All posts tagged: ethics

Thylacine By Gerard Krefft [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A lament for the Earth

Yesterday, I flew over a beautiful, wild landscape – the snow-capped ranges of central Norway. Barren rocky plateaus and melting icy lakes gave way to impossibly deep gorges filled with improbably blue water. It was breathtaking. Yet today I am sad. I am sad that so few wild places remain, where the untouched beauty can grab your heart and make you smile. I lament for all the landscapes that humans have diminished, polluted, deforested and concreted. I wonder what my home looked like when bushland stretched as far as you could see. When ecosystems were in equilibrium, full of plants and animals that had evolved together in an intricate dance. Now species from afar dance to a different beat and the harmony is lost. I am sad that I will never see the comical Dodo of Mauritius, the giant Moa of New Zealand or the flocks of Passenger Pigeons in their billions that once blocked out the North American sun. I am devastated that I will never catch a fleeting glimpse of a Thylacine through …

The Aboriginal Flag at Eveleigh Street. Photo: Newtown Graffiti

What does it mean to be a citizen?

What does it mean to be a citizen? It might seem like a simple question, with a simple answer. If you are a citizen of a country, you receive certain rights, such as being allowed to vote. You also take on certain responsibilities, like obeying the laws of that country. But if we dig deeper, the answers are much less straightforward. Do all citizens receive equal rights, or have equal opportunity to take advantage of those rights? Can you be a citizen of something other than a country? Can you be a global citizen? What does it mean to be an ‘ecological citizen’? This week, I participated in an excellent conference that explored these and many other questions about citizenship. The Citizen in the 21st Century is a conference organised by Inter-Disciplinary.Net and the wonderfully enthusiastic James Arvanitakis. Inter-Disciplinary.Net conferences try to break the mould of traditional academic conferences by bringing together relatively small numbers of academics, from multiple disciplines, in an interactive format that avoids Powerpoint and encourages engagement with all of the papers. Needless …

Greenhouse Nightmare

The ethics of climate change

Last night at the Australian Museum, Clive Hamilton gave a blistering speech on the ethics of climate change. Hamilton has little time for those who deny the scientific evidence of climate change. In a particularly memorable part of his speech, he said that: To turn away from enormous suffering in order to avoid having to re-examine one’s beliefs is not just unethical, it is wicked. That is the moral failing of those who deny the science of climate change. The suffering he refers to is the loss of life and reduction in prospects of those around the world, particularly in poorer countries, as a result of climate change. Hamilton made it very clear that he sees denial, rather than scepticism, as the appropriate term to describe the outlook of those who do not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. Climate scientists, he argues, display healthy scientific scepticism. Deniers, on the other hand, will not be convinced by any evidence. Deniers employ five strategies: The identification of conspiracies The use of fake experts and front organisations …

Forget climate ideology

It is regrettable that many still view these debates as ideological. There is no ideology involved in survival of people. Let us put the people and the science available to improve the lives of people at the centre of climate change. ~ James Michel, President of the Republic of Seychelles

Change the message or change the people?

My presentation at the Integral Theory Conference 2010 in Pleasant Hill, California grappled with two possible strategies that change agents can employ to facilitate large-scale behaviour change in response to climate change. First, translation is the strategy of designing messages to motivate people just as they are, by resonating with their existing values and worldviews. Second, transformative strategies try to shift values by triggering personal development and growth. My paper is here and the Powerpoint presentation is here.     I wrote this paper because of Tom Crompton’s critiques of social marketing approaches, which you can find here. He points out some of the limitations of behaviour change strategies that work with existing values. Most notably, they tend to deliver only small behaviour changes, not the radical changes we are likely to need to respond to climate change. And by affirming existing materialistic values, they may work against the establishment of ecological values. So, concerned about these limitations, I began to wonder what role transformative approaches can play in large-scale behaviour change. Writing the paper …

Installing solar panels. Photo: OregonDOT

Seizing the opportunity of climate change

For decades now, our politicans, business leaders and economists have argued that responding to climate change will hurt our economy. They tell us that limiting greenhouse gas emissions will slow economic growth and harm our industries. In troubled economic times, some argue that we cannot afford the luxury of deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and must lower the scale of our ambition. This year, as we move towards Copenhagen, we need to jettison this old way of thinking. In 2006, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change demonstrated that “the benefits of strong early action on climate change outweigh the costs”.  Inaction, overly cautious targets and fear of doing more than competing nations will ultimately cost far more than a strong, comprehensive and early response. Failure to agree on deep global emission cuts in Copenhagen would be economically irresponsible. Perhaps more importantly, it would be a failure of ethics. By continuing our reckless exploitation of fossil fuels, we would condemn many millions of people to death or to lives of misery as the …