Authors I Wish Would Environment-Shame Me

Maddie Rodriguez

Staff Writer

Maddie Rodriguez is a freelance writer and communications specialist who earned her MA in English Literature from the University of Victoria by writing about The Age of Innocence and Gossip Girl (yes, really). When not writing, Maddie can be found reading or watching television; she has Too Many Feelings about both activities, and expresses them via expansive hand gestures or ALL CAPS (depending on how far away the conversation's other party is). Maddie and her fellow reader/writer partner live in Ottawa. They share their apartment with an ever-encroaching tower of books and two calamity-prone cats. Life is never dull. Twitter: @MaddieMuses

If you follow bookish or fast-food related news, you may have heard that Chipotle announced the next set of authors whose words will cover Chipotle’s package as part of the Cultivating Thought series. There were a number of awesome authors featured (including Laura Hillenbrand, Anthony Doerr, Laura Esquivel, Sue Monk Kidd, and Lowis Lowry). But the name receiving the most attention? Good old Jonathan Franzen. The amusement around his inclusion was centered around the fact that, in true Franzenian fashion, he used his Chipotle paper cup as a platform with which to…chide people for using paper cups. Classic.

This got me thinking, though, of other authors I would allow, nay, encourage to scold me via the medium of everyday objects I sometimes use in an ecologically-unfriendly way. Here are my top three environmental crimes and who I think could help me be better:

Plastic shopping bags

You cannot throw a stone without hitting a tote bag in pretty much any retail establishment these days so there is literally no excuse for not having one. Honestly, this is pure laziness or forgetfulness so I need someone scathing who can really give it to me like, “SERIOUSLY? Not only are you damaging the environment, you’re also passing up a valuable opportunity to accessorize and/or communicate your super-cool interests? You should be carrying two complementary totes that match your outfit at all time! What’s wrong with you?” I nominate Mindy Kaling because I feel like the combination of environmental- and style-shaming would suit her.

Light switches 

Look I’m not an almost-thirty-year-old woman who is still afraid of the dark. But what if I go to bed one night when I’m all alone and then there’s a weird sound and I can’t figure out what’s creating it because it’s so dark? Better not to risk it. Unless all my light switches had a message from Stephen King on them, accompanied by this sweet, dad-ish picture of him wielding a corgi. If ever there was anyone who had an encyclopedic knowledge of every single creepy, deadly, unspeakably awful thing that could happen in the dark, it’s King. So if he tells me, “No girl, you’re fine, there’s nothing out there, I’ve checked it out for you and I’ve considered every angle. It’s all good, don’t worry, you can turn out the lights,” and if I had photographic proof the corgi was on board, well, then I might turn out the lights.

Yogurt containers

Good people of Book Riot, I confess to you my absolute worst household sin: I will never finish an entire container of yogurt, instead leaving a small film of approximately ⅙ of the container’s original contents, neglected, to grow and fester in the back of my fridge and yes I know I should just rinse it out and recycle it before it gets worse and why don’t I do that now? and sure, it will be gross for a second but think of the planet but oh god it’s gonna be gross there’s probably something living in there and then I just chicken out and throw it unopened in the garbage. AND THEN I FEEL TERRIBLE. So I really need to bust out the big guns here with Margaret Atwood. Does she have anything to do with yogurt? No, but I follow her on Twitter so I know she cares about the environment and I would probably hurl myself into a vat of yogurt before disappointing her. I need her words and her warm but firm face staring at me, shaming me into doing better (you know what? Better put her on all Tupperware containers too, just to be safe).

Special mention: Jeff Vandermeer on anything. I have recently read the Southern Reach trilogy and now the inside of Jeff Vandermeer’s head frightens me. I would literally believe any imaginatively terrible vision of the future resulting from my own negligence that he chose to spin for me, so I think he’d be an effective choice on anything from water bottles to gas pumps. I’ll do whatever you want, Vandermeer, just stop lushly but horrifyingly describing things to me!
What about you, Rioters? What are your biggest environmental crimes and which authors do you nominate to shame you out of them?