#10—Climate change & moral responsibility

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

We are all responsible for our actions, are we not?

While some environmentalists say, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Many people now think that because the environmental problems we face are so big and global in nature, the only way they can be solved is by international agreement where many governments cooperate together. In May 2019, the UN released an intergovernmental report on biodiversity, it concluded that, “the health of ecosystems on which all species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.” To make matters worse, the human population and meat consumption also continue to grow rapidly. Meat production has increased by 500% in the past 60 years. This is one reason why organisations like PETA promote the vegan diet.

There are many different types of ‘political’ organisation in terms of seeking to solve environmental problems. They range from, (1) citizen campaigns, small NGOs (within a country), large NGOs (international, such as Green Peace and PETA), (2) through individual governments to (3) global intergovernmental organisations. An example of a grassroots level political organisation is the Extinction Rebellion group who in 2019 did peaceful street protests in many countries in the world. An example of an intergovernmental political agreement is the “Paris Agreement” organised by the United Nations that seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it was signed in 2016 by over 150 countries.

The key environmental issues that the various environmentally focused political organisations are trying to solve are:

  1. Overconsumption — Today there are around 7.5 billion people on planet earth, but that number is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. To produce food/goods for all these people results in natural resource depletion, pollution and global warming.
  2. Natural resource depletion — Some scientists say one out of every ten types of fauna and flora are expected to go extinct by 2050. For example, orangutans live in rainforests, when these are cut down, so is their habitat. Not only do rainforests act as biodiversity reserves but they absorb CO2 and produce fresh oxygen. Nonetheless, at present, about 18 million acres of rainforest are destroyed each year.
  3. Pollution — Millions of tons of rubbish and sewage is thrown into rivers and the oceans each year. Modern agricultural and industrial processes use and produce all sorts of toxic chemicals.
  4. Global Warming — 97% of scientists who study the climate agree that global temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting, and droughts are becoming more common, in no small part because of human activities.

In order to address these problems, society will need to fundamentally change. But change isn’t easy. Not many people would want to give up ordering takeaway food (plastic packaging), give up on the idea of flying overseas every year (CO2) or indeed give up on the idea of having more than two children. Fundamental change can only happen as a result of political activity. Therefore, the best political activity, at any level, would focus on three things:

  1. Enforce environmental protection laws — This will help conserve remaining natural habitats, cut pollution and reduce cruelty to animals
  2. Invest in info-tech — As this can lead to a fossil fuel free future and production processes that no longer deplete natural resources
  3. To focus on human happiness — As people often go shopping and eat too much because they are unhappy or over-stressed, organisations need to promote the idea of doing yoga and being vegan as eco-friendly alternatives

To sum up, because the environmental problems faced by humankind today are so substantial, political action needs to be taken at all levels. We need to think globally (e.g., demand our governments to cut CO2 and preserve remaining areas of wilderness) and act locally (e.g., no longer using single-use plastics like water bottle and milkshake straws).


References

IPBES (2019). IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers. Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Retrieved, https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-summary-policymakers-pdf
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


philosopy

#09—The deep ecology view…

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Anthropocentrism tends to see humans to be the only, or primary, holders of moral standing. It puts humans first and thus animals and the natural environment second. However, arguing for the sustainable use of natural resources and arguing for the preservation of nature can be a valid anthropocentric argument. This is because both animals and the natural environment act to improve our happiness and to sustain our existence on planet earth.

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his book “Politics” argued that: “in nature nothing is in vain so, the inference must be that she has made all animals for the sake of man.” Indeed, the dominant view in the history of Western philosophy is one of anthropocentrism. However, the “Copernican” shift in understanding, from a geocentric to a heliocentric worldview, represented a shift away from an anthropocentric view of the universe! It follows then that one day we ‘may’ no longer see ourselves as the rulers of flora and fauna but as equals to them.

Indeed, biocentrism and ecocentrism seek to place humans on an equal level with all other living things. Environmental ethics developed as an idea in the 1960s and 1970s. Deep ecology argues that all living things are alike in having value in their own right, independent of their usefulness to others. In short, it argues that the preservation of biodiversity is an ethical goal. Interestingly, the “ethics” in environmental ethics shares the same “ethics” in (human) philosophical terms. The concepts of consequentialism and deontology are used to try and give “environmental ethics” a philosophical basis. However, neither are perfect and, in my opinion, anthropocentrism (of a certain kind) may actually be the best for treating flora and fauna with dignity.

Consequentialist ethical theories maintain that whether an action is right/wrong is determined by whether its consequences are good/bad (think “utilitarianism” and seeking the greatest balance of pleasure over pain). The problem with consequentialism is this: practices such as bull fighting, hunting foxes for sport and watching dogs fight, might be okay because such ‘cruel’ hobbies produce happiness for human beings.

