Psst, Environmentalists! Earth-Friendly Lifestyle Actually Doesn't Matter

So. Do you carry reusable bags to shop at the grocery store? Do you sort empty plastic containers into the correct recycling bin? Did you trade-in your gas guzzler for a well-worn pair of sneakers?

Do you think that all those enviro-goody-two-shoes things you did matter? Think again.

No hate mail, please! That's what economist Gernot Wagner at the Environmental Defense Fund said. He argued that in order to save the planet, we need much more than environmentalists. Instead, we need smart economic policies.

Here's an interesting interview at Co.Exist:

Co.Exist:What does the average environmentalist get wrong?

Wagner: Environmentalists, all too often, think that the best way to go about solving the problem is to get everyone to do as they--we, I included--do. I don’t eat meat. I don’t drive. But individual do-gooderism won’t solve global warming.

And it may actually be counter-productive, for two reasons. First, there’s a well-documented psychological phenomenon called “single-action bias.” You do one thing, and you move on. You carry your groceries home by foot, in a cotton canvas bag, and you think that single act of environmental kindness makes up for other sins.

Second, you spend all your energy thinking about these tiny things. Should you buy the local apples that have been stored for months in a cool house somewhere, or should you buy the fresh apple flown in from across the world? Or should you not buy apples at all when they are not in season and risk not getting enough vitamins?

You’d go positively crazy trying to figure out what to do, and you’d miss the big picture: That, at the end of the day, none of that really matters.

So what should we do? Read on at Co.Exist: Link

Doing the small thing is fine IF you don't lose sight of the big picture. Example: Environmental groups oppose drilling for oil in Alaska fearing damage to the wildlife. The big picture is that demand for oil keeps increasing. It has to come from somewhere. Wells are drilled in other countries or oceans where the EPA and other regulators don't have control. Thus bigger damage is done worldwide to protect one small and well regulated area. They would do better to encourage Alaskan oil and seek ways to diminish demand.
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it's more about getting companies and the government to understand that a lot of people care about the environment and force them to do something about it. I disagree here, something is better than nothing and right now, even though drastic action by the government is needed, this is what the people can do to get the message across. You think environmentalists do these things to make themselves feel better? I think non environmentalists don't because they are selfish and stuck in a world where their actions have no consequence because there is no sight of the future for them beyond their lifetimes.
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So we should stop doing those little things? I think they add up to something. And if they make us more aware of what we're doing, isn't that a start?

Whether global warming is man-made or not, we can still see things in this world that are the result of our poor behaviour. We can still fix those, to some extent.
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The quirky thing about comments is that it's all a matter of timing. If this article had been posted on another day, chances are the comments would have been on the pro-green slant. Or maybe not.
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Whooah, that guy still believes that man's actions cause global warming? I didn't think anybody was left. Too bad, that kinda takes credibility away from the rest of his assertions. But I'm sure he's OK as an economist.
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I don't plan to have children. Their potential footprint alone means I can practially drive a hummer to my neighbours. J/k. I think that the article is sound.

I think people like blank above - obsessing about minor purchases like shoes is who he is talking about. That thinking will burn you out way quick. It is not all or nothing. Going without shoes doesn't really help anyone. (you go with shoes so future generations will die, and you have to just live with that). Trust me I am an environmental scientist.

It's not people at the top, and it is not you not wanting to burn yourself out. Also, it most definately is not about "going back to basics" that is not progress, but denialism. We can't go backwards, as much as we would like to - the past didn't go anywhere. I think it is an evolution towards new thinking for everyone. Smart economics sounds like a good idea. No offense. New thinking and not a reversion to an ideal past, I think is a sound way out.
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This isn't a new argument and it's a lot more complicated than the article explains. Yes, there's a well-documented problem of environmental tokenism. On the other hand, those token actions may bring attention to the larger issue and bring environmentalism to the masses, and bring the mainstream support that real system change will need.
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"Environmental 'progressives' will continue along promoting the same beliefs that all 'progressives' have always promoted:

1. Everything of which I disapprove should be banned.
2. Everything of which I approve should be mandatory."

It's so much easier to hate a group when you paint them with such a large brush, isn't it?
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Unfortunately, many of the things trendy urban youth do fall into the category of the "narcissism of small differences." The use of a "cotton canvas bag" may be a very small step toward the protection of the environment, but, in reality it is more of a sacrifice-free symbolic gesture designed to say, "I'm someone who cares." What's needed is serious reform of the way we live: voluntary population control, vastly reduced living spaces, the reduction of climate-controlled environments, etc. Since, by and large, people seem unwilling to make serious sacrifices, a lot of people don't feel too hopeful for the future.
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"Do you think that all those enviro-goody-two-shoes things you did matter? Think again. ... That's what economist Gernot Wagner at the Environmental Defense Fund said."

That's now what he says. He doesn't say they don't matter. He says that they're not as important as other things, and speculates that they could be counter-productive in that they make people lax in their environmentalism by doing one thing that's LESS important than another, not completely unimportant.
What's with the sensationalism? Don't usually get that from this blog.
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"So what should we do?"

It's easy to discover what you SHOULD do.

However, what WILL happen is an entirely different matter.

Environmental "progressives" will continue along promoting the same beliefs that all "progressives" have always promoted:

1. Everything of which I disapprove should be banned.
2. Everything of which I approve should be mandatory.
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I cannot agree more. I used to try really hard to only buy low impact to zero impact goods. I raised 95% of my own food and recycled everything. But one day I gave a good long amount of time to my sneakers and how many people they were affecting. I could not go without shoes. And I burned through 2 pair in a year. So what could I do. Then answer was NOTHING. My shoes were affecting literally hundreds of other people's lives directly with each purchase. And if I thought about the hypocrisy of that it was maddening. And then there are things like electricity. You know you're using it right now. And it's affecting millions of people. And water and all those basic things because there's a mountain of other little things that go into that power plant and the coal and the trains and cars and employees and global fall out from the carbon etc etc etc.


I looked around and realized no one gave a fuck. They were still voting by party lines or (75%) not voting at all. So really it was pointless. Because if there were not systemic changes to correct the inherent behavior built into the society et al NOTHING would change. Buy a local apple but it's driven to market with a diesel chugging truck and put on display with more lights than you'd eve need by a grocery company that really only wants to keep it's 5% margin intact. Until people at the top want a better world or the whole decides to take back their world it will not matter. I do my part where I can but seriously I don't care whether or not your grandkids choke or cannot drink clean water.
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Lots of small actions add up.

Also, even as a Political, Awareness, or Issue-Lifespan-Continuity tool, all the little, visible, greeny things do matter, even in their smallest bits.

Because, it's the Congressman's daughter's,
mild acquaintance,
from second semester French class,
who had a unique way of speaking or being or thinking,
that helped influence someone,
who has influence on someone,
who has influence on lots of people,
and policies.

And if you think any of the cloud-chamber particle-collision chaos thinking is dead wrong,

just go ahead and peruse the masses of accounts telling how some pretty neat, big, well-known projects Actually got done,

and had about 1,000 near-misses on the way,

and almost never happened.

Only 1 Ex: Harry Potter was almost not published.
-It was the daughter of one publisher who made it happen.

This canard by Wagner is nothing more than an instance of someone thinking ONLY in-terms of Laboratory science,

in stead of Applied science.

-Two completely different things.
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