Crunchy argued that guilt was unproductive, and that when we feel guilty, we should examine our guilt. Are we committing "eco-sins" out of laziness? Are we just making excuses? Or are our reasons for committing said eco-sin really valid? If they are, Crunchy argues that we should let the guilt go.
When I first read this, it sounded like a very reasonable argument. What is the point of guilt anyway?
And then I started thinking about it ...
I remembered this article in The Washington Post (hat tip Charles) about how going green in one area often makes people feel that they have the moral license to go un-green in other areas. It's like eco-nut off-setting: if you're really diligent about composting, then it's okay to waste food. If you drive a hybrid, it's okay to drive instead of walk. Sometimes the off-setting isn't even that related: for instance, bringing your own plastic bags might be used to offset driving an SUV.
So it's not surprising that researchers are finding a rebound effect when it comes to energy efficient appliances. It goes something like this: Zev buys energy efficient appliances, Zev ends up saving money on his electricity bill, so Zev decides to use his savings to buy a new HDTV.
The end result is that our efforts to "go green" may be having next to no effect.
Which brings us back to guilt.
Maybe guilt isn't so bad after all. Maybe that constant nagging guilt I feel: when I use a paper cup (minor guilt) or when I fly in an airplane (major guilt) is actually more productive than I thought. Maybe that guilt is reminding me that there really are no eco-nut off-sets. That composting does not give me allowance to waste food. Nor does taking public transit to work give me allowance to fly.
I still might waste food. Or fly. But I feel guilty about it. I realize that every action matters. That one "good" action does not just balance out a "bad one." That I have no moral license.
So maybe guilt isn't so bad for you after all.
What do you think?