There's a tendency, part of human nature, to make simpleminded and silly judgments based on emotion, not analysis. Thinking things through takes too much time and doesn't provide the thrill of decisive action. So what if we're destroying more natural resources in our "recycling" project than we save? Our hearts are in the right places, and we mean well. Pay no attention to the people on the other side of the globe who are starving; we've gotta fly to a convention, rent a car at the airport, check in to our hotel, and maybe even march en masse to demonstrate our seriousness and good will. Don't think about the energy (and ethical) costs of raising animals, slaughtering them, preserving and transporting pieces of their flesh to market, preparing them for consumption, and discarding the remains. Just enjoy the meal.

It's tempting to focus on what's immediately visible and ignore long-term, higher-order, more distant consequences of our choices. Hard work is needed to build good models of a situation, to gather accurate input data, and to analyze the results. Oftentimes a simulation suggests that inaction (or something counter-intuitive) is the best thing we can do. Worse yet, modeling may just demonstrate the uncontrollable complexity of the future — the fact that nobody can predict what will occur.

The need for mature thinking doesn't just exist for environmental issues. Economics, politics, technology, and every other sphere of human action all demand focused analysis if they're to be done right. It's not easy, but if people don't choose to make the investment we'll just keep on wasting resources and needlessly increasing entropy.

Friday, January 28, 2000 at 05:51:06 (EST) = 2000-01-28

TopicScience - TopicSociety

Hey. Check out the appendix of Steven Landsberg's "The Armchair Economist" for a discussion of "kindergarten environmentalism". More literally, where his young kid was brainwashed in her prekindergarten class.

(correlates: CleanupHitter, ComplexSimplicity, EyeCandy, ...)