The Dangers of Lazy Logic

Desire to Know vs. Desire to Understand

It is our basic nature to be satisfied with just knowing certain facts. More often than not, our belief that we “know” a fact supersedes the desire to understand the complex details of the fact. Life is too busy to take the time to understand and analyze the over 50 GB of data our brains process every day. Knowing the train schedule is enough. I don’t need to understand the logic behind how the schedule was made. Knowing it will rain is enough to convince me I need an umbrella. I don’t need to understand or analyze the movement of high and low pressure systems.

For most of the information our brains process, just knowing is enough. However, being satisfied with “just knowing” can lead to gullible assumptions, acceptance of inaccurate information and lazy logic.  Abraham Maslow theorized that the desires to know, to understand and to analyze have a hierarchical order. The strength of these desires is dependent on our immediate motivational needs. For example, if I am hungry and I want to eat something that is reasonable healthy, I can choose something at a convenience store. Say I grab a microwaveable soy burger. I know this is food. I read the label and I don’t find anything particularly bad on the label. It says “healthy choice” and “no MSG” on the packaging. I am content that it is not harmful and will satisfy my hunger. I have no burning desire to understand exactly how it was made or how it will make my hunger vanish. Looks good, smells good, tastes good…hunger gone, I’m happy.

It is doubtful the microwaveable soy burger will have any long-term detrimental effects on my body, but I have gone out on a limb by trusting the words, “healthy choice”. My trust is based on a gullible assumption that I am not receiving inaccurate information. Marketing companies know this and use our satisfaction with “knowing” as a tactic to sell us all sorts of products. Politicians and their campaign managers use similar tactics in election campaigns.

What happens when what we think we “know” is actually wrong?

If what I think I know about the train schedule is wrong, I will probably miss the train. However, if what a person thinks they know about a political, environmental or social issue is wrong, it will probably lead to poor choices for mitigation of the negative consequences related to the issue. Fake news (a.k.a. “propaganda”), advertising, puffery, smear campaigning and hype are all tactics to spread information that is less than accurate. The problem is that although complex issues should trigger the desires to understand, systematize, organize and analyze information, human nature predisposes most of us to be intellectually lazy. We are easily satisfied if information (whether accurate or not) fits our mindset, our lifestyle and our belief systems. In the absence of cognitive dissonance, the desire to deeply analyze information is diminished. If our peer community accepts the same information as truth, our beliefs are further reinforced.

Lazy Logic

The Car Radio Example

Lazy logic is making an assumption that a correlation exists on the basis that two events occur within close temporal proximity. For example, years ago my neighbor used to give me a ride to work on occasion. Oddly enough, every time I rode in his car, the radio would stop working. Lazy logic tells us that I, in some way, interfered with the car radio signal. That assumption could lead to many other assumptions, such as I am an alien or I am radioactive. Both false.

So why did the radio stop working? Well, I left out one small bit of information. The only days my neighbor drove me to work were days that it rained and I didn’t want to ride my bicycle. Now, can you guess why the radio didn’t work? Well, his car was old and it had some wiring issues. Evidently, when it rained, something got wet and messed up the radio connection. The fact that I was in the car each time this happened is just a confounding variable and irrelevant to the real cause-and-effect relationship.

Listen to the Science

Listen to the science.” This is seemingly good advice. It sounds intelligent. It appears to be more than “just knowing”. If a fact is based on science, then believing it appears to show that the individual has done some higher level analysis—or at least is accepting for fact the conclusions of others who have conducted higher level analysis. For some scientific concepts, like gravity, “listening to the science” is easy because understanding gravity is relatively intuitive and constant. Not all science is constant. Science, by definition is an ever-changing process. Science evolves. As new knowledge is revealed, “facts” change. For example, carbon dating, which at best is a good theory, has evolved since the 1940s and calibration methods have changed. Those changes have led to re-considerations about the probable dates for the Dead Sea Scrolls, theories relating to deforestation on Easter Island and the probable dates of the first human settlements on Easter Island.

The Worst Type of Lazy Logic

The argument “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem” is one of the worst types of lazy logic because it is contingent on a long list of assumptions that need to be true. This argument is often used to persuade individuals to join in the collective mindset and belief system of a particular group. Here is a list of assumptions that need to be true to accept the conditional cause-and-effect claim, “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem”:

  • The problem needs to exist.
  • A solution needs to exist.
  • The assumed solution needs to be the only solution. It is conceivable that being part of a different solution may actually be a better choice for mitigation of negative effects. For example, if a climate activist believes voting for a “green” candidate and “green” legislation is the solution to climate change and uses this argument to garner support for political initiatives, the argument is faulty. An Amish individual who does not vote would be considered part of the climate change problem when in reality that individual leads a life that is more representative of positive climate action than most of the general population.
  • The proposed solution cannot result in additional negative impacts. Otherwise, it would be part of the problem.
  • The proposed solution needs to work.
  • The proposed solution cannot negate any other possible solutions.
  • The proposed solution needs to be fair.
A better way to phrase it!

