Green moral tradeoffs in the WashPo
Like most Whole Foods shoppers, David Bain thinks he is a decent citizen of Earth. His family buys mostly organic food. They recycle. He recently fortified his green credentials by removing a leaking oil tank in his yard. But here’s a head scratcher: Though the Bains live in Arlington within walking distance of Whole Foods, they often drive there in an SUV that gets just 19 miles per gallon. He has noticed that his SUV is not alone in the lot.
This is passed along from Alan Hyunh, one of SPPD’s wonderful undergraduates.
Ok, I don’t actually feel virtuous shopping at Whole Foods (I usually just feel rather ripped off), but the fundamental question is: Do I have to do everything 100 percent whole hog to be a “good” person. The last example is a good one: so she eats some ice cream because she exercises and works it off (in her mind). Now, yes, in the world of absolutes, she should exercise and eat carrots. But she’s not worse off having exercised if she was going to eat the ice cream anyway.
So if there is a rebound effect–what environmental economists call it when you get an efficient car or lights and start using them more-are you worse off then if you just used your regular? What if you use transit to commute and then use that as a rationale to use air travel every two weeks?