A Question

April 22, 2007 at 12:45 am | Posted in environment | 19 Comments

I’m adapting this question from one asked by Bill Maher.

Let’s say that it’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that giving up remote controls for televisions 65% of the time would halt global warming. In other words, 65% of people would have to get off the couch and change the channel manually.

There’s no debate. Every scientist agrees. Every person who has a remote genuinely believes this solution to be real.

Would global warming be halted?

Please note, I’m not asking you to judge the quality of this hypothetical example. I’m curious as to your prediction of people’s behaviour.



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  1. It would likely be slowed, but not halted. I think most people would believe that someone else would do it, and so they would reason they don’t need to give up their comforts, since someone else will take care of their share.

  2. I’ve raised this point before. IMO, people would have to be forced to give up their remote controls by some huge disaster, revolution, or communist government. Possibly all three in that order.

    I don’t think it’s the feeling that “oh, someone else will do it,” but rather “But I *like* my remote control!”. The trick is though, that people will never give you that answer, because it makes them sound weak and selfish (which they are). They will instead give you a litany of “reasons” why they need their remote controls.

  3. I would give up mine. I can never find the damn thing anyways.

    I wonder similar things when I’m walking and seeing that still most, and I’m talking 80%, of the cars are carrying one passenger. This really pisses me off, but I’m 38 and have never driven (or learned to drive).

    So given that fact, no, I don’t think it would be stopped.

  4. Ho hum. I don’t think 65% would. But I think a good chunk would. It’s much easier to throw your remote in the trash than it is give up your car.

    (That doesn’t stop me from nagging people to give up their car or go hybrid or electric though. I’m a public transit girl with no license, and the only way I’d ever own a car is if it were electric!)

  5. Yeah, that would be my prediction as well.

    “I know that I said that I wouldn’t use my remote anymore, but I’ve worked hard all day and I deserve to rest now. Besides, I know that everyone else will give up their remotes.”

  6. I totally agree. That’s why I think that big reforms shouldn’t be left up to individuals. Despite the risk of communism, governments need to step in and force people to do what they’re too weak to do themselves.

  7. That said, I sure as hell refuse to bus two and a half hours each way from deep in the pit of the Southlands to my job. I have better things to do with those hours every day. 😛

  8. I think that it would require a significant redesign of TVs, DVDs, etc and some time before people started abandoning the remotes. Often the TV set buttons can only control 5% of the functions on it, with the remote doing 100%. So maybe people would abandon the remote for changing channels or changing volume, but changing the time on your DVD is more complex.

    I also think it would be a generational shift with older people being more set in their ways and younger people being brought up on the new way.

  9. Sorry, this is not an answer to your question, but an observation on remote controls. Remote controls are very handy, not just because you don’t have to get up (I can’t find it half the time anyway, so end up gettting up), but because when you want to change a channel, you can directly press the channel you want. But on a TV, you can’t simply press “1” and “3” or whatever, you can only press “channel up” and “channel down”. If TVs were equipped with number buttons, then people wouldn’t freak out so much if they can’t find the remote.

  10. Mind you, I hardly advocate huge disaster, revolution and communism. I’m just saying that’s what it would take. People in our culture are comfortable with the way things are, and see no reason to change, even as we hurtle towards the cliff. That’s why hardly anyone votes.

    The same thing happened to Easter Island. It’s just that a lot more people are going do die when we do it to the entire world.

  11. So I guess my point is, having to get up is not the only reason why people like remote controls!

  12. The point of course, is that as human beings we are completely unwilling to give up the tiniest bit of convenience, even if it means saving the world. About 20% of us are either intelligent enough or altruistic enough to do what it takes. The rest see no good reason to change for the benefit of people other than themselves.

  13. Maybe a few people would give up their remotes but I think that someone (or multiple someones) would come up with a replacement for the remote that does the same job without the bad global warming bit.

    I wonder what the industry would do – continue to make tvs that came with remotes? Or would the remotes be banned by law and so people would hold onto the remotes that they currently owned because once it was gone, there would not be another one?

    If it’s just left up to the regular person to do their bit, the planet is doomed, because people are selfish, or lazy, or both.

  14. I’m 26 (soon to be 27), and have never learned to drive either. People think I am crazy, but even if I knew how to drive, I wouldn’t be able to afford a car anyway. Driving is a privilege, not a right, but people treat it as if it is a right. Not everyone is physically capable of driving a car!

  15. I think that there should be a ban on remotes (in this hypothetical example).

    I think that leaving it up to the individual would be a huge mistake.

    Unfortunately, the people probably wouldn’t elect anyone who planned to ban remotes. However, there’s still the possibility that the courts would step in and make a difference.

  16. Only if the government passed a law against them. Other than that, no, not a chance.

  17. i am happy to be part of the 20%! although sad at the same time because i’m getting tired of “suggesting” things to people.

  18. That seems to be human nature. That’s what governments are for. Many people who are not very personally motivated may still vote for a government that helps them rid the habit. Witness cardio boot-camps. That’s about my best realistic hope, even though I have other optimistic blind emotional-supportive-type hopes.

  19. I doubt people in North America en masse would do it. Simply because, many of us have forgotten what it’s like to work for something, and to take action for long term result that we don’t see immediately. Thems my two cents!

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