First posted Sunday, 12 January 2014 on HealthEarth.
I can think of an ethical issue that involves the very possibility of a good life for millions of babies and young people worldwide. It is also an issue that causes misery and death right now to thousands of young people worldwide. This issue is getting worse by the decade and many well educated, professional experts in their fields of knowledge have warned us that unless we stop what we are doing, we, as a species will suffer unimaginable misery and chaos.
However, instead of public discussion about this issue, right now (2014) in Australia we have a bunch of politicians, academics and media commentators who think that their ideological take on issues such as single parent families, homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, Christian (and other) religious education are more important. Don’t get me wrong, all these issues are of some consequence in a society that has no other major problems, however, they are trivial when compared and contrasted to … the ethical issue of global warming and climate change.
While all of the issues above affect minorities in our communities, global warming seriously affects every being on this planet. We can debate the right to life nuances of the ethics of abortion, yet untold millions of innocent and non-consenting lives will be cut short by climate chaos. These ‘innocents’ also have a ‘right to life’ and their life chances should be given priority ethical consideration. While historical and heritage issues are important in our education system, nothing could be more important than survival education about global warming and climate change and how, if allowed to continue, it will devastate the life-chances of all future generations of human and non-human beings. Education about how to avoid such climate chaos should be the top priority of all education systems. It is all a matter of perspective and it is time we got the perspective right.
The ethics are crystal clear, global warming and consequent climate chaos has the demonstrable potential to smash our culture, agriculture and the industrial-technological foundation of our current society. It will render our species hugely less populous and culturally depauperate. It will also take global biodiversity into a period of mass extinction that has no precedence in history … as this time it will be ‘us’ that will be the certain cause. To not recognise this, given the advanced state of scientific consensus about knowledge on this issue, is to engage the capacity for evil. Evil is the deliberate (wicked) continuance of actions that we know will seriously adversely affect others, particularly the innocent, into the future.
To deliberately ignore that which is core to all life and perversely focus solely on issues that affect small minorities sits solidly within my definition of evil. The greatest irony now is that many of those who openly claim the moral high ground on these minority moral issues are the same people who deny the reality of global warming. It is time to reveal the wickedness of their position and do our best to refocus on that which really matters.
What I am suggesting is that ‘we’ take over ownership of the moral high ground and demonstrate to the public that the position of global warming denialists and sceptics is Evil. From every perspective possible (including religion) their position is one where a huge ethical issue is ignored and a values diversion (e.g., religious education) is put front and centre. Since ‘they’ ignore facts, the only argument that can hurt them is one they claim to have a vested interest in. We need to hit them hard with a values argument that questions their priorities and foundations. The ‘right to life’ is one such values issue.
There will be over 100 million babies born worldwide this year … the biggest ethical issue for them will be a habitable world by the time they are mature. An ethically motivated person can worry about abortion and global warming but only one of these two issues involves the foundation of life for all human and other beings. It is a question of balance and priority.