Here’s a reasonably good article on BC’s Centre for Integral Economics, which works on an issue very dear to our hearts—promoting reforms in tax policy that foster sustainability.

From the article…

[P]eople eat less and are healthier afterwards when they "pay by the slice" instead of going to the all-you-can-hold-down buffet. But most city services … are based on the buffet model. That’s not exactly a strategy for rewarding or encouraging thrifty and conservationist behaviour.

Moving to pay-by-the-slice methods means metering water use, which a 1999 Environment Canada study showed resulted in 70 per cent reductions in home water use, and charging by the bag for garbage… When individuals pay more per unit, the ornery side of human nature works for the social good.

That seems just about right to me.  I could preach until I was blue in the face about the importance of, say, voluntarily conserving water or fuel.  But all of the good I could do would probably be dwarfed by even a small tax shift that made those commodities more expensive.  It’s not that people don’t have an idealistic side, or that passionate arguments are useless.  Just that, all things considered, self interest seems to be a lot more effective at swaying actual behavior than appeals to altruism.