Long Island - where SUVs come to breed - is famous for fabulous fundraisers in the Hamptons. I was invited to an "Earth Day" themed benefit for an environmental cause recently that got me thinking about climate change. The party was right on Southampton beach, which was nice because the guests could drive their Escalade, Traverse, or 4-Wheel drive right down to the water. I didn’t tell anyone that when I was invited I thought the woman said birthday-themed and even though I didn’t know her very well I thought, free cake! But there wasn’t any cake! It was a vegan barbecue, if you can imagine something like that. There was a vegetable juice drink that tasted like swamp thing, grilled tofu pups in buns that I think were made of leaves and grass. I tried to eat this thing, then I set it down for a second and a bird started making a nest in it.
But after all we did by showing up for planet earth, the host wanted more. She started asking for donations, which was fine except she did it by inflicting painful guilt on all of us for our petroleum-wasting, energy-sucking, high-consumption way of life. She pointed to the SUVS lined up on the beach and accused us of being more concerned with status and comfort than the world our children will inherit. I felt my temperature rise right then and there, so I guess she made her point about a warming trend in the environment. But some of what she said was plainly unfair.
First of all, SUVs are about much more than luxury, leather seats and the ability to literally look down on other people while sipping a latte. It is one of the last remaining connections to the wildness in our nature. Because to live in the suburbs, if we are perfectly honest, is to trade the young and restless for the bland and the tedious. Suburban life is tame, domesticated. But if you drive something called an Expedition, it might mean that you are actually on one. We can say "I'm an Explorer, I'm a Scout, I'm a Blazer" while we're at the drive-thru at Burger King on our way to the mall.
This woman's impressively-researched but so so not fun lecture was met with the murmur of well-off people complaining about feeling pressured again after a full season of fundraisers and galas. This bothered me because it played right into her loudly-expressed opinions that most of us are too self-absorbed and consumer-driven to do our part for the planet. It was a terribly unfair accusation. I for one am very concerned about global warming. Not just concerned, I’m frightened. Because I hate myself in summer clothes.