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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sure, blame the women

The folks over at the Freakonomics blog stumbled across this story. It seems a top UK chemist was asked by a woman what she could do to stop global warming. His response:

"[S]top admiring young men in Ferraris."
The commentary from the Freakonimics crew is:
King’s larger point — that we should act individually to start a cultural shift that re-prioritizes gas guzzlers at the bottom of the desirability list — is probably valid. But broad assumptions about women liking hot cars (and the men who drive them) aside, the idea that one person’s decisions should be unrelated to his or her personal interests runs contrary to free-market models for achieving both personal and societally optimal results. In other words, trying to influence someone else’s consumer choices is far less effective than simply making those choices yourself. The woman’s goal — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — would most efficiently be reached by taking direct action, like trading in her own gas guzzler for a hybrid, rather than indirectly signaling others to do so.

Not surprisingly, Ferrari owners are reportedly furious about King’s comment, with the Ferrari Owners Club responding that most owners of the cars are married (and thus aren’t driven to purchase them based on a desire to land women, the economics of which we’ve discussed before). In other words, they’re turning the discussion 180 degrees from King’s point, which is that individual consumer decisions can and do matter to global climate change. While King’s intentions were in the right place, he might want to rethink his methods of communication (not to mention his culturally limited decision to tell women that their biggest contribution to fighting climate change lies in encouraging men to fight climate change).
--die Grumbeere


shawndoggy said...

Now that's the good stuff!

Changing norms by peer pressure is the only way to change them. Sure one dude can forego the ferarri and always wonder how much tail he coulda got. But if women reject (or men can be convinced that their perception that women value) the ferarri driving pimp as a mack daddy, well, then lots of people will change their ways.

Why? Not out of some altruistic holier than thou save the planet motivation, but because it would appear to provide a better chance of getting laid. Sure, one woman can trade in her guzzler for a hybrid. But if she can convince 10 men to do the same (or better yet, let the men "think of it themselves"), that's a much bigger impact than just the one person doing it alone.

And come to think of it, isn't this the whole point of the Tesla (prototype electric sports car)? That it's not only good for the environment but cool enough to get you laid?

Anonymous said...

wouldn't the real takeaway from this (and corollary for a bike-blog) be:

commuter bikes aren't sexy but we should get one *ourselves* (and use them!) to change our own habits, and maybe indirectly give more approval to the absolute geekiness that is the commuter scene?

(and no, I'm not defensive about the way I look all geeky when I'm commuter'd out, nope, not a bit...)

Simply approving or disapproving of other's behavior without changing our own will likely have the same effect as everyone disapproving of celebutante culture (Britney et al). Which is "no change", really, or just more of it due to the focus if anything

shawndoggy said...

Hey FQ... it IS a behavior change tho, just not a direct one. What does "I'm loving it" have to do with hamburgers? Not much but I'll betcha you know the jingle. McDonalds is in its 55th straight month of growth.

Point? not really sure, but something along the lines of "changing perceptions is a subtle subtle business."

And what's the carbon footprint of a (OK, my) high end carbon roadbike?

It must be troubling (in comparison to the one speed beach cruiser for which any of us could justify a NEED).

chatterbox said...

I only wink at guys in Ferraris if they have a Colnago on the roof rack :)