How Environmentalists Fail (Where We Could Use Innovation)

November 1, 2023 by Joshua
in Nature

Tell most Americans that an airline is investing in “sustainable airplane fuel” and their ability to think critically flies out the window. They’ll believe anything you say that will let them tell themselves they can fly sustainably. Likewise with offsets, anything labeled recyclable, recycled, or compostable: people will presume anything is possible if it lets them avoid stopping polluting and depleting.

Yet a few things they consider impossible. However much they say value sustainability and denigrate others who don’t act as not caring or deniers, the following issues lead them to stop thinking and shut down any more consideration of acting more sustainability.

Environmentalists, in particular, don’t challenge them, so don’t act sustainably. Their resulting lack of integrity, credibility, or knowing what they’re talking about (at least regarding sustainability leadership) leads people to ignore them. I’m not saying they lack integrity, credibility, or knowing what they’re talking about to put them down. I’m stating the results.

People believe we can fly to Mars more than they believe they can solve these problems. They can be solved. The challenge is not that they detract from a good life. The problem is how people perceive them, and the effect I call “You can’t stop the global heroin trade if you’re worried about your own supply.” Since environmentalists use these excuses, they promote others using them too.

If you think sustainability needs innovation, solving these problems will help sustainability more than working on carbon capture or passing a carbon tax.

The challenges

Flying-distance families: When family members live flying-distance away, people will say they have no choice, they have to visit. They do have choice. They chose to live flying distance away.

I made some headway on this rationalization with a Muslim friend. We were talking about avoiding flying. He told me his mom lived flying-distance away so had no choice but to fly a few times a year to see her. I asked him if he loved Muhammad. He said he did. I asked him if Muhammad loved him. He said he did.

Then I asked him if he or Muhammad ever flew to see they other. He paused and said, “I see what you mean.”

Job requires it: Not only do people say they have to for work, they get self-righteous and say—get this—that not flying is privileged, as if only rich people could avoid flying. Something that the top physicists said was impossible just over a century ago, they act as if flying is mandatory. They act as if flying is normal and not flying is elite and impossible.

Nonetheless, as long as people feel that way,

You won’t get laid: A friend pointed out after he read a book The Mating Mind that in many cases throughout the animal kingdom, females select males that waste things. The classic case is the peacock’s tail. Its size and colors make it vulnerable to predators, but it also shows that it’s so healthy that even with the vulnerability, it’s still alive.

Woman have agency. While there is variety in what they find attractive, men who conspicuously consume, waste, or otherwise display they can survive just fine will get a boost in attractiveness.

Many Americans pay tens of thousands of dollars per year to fund them: The more resources people have, the more they tend to spend on things that pollute and deplete. Most Americans I know spend tens of thousands of dollars per year funding extracting and polluting industries. Between filling their car’s gas tank, flying, buying doof, buying material things they don’t need, using the internet, and other activities, they are responsible for funneling tens of thousands of dollars per year that pollutes, depletes, and undermines democracy.

People want two or more kids: Despite that for 300,000 years, human population grew at nearly negligible levels, in the U.S., for a few generations (when land, energy, and other resources looked infinite), people had as many kids as they wanted.

It became normal and people can’t imagine living how people did for hundreds of thousands of years. We’ve lost the ability to reflect.

If we don’t, China and Russia will: People how oppose making too many things competitively and argue not to see things as “zero-sum” or “fixed pie” can only imagine that if we don’t grow and innovate pedal-to-the-medal, Russia and China will, leading them to beat us in business markets and maybe militarily.

Somehow they can’t see how if we and enough allies don’t buy products that cause pollution from Russia and China, they won’t make as much money from us.

Deadly, dependent cities: Las Vegas and Phoenix require unsustainable irrigation, dams, and hydroelectric power. People living there say they have no choice but to pollute and deplete. People living car-dependent suburbs claim they can’t live without driving.

Commuter roads into cities: Once people didn’t live in suburbs. Then we built highways into cities. People didn’t want to live next to the highways so they moved to the ends of them, then the suburbs, now exurbs. Now people say they have no choice but to drive.

Close the highways (or let them rewild) and people will move back closer to each other.

Big family dreams: For nearly all of human existence, human population barely grew. Then with agriculture (partly) and mainly using fossil fuels and nuclear power, we’ve come to anticipate more energy tomorrow than today, and now only know population growth. We don’t need to grow. Populations can even fall. People don’t need to have more than one kid.

I’ve seen many families of many sizes but I’ve never seen less love in a family with one child than with many.

Religions competing: Read the first chapter of Alan Weisman’s Countdown (free on Amazon’s preview, but I recommend not buying from Amazon) to see two cultures competing by having more children (on either side of the Jordan River). A podcast guest who is evangelical talked about how having more kids would help his religion win. This fear is another version of “If we don’t Russia or China will.”

Disease and mosquito fears: My mom thinks of nature as mosquitos and no air conditioning. People think without hospitals we’ll die young.

I’ll add to the list of problems people consider insurmountable so shut down their brains from thinking as I think of them.

Do any of the above resonate with you?

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