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Consumer Consequences

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I listen to NPR almost exclusively while driving.  That and XM radio, usually Fred because I like New Wave Rock.  The news shows have always plugged some website of theirs called Consumer Consequences and I finally sat down to check it out.   Oh boy.  Guilt trip. 🙁

It’s a little game-type website to show you how many Earths it would take to sustain the world population if every human on earth lived the way you do.  Now, I’m a rabid environmentalist, but after taking this test, “Hollywood Liberal” now has a new hypocritical member I guess.    According to this website, it would take 10.2 earths to sustain the world population on my “rich, extravagant” lifestyle.  I’m not rich and I didn’t think I was that bad!  I recycle everything, what more can I do?!

The game breaks it down for you pretty well by category.  The main thing wrong with my lifestyle, according to this chart, is my car driving habits.  I never take public transport, I rarely carpool, and despite my hybrid car, I’m still guzzling up acres of the earth like some rabid locust in a cornfield.

Well, look here, well intentioned avatar!  Were there public transport to be HAD in LA, believe me, I would take it! The thrills of my vacations are when I go places with an efficient subway or a trolley.  I always want to move to those places, because it’s obviously the civilized way to live.  Unfortunately, LA has horrible public transit, and it takes a real leader to push things through like subway systems and parks (Ever read the story of how Central Park came to happen?  Really breathtaking leadership) and we don’t have that many leaders willing to make people sacrifice for the greater good.  Long-term isn’t popular.  It doesn’t get votes.

Anyway, between this game and reading this book, it’s hard to feel like anything you do will really help the environment at all.

“The World Without Us” is a fascinating book, that imagines the planet if every human were to disappear tomorrow off the earth, and what would happen to our infrastructure, to the environment as a result of our actions, even after we are gone.   I’ll be honest, it’s a downer.  We’ve pretty much ruined it all, and the only way out is to get rid of all CO2 and get some negative population growth going on, which I’m a huge fan of.   Getting everyone on earth on board this though?…

I just can’t see there ever being a real, concerted effort to bring about change.  There are just too many damn people already, and we’re all basically motivated by self-interest.  I think part of our problem as a society is that the more people there are in a nation, the less we feel connected to each other, the harder it is to comprehend the scale of how we live and the impact it has.   This interview is very interesting in demonstrating the phenomenon of how the statistics of numbers effect the way we emotionally react to things.   An interesting quote from it:

: One of the experiments that you have done… is to show people a picture of a seven year old child in Africa who is starving and comparing their response to that to people who are shown the same picture, but are also given a statistical summary of the hugeness of the problem with millions of others who suffering. What was the outcome of that?

PAUL SLOVIC: When we showed just the picture of the child, the child’s name, and the information that they were suffering from malnutrition, and gave people the opportunity to donate money that would go to this child, we got a fairly strong response. These were actual donations that were made. Then we had a condition that we did not show a child, but we just gave a statistical picture of the large numbers of the starving children in Africa and ask people to donate to an organization that will transfer the money to deal with this problem – we got a rather small response. The third condition, another group of people, we combined the two conditions. We gave the statistical summary, but then we asked the people to donate to the individual who is one of the millions, but the money would go to the individuals, with the statistics, as putting the background of size of the problem. We got a very poor response. Not much different than the statistics alone. So, bringing the numbers in seemed to depress the willingness to donate. Our interpretation of that is, in order to donate you have to make an emotional connection with the person or the cause and you can do that with when there is one child. You can kind of focus and you can then make that connection. The numbers seem to distract from our attention and weaken that emotional connection, therefore; the donations are not as great.

Fascinating how our brains were probably built to work within small tribes and now we’re thrown into huge vats of humanity.  No wonder we need psychologists!

Back to Consumer Consequences, I also had to break down my meals, and if I wanted to be honest, I eat maybe 10-15 percent of my diet in fruits and veggies.  Ugh, not only a consumptive pig, but an unhealthy one at that!

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