Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moral Hazard?

The Washington Post has a really instructive article titled "Why going green won't make you better or save you money" on some psychological research on how incredibly powerful our weakness in our resolve can be. If I wanted to be pessimistic, I would say that the research described is depressing, but being more positive knowing our failings allow us to compensate, which is ironic because the research is that we are very good at bargaining with our psyches to convince ourselves that we are better people than we are. The gist of the research is that we are able to use a green action (such as buying organic food) to convince us that are green even though we do something much more negative in another action. For instance the article highlights the following:

Like most Whole Foods shoppers, David Bain thinks he is a decent citizen of Earth. His family buys mostly organic food. They recycle. He recently fortified his green credentials by removing a leaking oil tank in his yard.

But here's a head scratcher: Though the Bains live in Arlington within walking distance of Whole Foods, they often drive there in an SUV that gets just 19 miles per gallon. He has noticed that his SUV is not alone in the lot.

Does that make Bain a hypocrite? He paused before responding: "I could see how people would come to that conclusion, but I don't have the illusion that people's decision-making is always logical."
"There are so many contradictions in today's world, especially when it comes to green issues," said Keith Ware, who has watched with raised eyebrows as Hummers pull up to his environmentally sensitive appliance store, Eco-Green Living, near the nuclear-free zone of Takoma Park.

I've written in the past about laughable construction projects and green homes in the exurbs. No one wants to be austere, we only want to pretend to be.


At 11:25 PM , Blogger Peter said...

Neither this post nor that article makes any sense.


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