The Good Fight

Everyone at my school got a mass-mail this weekend, from a fellow med student. The subject was "Environmental Crisis at Hand," and it was addressed to "those with an environmental conscience."

The urgent message went on to describe an upcoming vote in the Brazilian congress -- a vote to chop down the Amazon rainforest to 50% of its current size, so as to make way for grazing. But if the recipients each add their names to the petition right now, and forward it to some Brazilian representatives, they might listen. Because (and here I paraphrase SNL) -- "we have to stop this tree thing!"

I had been in a foul mood to begin with -- the Sox were losing, I was behind on my weekend workload, and my car lost a hubcap. Certainly, this preposterous spam didn't help. I know not everyone is as plugged-in to current events as the blogging community, but I'd like to think my classmates can spot a ridiculous story when they see it. Honestly, I don't know what's harder to believe -- the plan to cut down the forest, or the idea that emails could stop it.

I found a description of this 4-year old hoax at Snopes, and I forwarded it to my classmate, the spammer. She's one of those hardcore activists I've written about previously. She organizes meetings about social justice, brings in speakers, holds bake sales. She spent a summer giving vaccinations in Tanzania, and I think she did a rotation in Viet Nam. She'll have her MD soon, and will continue to work hard for these causes she believes in. But here I was, irritated that she wasn't more jaded, less naive.

I tried to gently communicate this to her. I remarked that she'd spammed the school for nothing, but at least she was being environmentally conscientious. I was insinuating that her sense of righteousness had crowded out some of her finer critical faculties.

Today she replied to my message. She didn't catch my jibe at her. In fact, she thanked me for the explaining the hoax. She added, "It's beyond me why people would start this sort of thing."

And she's right: It is beyond her. She works hard to promote what she thinks is right. She thinks she can make a difference. She trusts others to do the same, and is surprised and disappointed when they don't.

I hope she never changes.