I think the key lies in the fact that we human have evolved and are programmed to act to maximize our own benefits while minimizing the "immediate" negative impacts. However, there isn't an effective "immediate negative impacts to contact our actions that are damaging the world. Imagine:
- You use the chemical detergents and bleach at home, but these chemicals stay in your house instead of down the drain and flow into the sea and absorbed by marine lives.
- A factory that is discharging untreated chemical pollutants into the river where the owner lives at the down stream of the river.
- Smoking destroys the lung within 2 minutes and causes certain death of the smoker
- The development and operation of an oil well that continuously burns off excess natural gas that it cannot sell economically, and the oil well being located right next to the home of the oil company's CEO
- The exhausted gas from the plane that you take all goes to your home
I bet none of the characters (include you and I) above will be doing what they are doing. We take all the benefits and not suffering (perhaps not directly and immediately) from the negative consequences, it is in our human nature that we will continue to do such things.
The problem is an effective, immediate negative feedback loop is missing. One solution is to artificially induce a negative feedback loop such as imposing a carbon tax. A much harder alternative solution but in my view works better and more sustainable is education, teaching people to abandon the actions that gain them the positive benefit while paying a bigger price down the road.
Unfortunately, people in the world (developed or developing countries alike) are extremely unlikely to change the habits of consuming and gaining short term benefits while not suffering from immediate negative effects. You only need to look at the number of cars in each cities, the amount of the disposable plastic utensils being consumed each day, the amount of damage being done by many of us who are not evening thinking of the consequences of our actions.
I remain pessimistic...