Ecotourism and Community Development

Spirit of Ecotourism

Albert Einstein once said, “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” His words characterize the spirit of environmental education through ecotourism. That spirit is the basis of a philosophy that promotes sustainable development through community cooperation and trans-generational communication. As a scientist, philosopher and teacher, Einstein was well aware of the need to pass on knowledge about the environment from the older generation to the younger generation in order to build an understanding of how to maintain a sustainable relationship with nature. In the last century, environmental education has grown to include more than just field studies in biology and geology. Today, the main objective of environmental education is to teach critical thinking skills that involve problem solving and decision-making for how communities can conserve, protect and promote stewardship of natural resources. Environmental education through eco-tourism is a tool to encourage thoughtfully planned community development based on a shared attitude toward stewardship of valuable natural resources. That shared attitude is a product of common environmental morals and ethics.

Vang Vieng, Laos

What is Ecotourism?

The International Ecotourism Society, defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). Since the late 20th Century, ecotourism has been one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors.

For ecotourism initiatives to be successful in both achieving their goals and being sustainable over time, the International Ecotourism Society recommends ecotourism projects be based on several guiding principles:

  • Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
  • Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
  • Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment. (TIES, 2015)
Kawasan Falls on Cebu Island, Philippines

Benefits of Ecotourism

Creates Jobs and Income for Local Communities

Since ecotourism projects are community-based initiatives planned and managed at a local level, local citizens participate at all stages of the process. This is a major step toward community empowerment. Ecotourism projects create jobs locally so young people do not have to leave their homes and families to look for work in urban areas. Local youths may work as guides, selling crafts, providing food and accommodation, or taking part in cultural performances. In the best-case scenario, ecotourism improves the standard of living through improved facilities, such as schools, clinics, potable water sources, new roads and electricity.

Environmental Conservation

Through dissemination of environmental knowledge and information, ecotourism contributes to a better appreciation of the world’s natural resources, such as forests, rivers, coastlines and wildlife. New knowledge helps to change attitudes and behavior about how to protect the natural environment through the creation of national parks, wildlife preserves and marine parks. The money tourists pay in sanctuary entrance fees, camping fees, tour fees and taxes help to fund conservation work and community development. Tourist dollars can also help to fight environmentally destructive behaviors such as dynamite fishing, illegal logging, destructive farming and overfishing.

Snorkeling and Diving in Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte, Philippines
Cultural Preservation

Ecotourism encourages tourists to interact with local citizens. This integrative approach to tourism differs from the segregation of the traditional tourists who barely venture out of their westernized hotels. Eco-tourists are likely to experience local lifestyles and customs first-hand. This can foster an interest that helps to preserve the region’s heritage, provide a market for local handicrafts, promote traditional festivals and increase awareness of native ceremonies and art forms.

Building Awareness of Human Rights

In addition to teaching environmental stewardship, ecotourism can raise awareness about political and social issues in developing countries.

Ecotourism is a Tool in Developing a Global Environmental Ethic

As the popularity of ecotourism grows the values and principles become contagious. Environmentally responsible practices among large tour operators and hotels is becoming the norm as more and more establishments globally are practicing recycling, use of renewable energy sources, water-conservation schemes and safe waste disposal

Ecotourism and Community Development

Human impact on the environment is motivating communities all over the world to rethink planning and development. For popular travel destinations, this means communities need to find a balance between capitalizing on the economic benefits of increased tourism and protecting their natural resources for future generations. Tourism-gone-wrong can ruin a community’s resources and create an environmental refugee situation in which locals need to leave a once pristine area due to the impact of too many tourists. Increased tourism creates a strain on potable water sources, waste management and arable land. Effective ecotourism projects should begin with educating local community members by raising awareness of detrimental practices and nurturing a new social consciousness that will result in symbiotic relationships with nature. For small island communities, mountain villages, animal sanctuaries and other common tourist destinations that advertise their closeness with nature, environmental education is fundamental to effecting change in attitudes and behavior. That change is an essential step toward planning sustainable ecotourism projects.

Unfortunately, poverty and myopia in development planning cause people to seek short-term gains without realizing the long-term detrimental effects. It is important that all levels of government take effective measures to ensure ecotourism initiatives maintain sustainable use of the natural resources and their associated ecosystems.

The Responsible Eco-Tourist

Although the eco-tourist may only spend minimal time visiting a particular destination, the tourist also has a responsibility of helping to ensure the success of an ecotourism project.

Tourists need to educate themselves so they can make informed choices before and during a trip. This is the first step in becoming a responsible traveler. Here are some tips for choosing destinations, accommodations, and tour operators for an eco-travel vacation:

1. Do the Due Diligence

Use available resources on the web or in guidebooks to learn as much as possible about destinations, places to stay and tour companies that organize trips. Some key terms for Internet searches are responsible travel, ecotourism, or sustainable tourism.

2. Check the Benefits to the Local Community

After deciding on a destination, try contacting some of the stakeholders in the ecotourism project to learn about their policies. You can ask questions about the percentage of locals among the employees or what percentage of profit stays in the local community. Look for comments either praising or criticizing ecotourism efforts on travel websites.

