I've been teaching this class for a long time (over 15 years), and I always encounter this word (greed) as a supposed explanation for environmental problems. "It's greed!" they shout... "People just need to stop being greedy!".
I have to tell you. I couldn't disagree more with this perspective.
Let's think about this for a second... what is greed? Are people truly greedy? I know some people sure are, but is this really the best way to explain over-use of the environment?
Is it "greedy" to pursue your own best interest? If so, aren't all living things greedy? Indeed, if this is a workable definition of greed, then are humans not one of the only creatures on the planet that are NOT greedy? Higher-order mammals are just about the only living things that display altruism aren't they? Ever seen fish on a reef? What are they all doing? Well, every one of them is trying to eat as much as possible and have the biggest cave to live in and attack (till death if necessary) anything that gets in their way. Are the fish "greedy" for doing so?
Is the slash & burn farmer in the Amazon greedy for trying to feed his family? Is a commercial fisher greedy for eking out a living doing what his family has done for generations? Are YOU greedy for driving your car every day and consuming hundreds of products that cause pollution?
Or is it that we're all just doing what is perfectly rational given the rules of the game.... if you benefit from something and someone else pays (most of) the costs, you keep doing it.
If you believe that "greed" (self interest) is the cause of environmental problems, what are you saying about the potential for solutions? Do you think there is any way to stop people from pursuing their own self interest?