May 6, 2018

I recently let Earth Day pass without notice, not because I don’t like the Earth (it’s one of my favorite tourist destinations), but because I’m usually too busy doing things like going out into the woods to hunt and fish to get in my SUV and drive to a big Earth Day event at some electric-powered convention center along with thousands of other people to celebrate the environment by leaving behind tons of litter. If you think I’m suggesting that conservatives who are skeptical of outspoken environmentalists are more Earth-friendly than outspoken environmentalists, well…yes. Yes, I am. And now, the science is settled!

A year-long study by University of Michigan psychologist Michael Hall found that people who are skeptical of climate change claims and opposed to government policy to affect the climate are actually the most likely to engage in eco-friendly individual actions, such as recycling, buying "green" products, and using public transportation and reusable shopping bags. On the other hand, those who believe most strongly in manmade climate change and government action to combat it are the least likely to do anything personally to help the environment.

The researchers aren’t sure why, but they theorize that conservatives believe in individual responsibility (and the root of their name is “conservation”), while virtue-signaling environmentalists are exhibiting what psychologists call “moral licensing.” They think that speaking out about the issue and calling for the government to do something about it buys them moral brownie points that give them license not to do anything themselves. Sort of like how lecturing everyone else to live in trees buys you the moral authority to travel to eco-conferences at five-star resorts on private jets and live in a big, energy-sucking mansion on the coast.

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This isn’t really as surprising as it seems. It’s of a piece with the general dichotomy between conservatives and liberals, as seen in studies that show that liberals demand that the government raise the minimum wage while conservatives tip better; or that liberals demand more government programs to help the poor while conservatives give far more of their own money to charity. Putting your own money and effort into a pet cause is hard. Demanding that somebody else’s money be spent on your pet cause is easy. But I’ll say this for the latter: it obviously results in a very strong sense of self-satisfaction.



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Comments 1-13 of 13

  • Joachim Loew

    05/07/2018 01:04 PM

    I have always known this fact. I grew up, after WWII, on a small farm in Germany. to recycle, reuse and conserve was the only way we could survive.
    I am a conservative now, here in America, and this research fact is of now surprise to me.
    Just look at all those so called liberal elitists owning or chartering planes and fly all over the world. Or telling us to conserve energy by hanging our cloth out to dry.
    Not that I am envious of their riches or fame . But the over the top hypocritical behavior is what gets me wound up.

  • Dee Richards

    05/07/2018 12:38 PM

    Excellent article. This is something rarely brought up in discussions. Remember the Bush / Gore house comparison? Liberals tend to 'talk' about things. Conservatives tend to 'do something' about things. As Libertarians & Objectivist, we have seen this for years.

    And, yes, we think the 'global warming' issue should be looked at for future decisions but the current viewpoints only point to 'making money' from fear. FairTax would do more to help businesses make 'green' choices than all the legislation they can muster.

  • Dee Richards

    05/07/2018 12:19 PM

    Excellent article. This is something rarely brought up in discussions. Remember the Bush / Gore house comparison? Liberals tend to 'talk' about things. Conservatives tend to 'do something' about things. As Libertarians & Objectivist, we have seen this for years.

    And, yes, we think the 'global warming' issue should be looked at for future decisions but the current viewpoints only point to 'making money' from fear. FairTax would do more to help businesses make 'green' choices than all the legislation they can muster.

  • James Kilmer

    05/06/2018 09:00 PM

    This totally backs up everything I've experienced and observed. Thank you for your thoughtful essay.

  • LouiseCA

    05/06/2018 08:34 PM

    The statement made in your final paragraph is so true about liberals harping against Conservatives, in all areas, expecting us to do what they say needs to be done, but not what they (liberals) are actually doing. Which is usually, nothing. Take part in a pro-life thread sometime and you will find this to be screamingly clear. Pro-abortionists will begin ranting about all the "unwanted" and starving children in the world, and berating us for wanting to allow more children to be born. When some of us list the things that Christians and Conservatives are doing to help in those causes, and asking them what they are doing to help out, they are suddenly struck dumb and disappear into the sunset. Not once have I seen a single one of them state a single thing they are doing for the hungry, the orphans, or any needy group whatsoever. Not once. And I have confronted them many times, as have others.

