Saturday, August 25, 2007

I care imagine, but it's hard...

The New York Times refers to a blogg post by Matthew Yglesias of the Atlantic Monthly. In this post he points to research study by American Environics about attitudes torward the environment and his conclusion is that nobody cares. People when polled would more likely vote against a candidate who diagreed with their stance on Gay Marriage than they would who disagreed with them on environment. What is interesting is that this is true even if you identify yourself as an environmentalist.

For both groups, the order was:

1) Gay Marriage
2) Abortion
3) Illegal Immigration

ahead of the environment as litmus test issues. This should not be surprising, since the first 2 and perhaps the third are highly personal issues. Though I've never understood the vehmence against Gay Marriage by straights, it seems to lack proportionality in the response to the impact in their lives. But the first two relate to values of identity and tend to cause people shock.

Illegal immigration tends to strike on people's fears more than anything. Ironically, most people don't think about where their food is coming from. So the first three are very visceral and personal issues.

Now what is the enviornment. It's an ideal, it's something that everyone is for in the abstract. No one is against the environment. When polluters dump waste into rivers, they don't say they are doing a good thing. They say that people are over reacting, or that the cost benefits are more important.

But what exactly is a good environment. We tend to associate it with nature. But overgrown forests are natural but it doesn't make it a good environment. Nature has ways of correcting that called pine beetles and forest fires. But in most cases it's not a personal enough issue. I tend to not like cars because I spend a lot of time walking and riding my bike so I take the direct impact of cars in the form of exhaust and risk of injury. I've been able to personalize it so it matters.

I think people would be a lot more for clean emissions if they suffered what economists called the externalities. I use to joke that I was for people driving any car they wanted, as long as the exhaust pipe went through the passenger compartment. I guarantee that people would be more cognizant of emissions. Some things happen too slowly for the human mind to comprehend.

Think about it, is anyone wanting to be fat? But it hasn't stopped most people from gaining weight. By the time you notice, you've given up. I wonder if that's what's happened with the environment.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home