08/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

It's All About Me

And for you, it's all about you.

In the end, for most people, self-interest is a major motivator, if not THE motivator. Economist Robert Frank wrote in the New York Times a couple of years ago: "To be sure, self-interest is an important human motive, and the self-interest model has well-established explanatory power. When energy prices rise, for example, people are more likely to buy hybrid vehicles and add extra insulation in their attics."

That is why climate change is such a hard sell; one can quickly conclude that when it gets down to it, it's really not about me. Rather, it is something somewhat far away that may affect my kids, and only if Al Gore is right.

But I do have to worry about getting to work, and filling the tank is getting awfully expensive. Maybe I should get a smaller car, or carpool with Joe around the corner who doesn't work that far away from me. Hey, I might even try using my bike to get to work, that will save a lot of money and I won't need to go to the gym any more.

In his book Go Green, Live Rich, David Bach explains how every green move we make has a dollar value, and how doing good for the environment does good for your bank account. "I switched to green cleaning products, started using a green drycleaner, and even gave up my gas guzzling SUV. I soon noticed that I wasn't spending more money to make these changes--I was actually saving money."- self-interest in action.

As the economy tanks, it is no longer about getting rich, it is about treading water. Once again, self-interest leads to green results, whether it is dealing with your car or tightening your belt in the kitchen getting an energy audit or even having a local vacation.

Self-interest can be a fine thing; enlightened self-interest is even better. Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, wrote: "The Americans, on the contrary, are fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of interest rightly understood; they show with complacency how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other, and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state."

In the end we will do what is best for ourselves, and if we have to work with others to do it, we will. And if riding a bike, insulating my house and worrying about my country's energy security also fights this so-called climate change, even better.

More in Planet Green:

Get Recession :Ready: Brown Bag It

Recession :Ready: 10 Ways Tighten Belt the Kitchen

Get Recession Ready: Use Your Rebate Money Wisely

Get Recession :Ready: Travel Locally

Get Your Car Recession :Ready

In TreeHugger:

Get Recession Ready: 11 Lifestyle Choices as a Hedge Against ...

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Dept.: 10 Ways the Recession can Help the Environment