Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Who Cares?

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Who Cares?

Article excerpt

Among behavioral psychologists it's known as the "Dunning-Kruger effect": the well-documented tendency of individuals to inaccurately estimate their abilities. Incompetent people are likely to believe they are more capable than they are. Exceptionally competent individuals, meanwhile, are more likely to have less confidence in their skills. You've probably witnessed this in action--while meatheads brim with assurance, eggheads are riddled with doubt.

Turns out that our flawed self-perception also expresses itself in how we view our impact on the environment.

For four years, National Geographic, in partnership with the international public opinion research firm GlobeScan, has conducted a multinational study to measure consumer progress toward environmental sustainability. The survey of 17,000 people in 17 countries asks individuals about how much energy they use, how they get around, where they get their food from, and whether they use "green products." The "Greendex" then questions people about their attitudes toward the environment and their knowledge of environmental issues.

The 2012 Greendex found that the people with the most sustainable behaviors come from the developing economies of India, China, and Brazil. The lowest scores come from people living in countries with more mature economies: Canada, Japan, France. The country with the least sustainability-oriented consumers is--wait for it--the United States.

Given the connection between affluence and resource use, that's to be expected. …

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