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The Human Nature of Unsustainability

William Rees

August 30, 2011

Humans may pride themselves as being the best evidence for intelligent life on Earth, but an alien observer would record that the (un)sustainability conundrum has the global community floundering in a swamp of cognitive dissonance and collective denial…Indeed, our alien friend might go so far as to ask why our reasonably intelligent species seems unable to recognize the crisis for what it is and respond accordingly.  To begin answering this question, we need to look beyond conventional explanations–scientific uncertainty, societal inertia, lack of political will, resistance by vested interests, and so on–to what may well be the root cause of the conundrum: human nature itself.

This is a chapter from The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (2010).