Monday, August 31, 2009

Any way you look at it

It's a good thing to be be more respectful of the environment and the planet. We know that. We have heard it tons and tons of times in the media, from other people, etc. But, are we doing anything at all about it? I am not (except for being vegetarian, which I can't really claim credit for since it's upbringing and not my conscious moral choice that has been the cause).

I am not noble or selfless or particularly passionate about the planet. In fact, to tell you the truth if you gave me a lecture on climate change, my eyes would probably glaze over and my mind will wander. And this has been bugging me a bit. Why am I not more interested? Why do I perceive those who do care as saints and those who don't as being normal? How can the normal join the ranks of the saints without giving up their appetite for life?

From my very limited knowledge (what is this blog called again?), being green kind of looks like you've to give up a lot of fun. No car. No paper. No nothing. And to do all this for what? What is the selling point? A sense of personal virtue from being green? That is not bad, but really I don't care too much for that and neither do a lot of other people.

But the answer is hidden in plain sight. Our survival, our health, our children... real selfish reasons for why you might want to go green as opposed to being a selfless saint. Consider this article for instance, from which I've quoted the paragraph below.

"Just as liberal tree-huggers need to understand that we cannot make a case for altruism in any sense, least of all when it comes to saving the environment, conservatives need to understand that “saving the planet” is a euphemism for saving ourselves. It’s not the environment we’re actually concerned about. It’s our ego-driven selves, along with the future generations that will carry our DNA. And that’s the only compelling case we can make in taking any and all action to protect and preserve our vital ecosystems e.g. air, freshwater, forests, oceans, and the animals upon which they all depend."

So there is such a thing as selfish environmentalism then? As usual I turn to google for some answers. And as usual I found some very interesting reads that kept me up well past midnight. The most interesting one was "Can Selfishness Save the Environment?" by Matt Ridley and Bobbi S. Low. It was published 16 years ago and I think the intervening years have only proved some of their points.

They discuss some ways of dealing with over-exploiting common resources (land, air, water etc.). One effective way has been privitizing the resource. This may not always work in the desired way or it may be near impossible to implement (How do you privitize air?). Another effective way has been legislation. This is not necessarily effective all the time either. There may be other ways too.. such as a mutual benefit system (explained by the 'Tit for Tat' model in game theory). The article goes on to argue for the creation of positive incentives for being 'Green' and negative incentives for polluting. A bigger version of 'Tit for Tat'.

I don't think I did a good job at explaining it and would strongly urge anyone (anyone?) reading this blog to go read the article.

One thing that struck me was the USGBC's LEED rating system for buildings and how successful this program has been despite its many flaws. The article was probably written well before the creation of LEED ratings but can well explain its success.

Now that I've read this, what am I going to do next? I am still working on the answer.


alotstuff said...

nice blog and have lots of stuff here.....

GreenHearted said...

I think you've said it. If we can't do this for the sake of our beloved children, nothing else will convince us to make sacrifices. Sadly, what would be easiest is for governments to do the right thing (as they've done with smoking and seat belts in many countries), but governments don't care about your beautiful child -- only your taxes and your vote! And so we continue to diddle while the Earth burns, and our children's future becomes a thing of the past.