Ronnie Cohen is a California liberal who raised her son to be environmentally-conscious, and she has been paying the price.
My son, Cory, will leave our Northern California home to start college back East in the fall, prompting other mothers to offer condolences about my soon-to-be-empty nest. Though they expect me to break into tears, my overriding emotion when my youngest departs will be relief. I will finally be freed from the constant scrutiny of the ever-vigilant eco-warrior I raised.
I can do nothing right in my teenage sonâ€™s eyes. He grills me about the distance traveled of each piece of fruit and every vegetable I purchase. He interrogates me about the provenance of all the meat, poultry, and fish I serve. He questions my every moveâ€”from how I choose a car (why not electric?) and a couch (why synthetic fill?) to how I tend the garden (why waste water on flowers?)â€”an unremitting interrogation of my impact on our desecrated environment. While other parents hide alcohol and pharmaceuticals from their teens, I hide plastic containers and paper towels.
I feel like Iâ€™ve become the adolescent, sneaking around to avoid my offspringâ€™s scrutiny and lectures. Only when Cory leaves the house do I dare clean the refrigerator of foul-smelling evidence of my careless wasteâ€”wilted greens, rotten avocados, moldy leftovers. When he goes out to dinner, I smuggle in a piece of halibut or sturgeon, fish the stocks of which, he tells me, are dangerously depleted. Even worse, I sometimes prepare beefâ€”a drain on precious water, my son assures me, and a heavy contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions.
What a relief I will feel to be out from under the fiery gaze of my personal sustainability meter-reader!
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