This month’s edition of Whole Living Magazine features an essay written by Elizabeth Royte called Talk about an Energy Crisis. Ms. Royte has authored several books and her articles have been published by numerous niche publications. She describes herself as a “self-professed ‘nature girl’ who writes about the environment.”
In Talk about an Energy Crisis, Royte genuinely articulates the struggle she has with her ecological footprint and the compromises she had to face while on summer vacation with her family in upstate New York because of the “internal combustion engine.” Ultimately, Royte’s final message in this article describes how a champion of the ‘green’ movement can find moderation in an era of global warming.
Through her dialectical journey, Royte frequently praises her own behavior; a behavior guided by her presuppositions about the state of the planet. While she admits that she is personally conflicted by being a responsible environmentalist versus being a girl who wants to enjoy nature, she fails to realize that the real crisis is not about her energy consumption but a crisis in her in secular, ‘nature-theism’ or Eco theology.
Royte begins her story by highlighting the benefits of living in New York City.
“…I find the city exciting. But what surprises many of the rural folks I interview is that I live in the city mostly because it’s easier to minimize my environmental impact here. In the city, I don’t drive. In the city, I can buy locally sourced, organic food (at a co-op) for less than the price of conventional food almost anywhere. I buy much of that food in bulk, cutting down on packaging waste. The city has a fairly comprehensive recycling system, unlike many rural areas, and beneficial outlets for unwanted textiles, electronics, and even food waste. I share my apartment walls with my immediate neighbors, cutting my oil consumption, and I don’t have a lawn, which reduces my water use.”
She goes on to say that living in the city is not a hardship and that it saves her money. Then Royte lays out the hypothesis of her Eco theology.
“So even if I didn’t think that the climate crisis was one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, or that it was physically impossible to sustain infinite growth on a planet of finite resources, I’d still try to lower my carbon profile.”
Fortunately, Royte does get out of the city from time to time for work and also to satiate her “itch for nature.” Apparently, the author and her family enjoy a month long “stint” each summer in upstate New York (Why doesn’t she call it a vacation?).
“There, forests and fields surround my rented house. Deer, turkeys, and the daily aerial loop of a great blue heron sometimes make it hard to concentrate when I’m working on the deck. (Poor me.) You’d think all this would make me—nature girl—happy. But I’m actually miserable in the country on account of the internal combustion engine.”
Though Royte believes that her misery stems from the car, it is being away from the city’s carbon footprint safety net that seems to unsettle her more. When she is out of her urban milieu and in nature, her Eco theological beliefs are put to the test. As an eco-purist, Royte wishes to minimize her carbon footprint. But while agonizing over her self-imposed rules she unwittingly exposes the paradox of her predicament. Her godless, self –determined morality contributes to her self-loathing and she feels unhappy. Amoral logic and reason prevent her from enjoying nature. She begins with the challenges of riding a bike in lieu of driving a car.