Monday, January 18, 2010

New York Times Stereotypes Self, Readers

Not from The Onion:

Therapists Report Increase in Green Disputes

Gordon Fleming is, by his own account, an environmentally sensitive guy.

He bikes 12 1/2 miles to and from his job at a software company outside Santa Barbara, Calif. He recycles as much as possible and takes reusable bags to the grocery store.

Still, his girlfriend, Shelly Cobb, feels he has not gone far enough.

Ms. Cobb chides him for running the water too long while he shaves or showers. And she finds it “depressing,” she tells him, that he continues to buy a steady stream of items online when her aim is for them to lead a less materialistic life.

Mr. Fleming, who says he became committed to Ms. Cobb “before her high-priestess phase,” describes their conflicts as good-natured — mostly.

But he refuses to go out to eat sushi with her anymore, he said, because he cannot stand to hear her quiz the waiters.

“None of it is sustainable or local,” he said, “and I am not eating cod or rockfish.”

As awareness of environmental concerns has grown, therapists say they are seeing a rise in bickering between couples and family members over the extent to which they should change their lives to save the planet.


Sandy Shulmire, a psychologist who lives in Portland, confesses that when she is visiting her sister in Abita Springs, La., she cannot resist bugging her about not recycling her plastic and cardboard, even though she knows she will be perceived as “bossy.”

Cherl Petso, an editor of an online magazine who lives in Seattle, says trips to visit her parents in Idaho can be “tense at times,” in part because she and her mother interpret each other’s choices as judgmental.

Linda Buzzell, a family and marriage therapist for 30 years who lives in Santa Barbara and is a co-editor of “Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind,” cautions that the repercussions of environmental differences can be especially severe for couples.

....She warns wives and mothers not to move a family toward vegetarianism before everyone is ready.

“Food is such an emotional issue,” she said.

Christienne deTournay Birkhahn, executive director of the EcoMom Alliance, an organization based in Marin County that provides education to women who want to have their families live more sustainably, finds that disputes over how green is green enough often divide along predictable lines by sex.


Her husband, Kurt, an engineer and federal employee, sometimes seems to be baiting her by placing plastic yogurt cups in the garbage or leaving the reusable shopping bags in the car and coming home with disposable bags instead.

If only the article included tips on how to green your second home, and addressed the emotional toll of getting into the best pre-school and Ivy, it would be a New York Times Cliche Classic.

By the way, the article should be titled "Therapists and Others Promoting Their Own 'Green' Services Predictably Report Increase In Green Disputes."

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