most people in the united states genuinely care about the environment, and yet collectively we are still filling landfills with plastic, guzzling gas, supporting factory farms, investing in unsustainable companies, and electing officials beholden to energy lobbies.

Why do people so rarely act in ways consistent with their ethical commitments? As an environmental ethicist, I am especially interested in this gap between values and practices. Most people care about nature and about the prospects of future human generations. Most people also know that in order to make these prospects brighter, it is necessary, especially for Westerners, to reduce our collective consumption of resources, to restore ecosystems, and to live differently with nature and with each other. Holding values and knowing what they demand, however, does not seem to provoke the necessary behavioral changes.

This gap between values and practices has multiple, complex causes, including economic...

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