“During the past few years, one book after another has organized itself around some nouveau-Thoreauvian conceit. This might consist of spending a month eating only food grown in an urban back yard, as in ‘Farm City’ (2009), or a year eating food produced on a gentleman’s farm, as in ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ (2007). It might involve driving across the country on used cooking oil, as in ‘Greasy Rider’ (2008), or giving up fossil fuels for goats, as in ‘Farewell, My Subaru’ (2008).
“All of these stunts can be seen as responses to the same difficulty. Owing to a combination of factors—population growth, greenhouse-gas emissions, logging, overfishing, and, as Beavan points out, sheer self-indulgence—humanity is in the process of bringing about an ecological catastrophe of unparalleled scope and significance. Yet most people are in no mood to read about how screwed up they are. It’s a bummer. If you’re the National Academy of Sciences or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the Pope or Al Gore, you can try to fight this with yet another multivolume report or encyclical. If not, you’d better get a gimmick.”
Writing in, of all places, The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert examines the pretensions of EnviroChic as represented by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man in“Green Like Me”.