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Credibility from Apparent Hypocrisy

Credibility from Apparent Hypocrisy

Flip the script! Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

Purveyors of unpopular messages are often scrutinized for any inconsistent, seemingly hypocritical behavior that might give lie to their preachings and be used to discredit the unwelcome perspective. A famous example is Al Gore’s heavy air travel schedule to spread the word and take action against climate change, resulting in an enormous CO2 footprint. If we all behaved that way, the very problem at hand would be substantially exacerbated.

Such accusations either knowingly or pathetically miss the obvious point that the net effect of Al Gore’s efforts may be positive owing to the simple idea of a lever: a little expenditure here can counteract vast expenditures elsewhere for an overall gain on the problem. For many, the glaring superficial contradiction is enough ammunition to discredit the entire enterprise.

But identifying possible hypocrisy in those who warn of future perils, as I have done, has a dark edge: if even those cognizant individuals cannot get away from behaviors they know to be damaging, doesn’t that only amplify the severity of the warning?

This is the part where I confess various behaviors that would seem to be inconsistent with my writings. It is true that my energy and resource footprints are far below the U.S. average—in electricity, methane, gasoline, food, and consumerism. I re-evaluated my footprint in comparison to average Americans in Chapter 20 of my textbook, confirming a factor-of-several reduction in most categories.

So I can perhaps justify some sense of credibility in putting my money where my mouth is. Or more accurately, I refrain from putting money places in accordance to what comes out of my mouth (and fingers). It can be hard to separate ecological responsibility from just being a cheapskate.

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