in Environmental, Social commentary

The Downside of Irrationality

I was listening to Quirks and Quarks yesterday and they had an interesting segment with Dr. Dan Ariely, the author of The Upside of Irrationality. He does some cool experiments that basically show we’re not the rational animals we think we are (Sorry Aristotle).

When faced with a choice that involves short-term pain for long-term gain, we will often forgo the gain to avoid the pain. Why save money for retirement in 30 years when I can buy a TV now? Why do we waste time and energy on revenge when it’s much more productive for us to move on? He also said that mass disasters don’t get the same attention as individuals. When we see a mass disaster, say a genocide, we become emotionally ‘muted’, probably as a coping mechanism; but when we see one person suffering, our heart goes out to them (think The Blind Side).

Anyway, that was just to give you the gist of what he’s about. The point he brought up that I want to talk about is this: ‘If you were trying to design a problem that people would not care about it would look like climate change”.

Eep. It’s true  based on what he was talking about. It’s going to happen years down the the road (well, it’s getting sooner every day I think!), it’s going to happen to other people first (poor countries, island nations), we don’t see individuals suffering, and anything we do personally will be a drop in the bucket.

So how do we get people to care about climate change?

We have to reward them! He used the example of people who drive a Prius. They might think of themselves as being such a good person for driving a Prius. And when they drive around, they see all the people looking at them and thinking ‘what a good person, they’re driving a Prius’ (whether people looking at them are really thinking this is irrelevant, as long as the driver believes it).

EGO! That’s the answer. We have to use people’s ego’s to make them want to help the environment. i.e. If you help the environment you’re a better person! We all look up to you! Way to compost!

Do you part, and pat the next environmentalist you see on the back and tell them good job!

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  1. Look at you! Way to go!! Writing about green issues trying to spread awareness. You go girl! You do rock! Keep it up. : )