Deontological ethical theories contend that whether an action is right or wrong should not consider if the consequences are good or bad but only if the action itself is good or bad. For deep ecologists who take this view, they see all living things as having the moral right to respectful treatment. This sounds fine at first, but the problem is this: it could mean that we aren’t allowed to cut down any trees or prevent any insects from passing on diseases to humans. Therefore, such views are too extreme and will not be accepted by rational human beings.

I actually think enlightened anthropocentrism can contribute to what those who believe in environmental ethics want. This is because human survival on planet earth (think of Dawkins’s “Selfish Gene”) depends on a healthy natural environment. At present, humans are the only species capable of protecting all other life forms. An enlightened form of anthropocentrism would mean (a) being vegan more often (b), shopping less (c), have fewer children and (d), urging governments to only invest in clean energy projects.

  • Ethically — killing an animal is no longer justified (for cavemen it was, but today we have nutritious vegetarian alternatives).
  • Environmentally — animal farming is no longer sustainable (rainforests are being cut down for meat production).

The only way, individuals, societies and humankind can respect and make into law the things that deep ecologists dream of is to (1), stop farming animals for meat and protect animal rights by law (this will make us healthier and feel less guilty too) (2), act to protect the range of remaining ecosystems and (3), change the way globalisation works (invent in human production processes that don’t cause pollution or deplete natural resources)

If we continue with a short-term anthropocentric mentality, there is a danger that we will focus on pleasures today (over-consumption) and let the environment suffer permanent damage. However, this would directly harm future generations of humans! An enlightened form of anthropocentrism would advocate, protecting the natural environment (many love the idea of wilderness) and protect the rights of animals (many of us get pleasure from observing David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet” and “Planet Earth” documentaries).

too.Blue


References

BBC (2019). Blue Planet II. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04tjbtx
Brennan, A & Yeuk-Sze, L. (2015). Environmental Ethics. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/
Padwe, J. (2013). Anthropocentrism. Oxford Bibliographies. Retrieved, 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0073
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


philosopy

#08—Rights for future generations?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Human rights are said to be inalienable rights, but do we really have rights? I mean we are controlled by society and laws and regulations and these things change depending on where you are in the world and what gender you are.


References
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


philosopy

#03—Is truth important?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Truth is as important as you value it to be. But in a practical sense (e.g., the disciplines of architecture, engineering, aviation, electronics) it is of vital and critical importance.


References
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


philosopy

Going, going gone!

[A mode of thinking is being lost*]

reading--01

A baby held, read to and talked to, undergoes an initiation into a useful life; they may also undergo an initiation into happiness.

reading--02

A child held in happy attention to books and stories has a good chance of loving reading as an adult. What about the [ipod, ipad, iphone] others?

reading--03

* Reading a paper book [I recently read, I rergret to say, online and thus via a digital LED screen…] frustrates one’s smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. The author said that suddenly, one is stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and thus, I myself now add, left out of the loop — disenfranchised from the perpetually breaking news and contemporary viral tweets.

Miming My Meme

The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale.

Meme
/miːm/ [noun]

1.

an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.

2.

an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

This word originated in the 1970s and derives from the Greek word mimēma ‘that which is imitated.’ The word was coined by Richard Dawkins and can be found in the following books:

covers

covers__2

A meme then is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. (Think of genes, think of viruses.) Memes aim to convey (spread) a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning. (The meme may do this intentionally or unintentiinaly…)

A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another mind. This transmission process may occur e.g.,  through writing, speech, gestures, or rituals.

Those that support this notion see memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. This video may help better explain memes and/or the concept of cultural evolution:

We are what we are because of genes; we are who we are because of memes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett muses on an idea put forward by Richard Dawkins in 1976.


Big-Think-Edge-Logo

p.s. “Cultural evolution” is a theory that states that human cultural change (changes in socially transmitted beliefs, knowledge, customs, skills, attitudes, languages, etc.) can be described as a Darwinian evolutionary process that is similar (but not identical) to biological and/or genetic evolution.

Biological Evolution Cultural Evolution
Traits can be transmitted to a person only from parents. Culture traits can be transmitted to a person by many unrelated people.
Transmission can only occur from one generation to the next. Transmission can be within or between generations and can be widely separated in time and space.
Occurs at a slow pace, with many generation needed to spread a trait widely through a population. Occurs at a fast pace, may involve immediate learning and does not require inheritance.
Traits acquired in a lifetime cannot be transmitted via genetic inheritance. Culture trails can be transmitted within a lifetime via teaching or imitation.
People cannot choose which genetic traits they will inherit. People can choose to accept or reject some cultural traits.
Data transmitted is encoded by genetic material (DNA). Data transmitted can assume the form of written or spoken language.

 

Secret-of-our-Success

#02—What is truth?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

The truth of the matter is this: there are two truths the scientific variety which is true because it is simply an objective reality (I mean nature here, not what scientists think/say about nature) and there is the human variety. The human variety is totally subjective.


References
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


philosopy