Why are those who say they care about the environment also the ones who are acting in ways that ultimately hurt the environment in the end? Why do environmentalists pollute the environment more than climate change skeptics?
The perils of widespread famine. The devastation of nuclear warfare. The extinction of arctic polar bears. The list of menaces which humanity inflicts upon the ecological system seems to be unending according to these environmentalists. So clearly, those who are more "ecologically aware" are society's moral betters since they're fighting to preserve the environment, right?
So imagine the hilarity that ensues when a study discovered that the more environmentally concerned people among us are also the ones less likely to actually conserve the environment. Hilarious, because it looks like those of us who don't take the threat of environmental devastation as seriously as these climate alarmists are actually acting in ways that are better for the environment.
Why Are Environmentalists Bad for the Planet?
According to the study done by Cornell and the University of Michigan, people who claim they're the most concerned about climate change are also less likely to act in ways that preserve the environment.
In contrast, the global-warming skeptics who are often demonized by the environmental movement are actually better at conserving the environment. They’re more likely to use eco-friendly products, reusable bags, and utilize public transportation. In general, climate skeptics are actively engaged in more pro-environmental behavior.
An infamous example is the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. They lasted for almost a year, with activists traveling from all over the world to protest the construction of an oil pipeline near an Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. But once the protests ended, the true devastation became clear. It wasn't the pipeline that had destroyed the land around the reservation, it was the more than 48 million pounds of garbage and debris left behind by the so-called environmentalists.
Image source: NPR. Garbage left behind by DAPL protestors.
How come those who say they care about the environment are also the ones who are acting in ways that ultimately hurt the environment in the end? Why is their behavior worse for the environment than climate skeptics? Listed below are a few possible reasons to explain this peculiar discovery.
Environmental Activists Want Policy Changes Before Personal Changes
According to the study, the main difference between the two groups of people is those who support government action for the environment and those who don't. Of course, it's safe to assume that if you believe that the world is going to end soon, you'd probably want your government to do something about it. But the problem with that mindset is that it removes all the personal responsibility for making changes from the activists themselves. They're more than happy to push for lifestyle changes mandated by the government on others, but they lack the resolve to make the same changes in their own lives.
Activists are more than happy to push for lifestyle changes mandated by the government on others, but they lack the resolve to make changes in their own lives.
Ironically, those who say they're more skeptical of climate change or massive government intervention are also the people who believe in taking personal responsibility. They're not gunning for massive government take-overs of polluting industries, yet they still manage to care (and do something) about the environment.
Conservatives Care More about Their Children's Welfare
A possible (albeit provocative) reason why climate skeptics on the right act in ways that are better for the environment is because they accept the personal responsibility of providing for the welfare of their own offspring.
Take, for instance, those who'd rather not think about the ramifications of their child's education. They just drop off their kids at public school, leaving the child’s process of learning up to the government's education system. On the other hand, we can observe how conservative parents are more likely to homeschool because they're more skeptical of public schooling's affect on their child's learning and development.
Perhaps this may be the reason why conservatives also engage in more pro-environmental behavior? You protect nature because you want your children and grandchildren to live in a healthy environment, and you expect that others will take on the personal responsibilities of protecting the environment for their offspring too.
You protect nature because you want your children and grandchildren to live in a healthy environment.
Only those who assume the worst about humanity will assume that other people won't act in a responsible way, and thus government intervention is needed to force others to comply with their views.
Conservatives Respect Private Property More Than Eco-Socialists
A person who respects private property rights is less likely to act in ways that would harm another person's private property. They understand that acts like theft, vandalism, and fraud are harmful not only to the victims of these deeds but are also harmful to everyone else in society – themselves included.
Hence, if you believe in private property rights, you'll know that you don't have a right to litter on someone else's yard. You'll also know that you don't have the right to dump toxic waste on someone else's property. As for the property you own, you'd be an irresponsible, lazy fool if you don’t act to preserve it as best you can when it belongs to you. This is why those who uphold and respect private property rights are psychologically more likely to treat the environment with respect.
As for the property you own, you'd be an irresponsible, lazy fool if you don’t act to preserve it as best you can when it belongs to you.
On the other hand, those who don’t believe in the sanctity of private property don’t hold themselves to the same standard. If property rights are meaningless, then it’s not the private citizen who should be left with the responsibility for personal action. Rather, this responsibility should be given to the government, and the state can enforce how others will deal with ecological matters.
Belief Predicts Policy Support but Not Individual Behavior
Going back to the previously cited research on why climate skeptics (who tend to lean conservative politically) are more likely to engage in pro-environmental behavior . We can derive the conclusion that climate change believers prefer to endorse federal climate policies as a way to deal with the problem, instead of relying on responsible individuals and taking personal action.
It's similar to those who are saddled with student loans demanding that the government wipe out their debt so they won't have to fulfill their obligation to pay back what they borrowed. It's no wonder why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez both proposed the Green New Deal and demanded we cancel student loans. It’s the government's job, not their own, to be responsible for dealing with their problems.
When someone believes that the government should be responsible for handling the problem of climate change, they'll be less likely to take on the personal responsibility of dealing with the problem themselves.