This seemingly harmless little news piece found its way into several mainstream news media publications this week.

It appeared innocuous enough at first blush: a story about a farming New York State mom concerned enough about her family’s carbon footprint that she chose not to enroll her child in a hockey program that required them to drive long distances to practices and games. Read further and a tale of a man relieving himself on the family lawn to save a flush and a couple reusing the same Zip Loc bag for a year emerge in a bizarre game of If-You-Think-That’s-Weird-Listen-to-This.

The story talks about the newly-coined “Carborexics” – the supposed seven per cent of the population considered “dark green” – who are determined by the vaguely-referenced “mental health experts” to be hardcore recyclers and carbon footprint fanatics. Read about the family that huddles together in sleep to share body warmth – isn’t that also known as co-sleeping, another previously taboo child-rearing philosophy now universally practiced by millions of families and embraced by pediatricians and child psychologists as healthy for children and families? If it saves a few bucks on the heating bill and eliminates of a few tonnes of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere, does that make it a bad thing?

The media is the ultimate enabler in a society nursing a massive oil addiction; make those committed to change out to be wacko survivalist nut jobs and just drill, baby, drill. Even the psychiatrist cited in this story said behaviour only qualifies as a disorder if it begins to take precedence over everything else in one’s life and this article fails to produce any real evidence of that in the people it chronicles – but if you’re the average news paper reader, you skimmed, and you took away that people trying to reduce their carbon footprints in new and novel ways are mentally ill fringe-dwellers to be dismissed. No wonder we’re making no headway on climate change.

Barbara Kingsolver’s best-selling book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of food Life details her family’s efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and eat only locally-produced foods for one year. Somehow, this excellent book was embraced and few deemed it fanatical or crazy.

Consider the book Little House on a Small Planet which showcases some very interesting homes and addresses our North American obsession with huge dwellings. Neither of these “movements” is new, nor radically fringe.

So, what’s the reason for this little seed of a story tucked into your daily paper this week? Fear. Fear that Al Gore and David Suzuki and Kyoto and Greenpeace and the polar bears are starting to get through to us. Consider this quote near the end of the piece:

David Zucker, a sustainability specialist at Porter Novelli, a PR company which has studied America’s “dark greens”, said they were inordinately influential over other people’s behaviour.

He said the “deepest dark greens” were “bordering on the fanatic”, adding: “They’re pushing towards a lifestyle of zero consumption”.

He added: “You know Americans. We take everything to an extreme.”

And therein, my friends, lies the real story. Zero consumption would bring the oil industry – and, indeed, capitalism – to its knees. Make them sound crazy and maybe the masses won’t follow.