Here is one of the most thoughtful articles you’ll find on sustainability and the reasons we don’t address it: Impeding ecological sustainability through selective moral disengagement by Albert Bandura, David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology, Stanford University.
Environmental degradation of human origin stems from three major sources: population size, the level of consumption; and the damage to the ecosystem caused by the technologies used to supply the consumable products and to support a given lifestyle (Ehrlich et al., 1995). A comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability must address all three resources of impact on ecological systems and quality of life.
Why aren’t we doing more to end and where possible reverse environmental degradation?
People often find themselves in moral predicaments when they pursue activities that serve their self-interests but violate their moral standards by inflicting human and environmental harm. All too often, moral considerations yield to strong social forces favouring environmentally detrimental activities. People can rid themselves of the moral problem, however, by selectively disengaging their moral self-sanctions from detrimental social policies and practices. This enables them to engage in the detrimental activities with freedom from the restraint of self-censure.
The specific mechanisms we use to avoid self-censure when engaging in environmentally harmful activities:
This is achieved by investing ecologically harmful practices with worthy purposes through social, national, and economic justifications; enlisting exonerative comparisons that render the practices righteous; use of sanitising and convoluting language that disguises what is being done; reducing accountability by displacement and diffusion of responsibility; ignoring, minimising, and disputing harmful effects; and dehumanising and blaming the victims and derogating the messengers of ecologically bad news. These psychosocial mechanisms operate at both the individual and social systems levels.
It’s a long article filled with examples.