As I mentioned in my post on the biggest chips on my shoulder, the three people who understand my sustainability leadership work least: My dad, my mom, and my stepfather.
For my father, as best I can tell, his impact on the environment and the people and other life in it are always trumped by family and his desire to travel. I think he understands that there are environmental problems and that they may cause people he cares about to suffer, but I don’t think he’s internalized it. In any case, when he wants to do something that pollutes, he seems always able to find a way to justify it.
For my mom: as long as someone pollutes more than she does, she can point at them and say “well look how much more they’re polluting. At least I’m not like them” She doesn’t want to return to how things used to be, where she suffered without the niceties of modern life, like air conditioning and flying. She doesn’t believe me that I prefer a life of stewardship. She things I’m lying or at least overrepresenting to make a point, as is Greta.
With my stepfather, a couple times I tried to explain my actions and motivations, or to tell him the problems. He told me I sounded preachy. Once he got angry, as if I was judging or imposing my values on him. I may judge, but I wasn’t then.
For all three, they always have an excuse to act as they always have when they want to. I haven’t sensed an attempt to understand me, certainly not in the way I describe in my book Leadership Step by Step, but they’re always able to defend themselves.
By comparison, on the podcast I’ve led hundreds, maybe a thousand to try. My mom did my podcast but was one of the few who didn’t come up with and commit to a personal challenge. My dad declined to record for the podcast online or any other way beside my traveling to Philadelphia to do it in person. My stepfather did do the Spodek Method, though not recording, and planted a tree on his own that he wouldn’t have otherwise. He also helped me plant one.
I don’t know if they’ll read this post. If they do, they may say I misrepresented them, and I may have for all I know, but the key remains: they pollute more than nearly anyone who has ever lived, more than nearly anyone alive today, and have at most modestly reduced their impacts. They have access to someone who is ready, willing, and able to help, but as far as I can tell consider themselves among the good guys, or at least not contributing to our environmental problems.
I love them and know they love me, but maybe because of the innate closeness of our relationships, their misunderstanding me makes me feel as misunderstood as anyone I know. I suspect parents will always partly view their children as young. I can only wonder what it’s like to have parents who support you on your greatest mission or even just understand it.
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