What is the correct term for describing the chain-reaction behavior of a people who choose not to engage in environmentally-friendly practices because the believe someone else will do it instead?


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    That is just called Apathy, or (a term from my Environmental Science class)  it is known as Blind faith in Technology.

    That is when people don’t care because they think that science will fix everything. Like, why care because we’ll find technology to save us. 

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      Thanks! That’s a good answer. What about when technology doesn’t play a part though? I was thinking more about scenarios such as: “I won’t pick up that bottle on the ground because I’m late for an appointment…but someone else today will probably pick it up.” – Then that ‘somebody else’ walks by, sees the bottle and thinks: “Oh, I should pick that up and recycle it, but I’m on my phone and I just don’t feel like it, but I’m sure somebody will do it eventually.” – and so-on until it gets to the end of the day and nobody has done anything with the bottle yet! And this goes on with so many things! Recycling, water and energy conservation, public awareness and education…it never ends. – And we will never see true forward progress until this mentality across people changes!

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      Yes, then in that case it is just apathy. lacking the will to do it. Someone is just apathetic.

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    You might be thinking of “diffusion of responsibility.” This occurs when members of a group do not take action, based on the assumption that someone else in the group will. One very famous example of the diffusion of responsibility is the story of Kitty Genovese.

    I would imagine this sort of inaction also applies to group inaction vis-a-vis the environment. The crux being– if everyone assumes someone else is working to protect the environment, most people end up just doing nothing.

  3. 0 Votes

    In a sense, what you are describing, ctjames16, is one manifestation of the Tragedy of the Commons. Tragedy of the commons is a classic environmental scenario, first termed and explained by Garret Hardin in Science magazine in 1968. It essentially refers to a scenario in which land is held in a public commons, and each individual that has access to this commons maximizes their personal benefit from the land (in this scenario it is grazing) and as a result the land becomes overgrazed and is degraded.

    In the situation you are describing, folks are just thinking of their own benefit, which in this case means not taking the time, resources or energy to care for and protect the “commons”, or the environment, as they assume that somebody else will take care of it–as it is after all everyone’s responsibility. This tendency manifests all the time in group living situations–when something that is everyone’s responsibilty essentially becomes nobody’s responsibility.

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      Very, very true. I guess I didn’t apply the Tragedy of the Commons to this specific scenario, but it definitely fits. What I find so interesting about the scenario I described is how individuals will see the situation and understand what they SHOULD do, but choose not to in the hope that someone else will do it for them. We see this in so many aspects of daily life, and it really comes down the the average human being lazy! People tend to both put things off and transfer responsibility so easily that they don’t realize what the consequences can look like down the road.

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      I too am coming to terms with the reality that humans are fundamentally lazy. It is a sad reality, and one that I wish were not true, but even the best of us are, we just like to pretend otherwise. Its a challenge that we all face individually (“I should do that, but I dont really want to, maybe I’ll do it later, oh right I meant to do that…) and collectively (“maybe somebody else will take care of it, she is not as busy as I am so its better for her to take that on). Unfortunately I don’t see any profound way of avoiding this piece of human nature. All I can think of is to continually train ourselves to be more proactive and take personal responsibility for our immediate and more regional environments, and to own up to the reality that if we want something to happen a certain way, or it we want the world to be a certain way, WE have to be that change.

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      As usual, well said lunafish.

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      Yes, very well said lunafish.

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