Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Being green makes you mean?

There's a great post on Practical Ethics on how being green might just make a person more selfish.  This is not a new phenomenon, as it happens with world poverty as well.  Is it a bad phenomenon?  Savulescu suggests that it is because it distracts us from the problem.  We think we're doing good, when recycling has only a minor effect on the environment.  What we should really be doing is walking, biking, and taking public transit, rather than driving.  But because we sort our trash, we feel as if we've done our part. 

No doubt this is true...  but I hesitate to call it a bad thing.  We need positive reinforcement, otherwise we may not do anything at all.  We need to incentivize people to become exemplars for others.  Once we have done the some good, we should be encouraged to do more. 


  1. I think it'd be cool if there were community-wide "green challenges" with people getting new goals each week, like taking public transit/biking to work, having a reusable water bottle, and keeping up the recycling. If communities got to together to do this, and to celebrate the accomplishments of people who met the challenges, it might take off more.

    (I'll actually be biking/ taking the bus to SJSU.)

  2. I have been hearing the same thing too, from radio and friends and so on. The problem is: Where is the proof that people actually will end up doing things that are actually helpful, after they feel they've done sufficiently enough things that were easy to do (and helped them look good on the side)? I don't think there is a way to make people care about something they don't initially care about (for example, if people are buying hybrid cars because it'll save money and NOT because of the environment, they will end up taking mass transit and riding bikes 'iff' it's convenient, NOT because of the environment).

    People do what is easy, I guess.