Why rich people care less about the environment
Last week I ran across a NY Times article whose topic was the trials and tribulations of NBA basketball stars. Apparently one very big problem at the end of each season is how these millionaires (the average yearly salary in the NBA is $5 m) would get their cars back to their home states and countries for the short off-season. The three main concerns were timeliness (going more than 3 days without their fleet of Escalades, BMWs, and Porsches was thought to be too much), mileage (driving them across the country would rack up odometer miles that werenât deemed fitting for cars of their class), trust (they didnât want just anyone touching their cars), and accommodation (NBA stars apparently have all sorts of quarks about how the process takes place).
As an environmentalist, it was a pretty hard read. I just kept thinking, god the only thing worse than driving around big gas guzzling cars is transporting them across the country and world. I kept wondering how all these role models could labor over all these little details without once considering the environment. It made me wonder, is there something about being rich that precludes being an environmentalist?
I did some research and apparently there is. Although there have been plenty of very rich conservationists over the years, recent polls show that those with more money generally think less about the environment and conversely those with less money think more about the environment (see summary here). I was instantly puzzled with this finding given that, for me, the hardest part of being a good environmentalist comes when I have a hard time affording the premiums placed on thing like organic veg or train travel. Why would this be the case?
I have come up with a short list of possible answers but I am not sure any are all that convincing:
1. Maybe what it takes to get rich (ie working 9-9 in a city office) removes people from their connection with the environment.
2. Maybe we all want to be rich and environmentally heartless but after trying and failing to make it happen, we fall back on the environment for a sense of belonging
3. Maybe there is some sort of tradeoff between the two. With limited amounts of caring resources, people have to choose between caring about money and caring about the environment.
4. Environmentalism might offer such a threat to business interests that one canât be a businessman and an environmentalist simultaneously.
5. Maybe the poorer we get the more the environment affects us personally.
Any other ideas?