Environmentalists damage environment as much as anyone else – study
A study into the habits of activists suggests that while they may behave in a “marginally greener” manner, the difference in their environmental impact is “modest.” Besides, conservationists “often engage in environmentally harmful behavior” such as eating meat or using air travel, the study adds.
“Many conservationists undertake environmentally harmful activities… while calling for people as a whole to reduce such behaviors,” the study says.
Scientists at Cambridge University found that even though air travel was one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, conservationists took an average of nine flights a year.
The research, published in the journal Biological Conservation, found they failed to score any better on green questions than non-activists. Their findings add to increasing evidence that education and knowledge has little impact on individual behavior.
The study assessed a range of lifestyle choices, including the use of bottled water, air travel, meat consumption and family size. The 734 participants were divided into three groups: conservationists, economists and doctors.
Although conservationists recycled more and ate less meat than the other groups, they still consumed meat or fish five times a week.
This would mean conservationists had a smaller personal carbon footprint, were it not for their use of air travel. All groups had similar results for their commute.
The combined footprint score of the conservationists was roughly 16 percent less than that of economists, and seven percent lower than the medics.
The study’s four authors are all conservation scientists. They admitted that between them they have seven children, took 31 flights in 2016 and ate an average of two meat meals in the week before submitting their study.
“I don’t think conservationists are hypocrites, I think that we are human – meaning that some decisions are rational, and others were rationalized,” study co-author Brendan Fisher said.
“Our results show conservationists pick and choose from a buffet of pro-environmental behaviors the same as everyone else. We might eat less meat and compost more, but we fly more – and many of us still commute significant distances in gas cars.”
Another author Andrew Balmford, added: “We must do more to lead by example.”