Once Upon a Train Wreck

Dear Environmentalists: Conservatives Love Nature Too … So, Try Reasoning with Us

Wyn Wiley (preferred pronouns he/him) says his life changed forever when he put on a pair of high-heeled boots and went backpacking as Pattie Gonia (she/her) in "Mother Natch." A photographer-videographer by trade, Wyn says his superpower is drag, and he wants to use art to make an impact on the world.

My first introduction to Wyn/Pattie was this video, REI Presents: Everything to Lose by Pattie Gonia, which accumulated nearly 1½  million views in its first two weeks, probably because it was so bizarre. I watched it like you might watch a slow-motion train wreck - surely this is parody … but it was not. A quick scroll through the comments showed I wasn't the only one who thought itwas just weird.

Then I noticed "Everything to Lose" had been taken from a longer, 30-minute documentary called "Dear Mother Nature." I had no interest in any more theater of the absurd, but I wanted to blog about it, and if I was going to do that, due diligence and fair-mindedness said I should watch it. So, reluctantly, I did.

I was pleasantly surprised.

"Dear Mother Nature" explained a lot. Wyn travelled to Hawaii at the invitation of Liz, an educator with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. Liz showed him beaches strewn for miles with bits of plastic debris. He visited the Marine Science Center at Hawaii Pacific University, where Jen, a marine researcher, taught him about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and its effects on Hawaii and surrounding marine life. Together, they dissected a sea turtle and removed pieces of plastic from its GI tract. Jen and her husband Hank, a boat captain and commercial diver, took Wyn out to a coral reef where they'd been working to cut away from it a giant, trash-entangled net.

Jen told him that the Hawaiian Islands are the most plastic-polluted spot on the planet, not because of Hawaii's residents or tourists, but because of seaborne trash from far away that washes up there. "When you see a problem, and you have the ability to do something about it," Hank said, reflecting on his efforts to free the coral reef, "I think, if you can, you should. It will make a difference."

And that's when Wyn decided he would do something.

And since his specialties were art and drag, what he decided to do was make some art in drag.

He brought in Angela Luna, a friend and fashion designer, and together they created three dresses for Pattie Gonia. He wanted them to be living illustrations of the problem of marine debris, so the first dress was made of recovered single-use plastic bags; the second of nets, including some of the netting he'd collected with Hank; and the third from love letters written to "Mother Natch" in care/of Pattie Gonia.

And so, that is how Wyn, performing as Pattie Gonia, came to make "Everything to Lose." He hopes people will be moved as a result of it to "show Mother Natch some more love."

Whether or not they will, though, is doubtful, if you ask me. "Everything to Lose" was, in addition to being bizarre, angry ("Mother Natch is hella pissed!"), dark (Our mother is dying!), and sweepingly, hyperbolically alarmist (We've got everything to lose!). It didn't explain the specific problem that prompted its creation, but instead just tragedized what we "crappy" humans are doing to "Mother Natch" in boilerplate, left wing environmental bombast.

In stark contrast to the "art" of "Everything to Lose," the straightforward documentary was both engaging and informative. Shot mostly in Hawaii, it showed the natural beauty of nature, while at the same time educating viewers about a problem. And although I'm not a fan of drag, and I don't subscribe to leftist sexual ideologies, Wyn himself comes across as a likeable guy. We see him come to care about this specific problem of plastic despoiling nature, and I came to care about it too. (I started using reusable bags for grocery shopping after watching it.)

So, to sum this up, here's something nature-loving environmentalists can learn that would benefit their cause. Political conservatives care about nature too. Moving us to reasonable action doesn't have to be dramatic or even all that complicated. We can be persuaded to take specific action by a forthright showing and telling of a specific problem. What we're not persuaded by is the wholesale, drama queen, the-sky-is-falling, you-are-the-enemy catastrophizing.

We can be reasonable. So, consider leaving the drama queen getups to the theater, and let us reason together as friends in common cause for conserving the natural beauty of the earth we love and share.

has a BS in Computer Science and worked as a software engineer with IBM until she hopped off the career track to be a full-time mom. She lives in Indianapolis, IN, and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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