Jamieson, An American Paradox (2006)


1.      What is the paradox?

         a.      Americans pro env attitudes not expressed in action

         b.      Americans self-identify as enviros and yet do not voluntarily restrain their env harmful behavior or support specific policies to improve the env



3.      Cognitive deficiencies

         a.      Env problems socially and scientifically complex and people can’t distinguish expertise from mere posturing

4.      Cognitive illusions

         a.      Real cool summer day will make people not believe in climate change

         b.      Warm winter in Minneapolis make them believe climate change is good

5.      Env problems are often obvious/clear, but are often creeping problems with diffuse causes and effects remote in space/time, effecting people only indirectly

         a.      “While climate change will kill millions, it will be on no one’s death certificate”



7.      Many believe in separation of facts and values

         a.      World is constituted by value-neutral facts, and when we think clearly these facts reflected in our beliefs

         b.      Values projected onto the world by people’s desires; and the motivate people to change the world

8.      Believe that fact seeking activities like science and policy should be value neutral, and not contaminated by people unruly desires/values


9.      But Jamieson argues that facts and values are often entwined and each can affect the other

         a.      As people’s beliefs about world change, their desires change

         b.      As people’s desires/values change, their beliefs about the world do


10.    Usual idea is that people’s beliefs determine their values

         a.      So if get people to agree on their beliefs about the world (facts) then they would agree on values

         b.      If get Republicans and Democrats to believe same facts about the world, their values disagreements would disappear

11.    But Jamieson argues that often peoples values determine their beliefs about the world (facts)

         a.      If people liked (valued) President Bush they believed that Saddam Hussein was involved with Osama Bin Laden in planning 2001 World Trade Tower attack

12.    Example where facts don’t determine values

         a.      Number of species listed on endangered species act is cited by both critics and defenders of the act


13.    Lesson? If want to change people’s environmental values (and behavior?) not enough to just get them to agree on env facts but must work on their values too



15.    Because our psychologies are holistic

16.    Changing people’s environmental behavior will involve working on both their beliefs and desires/values

17.    And more generally we will need their entire psychological system to change–need large scale personal transformation

         a.      Need increase level of self-consciousness, unusual ability to plan and development of own character, and see how changing one’s life situation would affect future habits/behaviors


18.    Polling or asking people their views about specific policies is a mistake

         a.      People have general desire about things like they want clean air

         b.      Asking them if they want cap and trade as a way to get there is like asking a air passanger who wants to fly to Dallas what kind of a jet engine he wants to get him there


19.    We need to identify clear performance standards (about the env) to which we can hold ourselves and our politicians accountable