3. Look for Evidence of Accreditation

Are tour guides trained and certified? Do lodging business have eco-label ratings?

4. Be Pro-Active During the Trip

Communicate with the local citizens as much as possible to learn about the condition of the local environment and understand either the positive or negative impacts of the ecotourism project. If time and logistics permit, volunteer to participate in projects such as reef monitoring, resource assessments or development efforts. Get involved!

5. Be Pro-Active After the Trip

Spread the word via social media or traditional media about successful efforts and responsible ecotourism projects. Offer constructive criticism for projects that are not as environmentally responsible as they could be. Post comments about a destination or tour operator on travel websites.

6. Beware of Green-Washing

As ecotourism has gained much popularity in the last couple of decades, it becomes more difficult to understand what some tour operators mean when using the “eco” label. It is a label that sells, but it is not always a true label. Doing due diligence should help to uncover ecotours that are really just conventional package tours.

Ecotourism in the Philippines

A New Brand of Capitalism

Born-Again Capitalism (Part 2)

“This is not the capitalism I signed up for!” The shriek of Rebecca Henderson’s attack on corporate globalization and her emphatic appeal to change the system are an attention grabber. It is not just the quiver in her voice that invites my curiosity , it is also the fact that she is a Harvard economics professor berating the status quo of corporate America during her TED Talks video (which is more of an advertisement for her book, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire than a real TED Talk). I quickly rewind the video to make sure I heard her correctly. Yes, she really said that.  All I can think is, “Well, Rebecca, you may not have signed up for this brand of capitalism, but for someone who has a net worth of over 30 million, you have benefitted from it handsomely.”

There is a an mounting multitude of top five-percenters who are just like Henderson in that they want to reimagine, rename or at least rebrand capitalism. This “new capitalism” has already arrived and it is a kinder, gentler, friendlier, greener capitalism that vows to preserve and protect our natural resources. (That is important because as it turns out, ruining the environment is actually bad for business. Plus, there is money to be made from natural resources!)

The Old Brand of Capitalism
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.” Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II, p. 456, para. 9.

Henderson is not alone in her claim that a new brand of capitalism is a solution (perhaps “the solution”) to the environmental woes and social injustices that the “old brand” of capitalism has heap upon us. Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida refers to a new capitalism in his policy proposals to move away from the recent era of Abenomics. In doing so he criticizes the old capitalism’s neo-liberal policies initiated by Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s that continued during the reform era with the support of Junichiro Koizimi.

In the US, Barrack Obama (net worth: $70 million or so) and John Kerry (net worth: $250 million) have been preaching the good word about how spending more money will save the planet as we transition to green energy. And, every global investment company is touting socially responsible investing – a.k.a, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG). Many investment firms and analysts now provide special ESG ratings of companies so that investors can decide if a company is green enough for investment dollars. A high ESG rating for a stock or exchange traded fund (ETF) can help investors feel their investment choices are righteous and that they are now part of the fight against climate change, environmental degradation and social injustice.

The idea of reinventing capitalism is enticing, but is it possible? Would capitalism even be capitalism if people were using their savings and investment dollars in a socially responsible manner that would be good for the environment as well as promote social justice? Would this new brand of capitalism mean that everyone would actually have savings and be able to use money to invest in ESG corporations with high ratings from financial brokers?

These questions highlight the conundrum of Rebecca Henderson’s book. In short, her thesis claims that if corporate CEOs, in unison with politicians and governments, make decisions based on social responsibility rather than short-term profits, the corporate world can create a utopia for the whole world. Sounds a bit like the meaningless tautology, “A hamburger is a hamburger.” A utopia is a utopia. If capitalism were to exist in a world in which everyone put social responsibility first, it would not be creating the utopia, it would be existing in a utopia. Communism or socialism or any other form of economic policy bonded to community government would have the same utopian outcome provided all members of a community made decisions absent of selfish greed and that they, in a community spirit, made decisions dedicated to a proposition of altruism and social responsibility. Even an autocracy would be a utopia if the autocrat were benevolent, selfless and altruistic in governing.

Note: The word “utopia” entered the English language via Sir Thomas Moore’s Latin book in 1516. The Greek word translates into “no place” and was the name of the island community as the setting for Moore’s book. However, the current nuance of the word may differ much from Moore’s Utopia, a place where slavery was a feature of life.

It is easy to agree with Henderson’s claim that unchecked capitalism destabilizes the environment and harms human health. However, her rationale for a new brand of capitalism grows murky as she reasons, “Business is screwed if we don’t fix climate change.” All I am hearing is, “Oh no, we screwed up the environment so bad, it is going to hurt business, Now, we need to fix the environment because that will be good for business. Oh, and we can make it a marketing campaign to sell more goods and do more business.” This is what I call “born-again capitalism”.

What is Born-Again Capitalism?

Born-again capitalism is the green-washing of neo-liberal economic policies that encourage globalization to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. Born-again capitalism is the belief in and practice of using marketing campaigns that claim products and companies are environmentally friendly and socially responsible in order to sell products and attract investors.