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Is Environmentalism Selfish?




In fact, I would argue that all actions are fundamentally self-interested, even the ‘altruistic’ ones. But this isn’t the right blog to get into that on.

I posted that George Carlin video the other day because it’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves. But it’s funny ’cause it’s true.

Carlin’s right–most environmentalists probably don’t care about the planet “in the abstract”–in fact, behavioural psychology studies suggest humans are virtually incapable of being moved by abstract concepts. Environmentalists do just want “their own habitat.”

I don’t see anything wrong with that.

I mean, I’m glad that being environmentally conscious is good for animals, and slows their rate of extinction. But that doesn’t mean my principal motivation isn’t preserving the biosphere which my existence depends on.

I get a good feeling when I think about how using less fossil fuel helps stall global warming, thereby sustaining the current climate, so friendly to millions of species. But I happen to belong to one of those species!

It pleases me that buying less discourages mining, polluting and clear-cutting. But that’s mostly because the planet being trashed is the one I live on, and it’s the only habitable one I know.

Caring for the environment is a Nice Thing To Do, but I’m skeptical that’s the primary reason people do it. I think those actively engaged in learning about, discussing and acting on environmental issues are most interested in protecting themselves and the people they love–the friends and family who would suffer should we transgress environmental limits irreverisbly.

There’s another perfectly valid, self-interested reason to be environmentally conscious: it saves you a hell of a lot of money.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Raven Warren permalink
    04/17/2011 10:30 AM

    I’m glad you wrote this. The reason why you help take care of the earth doesn’t matter to me. It’s the earth that I have to live in too! So thanks! :)

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