Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shocker: New Study Shows Smug "Environmentalists" Can Be Hypocritical Douchebags

I'm not an anti-environmentalist. Pollution is an economic externality, and we have to make sure that our policies account for it (preferably with a pollution tax or cap and trade, rather than with regulation). But I do find the smug moral superiority of environmentalists like Al "Manbearpig" Gore rather offputting.

Which is why I can't resist passing along this research from Britain's Exeter University:

The research team questioned 200 people on their environmental attitudes and split them into three groups, based on a commitment to green living.

They found the longest and the most frequent flights were taken by those who were most aware of environmental issues, including the threat posed by climate change.

Questioned on their heavy use of flying, one respondent said: "I recycle 100% of what I can, there's not one piece of paper goes in my bin, so that makes me feel less guilty about flying as much as I do."

Barr said "green" lifestyles at home and frequent flying were linked to income, with wealthier people more likely to be engaged in both activities.

He said: "The findings indicate that even those people who appear to be very committed to environmental action find it difficult to transfer these behaviours into more problematic contexts."

In other words, I'm happy to be green as long as it doesn't interfere with my ski trips to St. Moritz. Nice work, a--hole.

Conservation is a wonderful thing, but you gotta walk the walk if you're going to talk the talk.

4 comments:

Alex said...

People are very bad at estimating the "footprint" of various actions. They can spend all day reducing paper waste (not a big win) and then happily buy new cars, drive, fly, etc.

On the one hand, its very hard to do, there are so many variables to balance. It's a waste to think about this too hard.

On the other hand, you have to give it *some* thought, and realize when you irrationally weight the benefits/draw backs of certain actions.

It's kind of like learning how to be a moral utilitarian, except there is no option for being a rule-base utilitarian here; everyones' circumstances are so different. The scientist working on green technology is environmentally justified in traveling for work, while perhaps an oil executive is not environmentally justified. (You can only really agree on a simple set of rules when everyone has similar standing*, like in moral matters).

Anyway the point is don't spend so much energy re-using coffee stirrers.

* I would accept arguments for some rules where all people are somewhat equal. No one should use incandescent bulbs.

Paul said...

I was watching a show last night on CNBC about oil, and there was a whacko on there talking about drilling, and saving the environment, new sources of energy and how we didn't need to drill etc... and I couldn't help but think that if that scary looking 'woman' could only take off her lip-stick, we might save about 1Bb of oil right there (ya know, oil is in just about everything).

I could drive my truck, work in a coal plant every day for 10 years, and smoke like a train, but I wouldn't come close to reaching Gore's 'foot-print'.

Argue against 'the environment' and all the sudden the goofs say you're 'for' dirty water (who is?), etc. It's crazy.

And global warming doesn't exist. When the next Ape turns into a human, I'll believe Global Warming exist... but I'll still doubt it's 'man-made'.

Foobarista said...

Fundamentally, the problem (if there is one - I'm an AGW agnostic with skeptical inclination) is that modern lifestyles need generated power. People aren't going to give up modern lifestyles as living in a cave sucks.

And, if anything, there will be more and more people living modern lifestyles as China and India get richer.

So, the solution is to find clean ways to produce power, including power to run cars and fly airplanes.

Alex said...

To be fair to Gore - although he certainly has a huge direct carbon foot-print, his activism probably causes a negative carbon footprint.

If you don't think carbon foot-prints matter, that's another issue.