Jim MacInnes – Social Traps

President and Co-owner of Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa
View more information about Jim MacInnes.


energy-101.org : Before we even relate it to energy, do people in groups always act in their own best self interest, and why not?

Jim : Well, I think a lot of people don’t act in their own best interest, and they think too short term. They don’t consider the long-term consequences. And they get themselves involved in what are called social traps. Basically a social trap is a negative situation where people and organizations, or even societies, get caught in a direction or a relationship that may later prove to be unpleasant or lethal. And they really see no way to get out or avoid it.

energy-101.org : What’s the basic setup here? Why don’t they? You’ve defined it. What are some of the ways they act otherwise?

Jim : Well, here’s an example: smoking. I mean I think there’s an awful lot of information out there that smoking causes death over time and causes a lot of pain to your body, and it gets expensive and all that. But yet some people still choose to smoke because they enjoy the short term benefits of smoking, and also there’s an addiction factor. But they keep doing it still knowing that in the long run, it could take years off their life.

energy-101.org : Give me an example of, you know, let’s relate this to energy. Let’s try to relate to this whole idea of long term versus short term.

Jim : I think a good example, as it relates to energy, is our country’s addiction to oil. We have, for many years, tried to wean ourselves off of oil and switch to other energy sources, but we’ve been unable to do that. We keep focusing on the short-term lower cost of oil, recognizing to switch to other energy sources is going to be a bit more expensive but better for us in the long run. We’re unwilling to spend the extra money now to make us better off in the future and less dependent on foreign oil.

energy-101.org : You, as a business person, how do you try to avoid this trap of short term versus long term thing?

Jim : Yes, as a business person, I always try to avoid that trap of short-term and long term thinking, short term versus long-term thinking. One way we’ve done that is we recognize that we have finite resources of land here at Crystal Mountain. As we’ve developed that land, we’ve taken the profits from that land development and put it into our operations to help fund an annuity stream of operational profits that will last us over time and be sustainable. When you think about energy and oil, we have finite fossil fuel resources that we ought to be taking the profits of those and investing those in renewable resources so that as we burn through the fossil fuels, we’ll have a sustainable energy supply.

Topics: In-Depth Interviews, Social Traps — November 5th by Jim MacInnes

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