I recently asked Is the greatest impediment to someone living more sustainably their resources, especially time and money? and formed the hypothesis that people with money and time are both the biggest cause of our environmental problems and resist changing the most.
I’m just developing the approach and understanding, but predict and expect it will become a major point in where to focus our efforts. Going to the Amazon or coral reefs distracts us from who decides to extract, who pays for what polluting and depleting provide, who benefits from it, and whose behavior if changed would help the most.
It seems obvious to me that rich people decide, pay, benefit, and could help most by changing. It’s still a hypothesis, so I welcome challenges. In the meantime, I’ll keep developing the idea.
Rich people are biased against seeing their contribution. They think they’re the good guys. They focus on poor people and helping them, which is nice but misses the cause of their suffering, to the exclusion of seeing that they are polluting and depleting the most. They are marketed to most, so probably conclude, erroneously, believe that buying things will help.
The top predictor of someone suffering from environmental problems: poverty. Not geography, because people in Cancer Alley suffer as much as people outside the U.S. Different areas within Houston and New Orleans suffered differently from hurricanes despite bordering each other. African dictators do fine too. If poverty predicts suffering, what causes poverty? Many things, but especially a lack of access to resources like money and time.
The top predictor of someone causing environmental problems and therefore suffering: wealth. What causes wealth? Many things, but especially access to resources like money and time.
The top predictor of someone resisting change: also wealth, again coming from access to resources like money and time. Wealthy people consider what got them there good, therefore believe others getting it good too. They won’t see when something they consider good hurts people because it violates their world view—that is, confirmation bias.
The people whose change would help sustainability and decrease polluting and depleting the most: wealthy people.
I believe we should help the poor, but if we want to stop causing their suffering, we have to change rich people’s behavior.
The greatest obstacle to rich people changing: they think they aren’t the problem and that other people have to change.
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