An interesting poll was reported yesterday. Young people are more likely to cite ‘caring for the environment’ as their top moral issue than ‘having a religious faith’. Admittedly there wasn’t much in it, and both of those answers were way below ‘looking after your family’ which headed the list.
There is a strong moral element in environmentalism, in my opinion.
The way we live on the planet has implications for those people with whom we share it now, for those generations of people that follow us and for current and existing other forms of life. Using more than our fair share of the world’s resources and riches is stealing from others.
Here are some examples:
- lacing a carcass with Carbofuran causes pain to any mammal or bird that is poisoned (pain is understating it – agony) and removes natural beauty from the world by restricting the spread of birds such as golden eagles
- producing 11 tonnes of CO2 per annum (the average for the UK citizen) will lead to a worsening climate which will impose harder conditions on the world’s poor people and cause mass extinctions of life on the planet
- the diet of the average UK person could not be replicated for all 7 billion of the world’s human inhabitants under any reasonable circumstances and so is selfish and immoral
- failing to act to improve the way we live on this planet, if you believe that there is something wrong with it, is akin to being complicit in a crime
Picture yourself on another world. That world is populated by a dominant species that has immense power through technological understanding. It has decided to limit individual wealth so that the world’s resources are not over-exploited. Generally speaking the members of the dominant species share those resources fairly equally – there are still rich and poor but the richest only use 10 times as much resource as do the poorest and that gap is narrowing with time. Unfortunately, the universally shared belief in living within the planet’s resources and sharing things fairly with your fellows does not extend to different countries on this strange world. There are four major power blocks that are always in some form of conflict over who owns what. The world as a whole is sustainably managed and within power blocks their is a great deal of fairness but greed expresses itself in terms of constant competition to dominate the world and its resources. Now tell me, is that a more or less moral world than the one on which we live?