The psychological roots of resource over-consumption

August 23, 2011 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Nate Hagens for his article, which appears in the book, Fleeing Vesuvius. See for the full table of contents of the book, which has such sections as Energy Availability; Innovation in Business, Money and Finance; New Ways of Using the Land; Dealing with Climate Change; Changing the Way We Live; Changing the Way We Think; and Ideas for Action.

Following is Nate’s introduction, followed by his article.

Fleeing Vesuvius: The psychological roots of resource over-consumption

Posted by Nate Hagens on May 11, 2011 – 10:50am

The essay below is an updated and edited version of a post I wrote here a few years ago, I’m Human, I’m American and I’m Addicted to Oil. Richard Douthwaite, Irish economist and activist, (and a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute), invited me to contribute it as a chapter in the just released book Fleeing Vesuvius, which is a collection of articles generally addressing “how can we bring the world out of the mess it finds itself in”? My article dealt with the evolutionary underpinnings of our aggregate behavior – neural habituation to increasingly available stimuli, and our penchant to compete for status given the environmental (cultural) cues of our day. And how, after we make it through the likely upcoming currency/claims bottleneck, we would be wise to adhere to an evolutionary perspective in considering a future (more) sustainable society.

The psychological roots of resource over-consumption

Humans have an innate need for status and for novelty in their lives. Unfortunately, the modern world has adopted very energy- and resource-intensive ways of meeting those needs. Other ways are going to have to be found as part of the move to a more sustainable world.

Most people associate the word “sustainability” with changes to the supply side of our modern way of life such as using energy from solar flows rather than fossil fuels, recycling, green tech and greater efficiency. In this essay, however, I will focus on the demand-side drivers that explain why we continue to seek and consume more stuff.

To read the full article, please click here:

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