  • David Weekley

    05/06/2018 08:20 PM

    Many conservatives love God and have a respect that all He created and praise Him for that.

    Psalm 89:11 KJV — The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.

  • Bill Mills

    05/06/2018 06:38 PM

    I totally agree with you! Amen!

  • Larry Mortland

    05/06/2018 06:35 PM

    Everyone needs to be assured that climate change is happening and will continue to do so, but NOT from anything that man has done over the past 300 years, or corrected with any global policies. The science involved is not all that difficult to explain or understand, unless you are of the Leftest persuasion and do not want to know the facts, despite the hard scientific evidence, (numerous evaluations of core samples from the mid-Atlantic Rift and other locations), of there being previous periods in which the Earth's climate has changed numerous times, as well as the polarity, which is currently overdue. In the Bahamas I have been diving in water bodies containing 25-30' stalagmite and stalactite formations separated by 25' and located at a depth of 110-180' below the surface, strong evidence of that area being dry a long enough period of time for their creation.
    Due to the scientific facts indicating a change in polarity some 30years ago, I designed a emergency navigational system for rapid deployment to support global navigation if the GPS system(s) were also disrupted; a simple RDF phased antennae broadcast beacon located at selected points around the earth. Loss of current guidance systems would ground most aircraft and create chaos with military systems as well, consider surface vessels and submarines.
    Yes, we are facing climate change and will have to make decisions now about the eventual "drowning" of hundreds of major coastal cities, planning where to relocate, how to rebuild and who is responsible for the enormous costs associated. Please consideration the capitol of Brazil, in my youth it was Belem, which was changed and moved inland to the newly created Brasilia for a successful example.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.

  • Wayne Graff

    05/06/2018 05:43 PM

    I don't consider myself an environmentalist, but: I drive a motorcycle that gets an average of 50-60 mpg. I bought a new car and right now it is getting 25.5 mpg. I just had solar panels installed on my roof, with the help of Gov. Abbott passing something that allowed me to get it on a lease. I recycle, I mow my own lawn(mulching mower) and don't use a lot of nasty chemicals to do so. I wash my own car and motorcycle on my lawn, which puts water into my lawn and the detergents actually help feed my lawn. So I agree with this study, conservative are true conservationists.

  • Mary Kotarba

    05/06/2018 04:40 PM

    Nail on the head!!!

  • Amelia Little

    05/06/2018 04:38 PM

    Reminds me of one of the "Stories" on fb, where the young cashier is admonishing the elderly lady about earth conservation (I think starting the conversation with plastic bags) and the elderly lady then enumerates all the earth conservation tactics observed through the years--multiple uses for the brown paper bags that used to hold your groceries until someone had the (brilliant) idea of using plastic. She even lists all the multiple uses for the plastic bags. Not that the 20-something cashier was responsible for all the latest and wonderful innovations that clog our landfills and oceans than the elderly lady. I always figured I should do all things in moderation, try not to be wasteful, buying things I don't really need (I'm getting pretty good at this) and reuse things like plastic bags, make sure my straws, etc, get into an actual trashcan--that hopefully is emptied before it's so full stuff is blown out by the wind. Before the government got involved, there was much charitable giving and actions going on. But, now, seems the government (local) requires permits to feed the homeless, etc. And, there is the push to make all your good deeds be made, I don't think it works that way. I should do good deeds without the need for recognition by the recipient and especially the government. I remember a moment in time when GWB was suggesting government mandated volunteerism. (Uhm...if I am FORCED, I don't think volunteering is still the correct thing to call it.) Anyway, there is just so much that boils down to common sense, using, doing things in moderation. And it is a real head shaker when those (not everybody) who are rallying for a cause like earth day who leave behind a greater footprint via trash left behind.

  • Matt

    05/06/2018 04:00 PM

    Please update your link at the bottom as well as link to the study you're referencing.

  • James Haynes

    05/06/2018 03:31 PM

    Very true.