Should Environmentalists Stop Using Fossil Fuels?

I always get a chuckle out of the "Stop-Using" strawman argument. In short it's the line of thinking that says that if you're opposed to fossil fuel production than you shouldn't be allowed to use the products of fossil fuels. 

And you hear versions of this from time to time. There's the fake outrage people have when they discover an environmentalist using plastic bags at the grocer. Or the fake outrage people have when they discover the shocking truth that Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States, lives in a large house or occasionally travels in an airplane. 

I wrote about this before in a piece titled "No, You Can't Just Pretend That People Hate Fossil Fuels

Notice that environmentalists never make the opposite claim: That if someone opposes solar power, then they are hypocrites if they do not instantly stop using all the products of solar power. These of course would include all plant and animal life and... oh yeah... fossil fuels.

It's always easy to spot when an arguer is walking into strawman territory when their claim becomes person-centered as opposed to issue-centered. All of these discussions are about people. They aren't about fossil fuels or solar power, they're misinformation about a person's claim combined with an attack on the person making the (now re-imagined) claim.

 Products from Fossil Fuels

Products from Fossil Fuels

Just because a person is concerned with the financial sustainability of fracking, doesn't automatically mean they're opposed to fracking. Just because a person is concerned about potential environmental damages of fracking, doesn't mean they are opposed to fossil fuel production. Just because a person is concerned with climate change and the need to reduce emissions, doesn't mean they lack appreciation for the benefits and advantages fossil fuels and modern technology bring to the world.   

We have to guard against living in a world of absolutes, and recognize that the ability to see multiple perspectives isn't being hypocritical, it's exercising a strong maturity of thought.

Adult thinking about these issues challenges us to walk the difficult path and find the nuanced middle ground. Nothing in policy is ever simple. There are always hard choices. There are always tradeoffs. Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying to you.