they are and bringing them over to go further and do more. People in this country are busy, too busy, and when people are rushing they forget things: where the car keys are, where the other shoe is, turning off lights and unplugging hair driers. Adding one more thing to their To Do list, albeit for a good cause like saving the earth and our planetary existence, is not typically well-received. That doesn’t mean we should give up on humans and try to communicate with people’s pets instead.

Finding that middle ground is something I, and all of us, can continue to strive for. Some of us may want to work with people and try to pull them into that infamous light green category, while others of us may want to pull those light greens over to the dark side. (I recommend not starting intergalactic warfare to achieve this means, but hey, Darth Vader would support you.) All in all, I’ve recognized that all of our voices are needed, as is every other voice we connect to with what we write, say, or do.

But seriously, one of my cats – Luna – has real potential here. She really freaked me out one time: I was washing my face and she jumped up onto the toilet next to the sink, turned around, squatted down, and -no joke – pissed into the toilet. She hopped down and sauntered off – no big deal. I just stood there, soap-faced, mouth open, amazed. I really think she could get on board with the whole light switch thing…

Jennifer Kongs


2 Comments so far
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A cat using a composting toilet. . .this is the coolest class ever! Jennifer, I love what you say about the spectrum. There is room for all of us. Some folks need to define the edges and be super-engaged, others are not going to make this a priority. But this movement is unlike any other in that we ALL have a vested stake whether we like it or not so, for me, the impetus is to bring as many people along as possible. Especially cats.

Comment by j500

Great work, Jennifer. I know I teased you about the composting toilet, but really it impresses me a great deal. It was an example of someone I know really walking the walk…in theory, I’m on board with using that toilet, but would I really be able to make that change? Hearing how you took on the challenge was inspiring. It’s encouraging to see such true committment.

Now, if we could just find a way to insulate our homes with all those stray cat hairs, we’d be in business!


Comment by rarab

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