Across the world, countries make very different investments in the environment. We’re not just talking about measures to combat global climate change. We’re talking about investments in clean water, forests, biodiversity. NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam joins us regularly to share interesting new research, and he’s here to tell us about an unexpected factor that seems to influence environmental stewardships. Shankar, welcome back.
SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: So, what’s the unexpected factor that surprises you, here?
VEDANTAM: Well, the X factor appears to be the age of the country, David.
GREENE: Which is something we sort of think about as Americans around Thanksgiving, when our country was settled.
VEDANTAM: Exactly. And it turns out that the longer a country has been around, the more it seems to invest in environmental stewardship. Now, there’s both correlational, as well as experimental evidence. I spoke with Hal Hershfield at New York University. Along with Min Bang and Elke Weber, he’s found that there’s a correlation between how long countries have been around and their willingness to invest in environmental issues. Here’s how he explains it.
HAL HERSHFIELD: Our thinking is that the countries who have a longer past are better able see further forward into the future and think about extending the time period that they’ve already been around into the distant future. And that might make them care a bit more about how environmental outcomes are going to play out down the line.
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