Have you been a victim of “greensplaining”?
Committing to the environment is good. Harass and moralize everyone with your beliefs, a little less. This is called greensplaining, a practice to be avoided so as not to alienate people and do the cause a disservice.
Have you ever been made to feel guilty about using your car every day or taking a plane to go on vacation? Have you been condescendingly told that eating avocados from Mexico is shameful, when you didn't ask? You may have been the victim of greensplaining…
While the word is not yet widely known, the practice is quite widespread .
The greensplaining, what is it?
Consisting of green and explaining (explain), “the term greensplaining has developed on the analogy of mansplaining [the habit of some men of interrupting women to explain things in their place],” explains Maya Jegen, a professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, specializing in energy policy.
“It seems to refer to the attitude of people who are too zealous in explaining the causes of an environmental problem and who judge the behavior of others by serving them a moralizing speech and making them feel guilty”, she specifies.   ;
Such a speech is never solicited and it could just as well be summed up by: “I know better than you, so here I am explaining it to you.”
A discourse of domination
“It's a term loaded with a relationship of power and domination,” says Josée Provençal, doctor of political science at the University of Ottawa and researcher at the Canada Research Chair in Urban Climate Action. .
According to her, the typical greensplainer is a staunch environmentalist (often an educated white male), unaware of his privileged posture and power imbalance that can exist with his interlocutor. It erases ethnicity, gender and social class to offer a vision of ecology that does not take into account inequalities and the discourse of others.
The doctor believes that when we use a moralizing discourse, we lose our interlocutor rather than get him to adhere to our point of view. Greensplaining does not therefore seem to be the best strategy to raise awareness of the environmental cause. This practice would even be downright counterproductive.
“Nobody likes being lectured, especially when it's not at the right time. Even if a person should adjust their behavior to be more eco-responsible, being greensplained is not going to encourage them. On the contrary, it risks raising its shields”, summarizes Josée Provençal.
So, how to raise awareness environmental without sinking into greensplaining?
“The speech must be part of a conversation that touches on the realities of all interlocutors rather than in a heavy and contemptuous monologue” , says Josée Provençal.
The researcher therefore suggests having conversations on common topics where environmental issues can be addressed subtly, without them “polluting” the discussion.   ;
“It is not by imposing ideas that we achieve our ends, but it is possible to infiltrate positions in conversations that can lead to longer-term reflections”, concludes -she.