Enlightened Capitalism

Essays about how to harness people's natural desire to create wealth and improve their quality of life to solve global problems such as war and poverty.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Suggestion For Environmentalists

Today I had an amazing insight about environmentalism (and other such causes). Environmental groups often talk about why Exxon or Dow Chemical or Philip Morris are bad. Of course if any such group begins to pose a real threat, the companies under attack will retaliate, working to discredit or otherwise neutralise the environmental group, just like the group is working to neutralise them. So it's a kind of mini-war.

What if we looked at it another way. Let's say the people in charge of Exxon are not bad people, they are just doing what to them seems the most fun and profitable thing they can think of, given their situation. They have many options, and they have chosen what they think is the best one for them, at the moment.

Now, what if we could present to them something better, I mean something THEY perceive as more fun and more profitable to do, rather than what they are doing. This involves a strange reversal, instead of trying to hurt them, we are trying to make them even more successful and happy (not just from our point of view, but from theirs). Once it became clear this was our agenda, they might even invite us into their office and tell us some of their challenges. Suddenly it would be in their obvious self-interest to work closely with us.

It seems like there is already critical mass in the environmental movement to make big things happen. The problem seems to be the individuals in the movement can't agree on what to accomplish, what is step 1. Otherwise I can't imagine we would still be watching fuel efficiency drop, deforestation accelerate, and air & water pollution continue to increase.

I suggest this as step 1, a very big victory we could all go for and win. List all the people who are directly causing the most environmental harm. Then try to figure out why, from THEIR point of view, are they doing that. What problem does that solve for them? Next, brainstorm alternative solutions to THEIR problem, and present those ideas to these people in a spirit of friendly cooperation. Open a dialogue, with the goal being to come up with something more fun and profitable than what those people are now doing.

Note that this step doesn't cost anything at all. It will have been worth it, even if it fails.


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