A few years ago, I think in 2004 for that presidential election, Paul Krugman wrote an editorial about voting. If we all think that our individual vote will make a difference in the results, he wrote (I paraphrase), then it will. Projected collective?
But what about the opposite mindset, the one that says, I know this issue is a problem and that, by my actions, I'm contributing to the problem. But I'm only one person. So my impact isn't that great.
We can justify a lot through that perspective: polluting the environment through travel, using products that will end up in landfills, eating meat when the process consumes tremendous amounts of the earth's energy and resources, even giving birth when there are already children alive, in need of care.
The mix of freedom, rationalization, and emotional distance is a powerful one.