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Functional Myopia Turbocharged

by Christopher Meyer on 12/09/2009

Who hasn’t seen the negative consequences of cost centers?  People justify parochial spending that might not make sense for the corporation but because “it’s not in my cost center,”  it’s easy to do. this sends a chill down any CEO’s spine and is the reverse of working and thinking wider.

The same behavior is evident in the current conundrum regarding carbon emissions.  Compared to renewable alternatives, fossil fuels are relatively inexpensive to get out of the ground, transport and sell.  This makes dirty industrial processes cheap and irresistible.  They are only cheap because industry isn’t directly responsible for the total costs of the products/services including pollution. (note: The European Union’s Emissions-Trading Scheme (aka cap and trade) is a start but the United States, Australia and Japan do not.)

When we think of pollution, our mental models include oil spills  and toxic waste sites but not “normal” emissions.  We treat normal emissions just as we do gaining a pound here or there.  We rationalize that it’s just a pound and it’s only when we’re significantly overweight that we get serious about changing our eating habits.

This thinking is narrow and we’ll ultimately pay more to reverse it;  directly or indirectly.  At present, consumers and governments have not sent a strong enough signal that the costs of normal emissions should be included in the costs of production.  In fact, conservatives argue doing so will cause financial hardship.  One has to ask  for who?

In the meantime, it’s curious that organic food sales have boomed.  We’re concerned about our bodies more than the Earth itself.

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