Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Climate Change: Human Dilemma & Moral Imperative

In order to address global climate change in terms of human population and how said population utilizes the environment and the natural resources that make up that environment, we first must ask ourselves under what principle we are choosing to act or not.  I am of the belief that the most paramount of any ethical consideration relating to the human race as a species is our indefinite survival as a species that continuously evolves and flourishes in terms of our intellectual growth.  Any act that opposes our survival as a species or risks our demise as a species would therefore be unethical, and would warrant swift action by those whose lives are being risked or by those who choose to protect the lives being endangered.  I further believe any principle must account for the fact that we humans are the most important species on the planet by virtue of our sentience, sapience and our evolutionarily advanced stage as it regards our intellectual capabilities.  The maintenance of, or the striving for, an ideal living environment for our species must be the most important aspect of any ethical considerations regarding our environment.  By accounting for an ideal living environment we are compelled to assess how any of our own actions will affect the biosphere in general, as well as more localized ecosystems specifically, and how those changes will in turn affect the human species. 
An ideal environment would be one in which all humans equally benefit from the natural resources of the environment, though not necessarily in the same ways, and one in which the continued survival of the species is optimized.  In order to optimize our continued survival as a species we need to make sure we are able to flourish technologically with an end goal in mind of galactic colonization since science already shows us that at some point the planet will be totally uninhabitable as a result of our sun’s expansion toward the end of its natural life.  I personally know a few people who already hold this ethical principle as their primary principle and I’m sure a lot more people share this belief without even knowing its evolutionary source or that the traditional phrase “women and children first” is evidence of having this belief.  The aforementioned phrase is evolutionarily significant in that it is a statement of relative value where adult males are valued less than either women or children.  Women, being limited in the number of children they can give birth to in a lifetime are more valuable than men when it comes to reproductive abilities. Children are granted a higher value because they have the potential to reproduce and generate more offspring by mere virtue of the longer, yet to be realized, expected lifespan.  Both of these speak to continuance of the species though the phrase has been couched in chivalric terms that romanticize and mask its true meaning.
The above principle requires at least a three part approach.  Part one requires governmental and social priorities on two equally important technologies.  One of these priorities must be the research and development of one or more methods of hyper luminous travel and the research and development of agricultural technologies such as self-sustaining food crops and their mechanized processing.  Part two requires the global distribution of these technologies as they become available.  We already have agricultural technologies that if distributed properly will reduce the need many cultures have of reproducing to gain additional farming assets in the form of field hands for the family.  As a result of these technologies being spread far and wide, the already declining global growth rate will almost immediately start declining precipitously until global population stabilizes substantially lower than the predicted 9.1 billion by 2050 following current trends.  Part three requires action to make it all happen.
The principle has already led to people taking action.  Unfortunately, the ability to affect change at a global level requires more than the relatively tiny number of people working toward the above goals.  The principle is motivating because it agrees with our genetic programming to reproduce and expand within the bounds of our own self-interest and it’s rational.  Problematic right now is that the global south has not reached a post-industrialized stage of development.  Rapid implementation of technologies already possessed by the post-industrial parts of the world within the pre-industrialized and transitional areas of the globe will not only result in a more rapid decline in the population growth rate, it serves the additional purpose of freeing up the people in those societies to start specializing in ways that will promote further technological advances needed to increase the likelihood of expansion to the stars.  The only thing that needs to be done at this point for realization of this plan is to get a few key people into a few key governmental and industrial positions where they have the power to more effectively persuade or coerce others into supporting the policy changes needed for speedy implementation.  It’s already in the works and will eventually happen.


  1. Bob, I challenge the assumption that the most paramount consideration should be "indefinite" survival of our species. Excluding any natural events which causes massive mammal extinction (solar flares, volcano eruptions, asteroids or gamma bursts) the assumed life span of the sun will limit life on this planet. However by then the human-mammal species will have either perished or evolved into something completely different.
    The most paramount consideration of our species must be where our place is in the eco system of this planet, because only by this notion we are true to the nature of nature.

    It is also not "Any act that opposes our survival as a species or risks our demise as a species" which is "unethical", it is any act which prioritizes our survival as a species over the integrity of the global ecosystem (or selected subsystems) which is both unethical and utopia in terms of long term survival.

    Furthermore, the claim "we humans are the most important species on the planet by virtue of our sentience, sapience and our evolutionarily advanced stage as it regards our intellectual capabilities." is clearly disproved by the way we collectively behave. The human species is both the only species to knowingly destroy its only habitat in sight and doing this at a rate which demonstrated clear neglect for its own offspring.

    If the human species, at this point in time, does not develop a clear notion of the pitfalls of its current behavior, it is pointless to seek galactic expansion, as this will only relocate/expand our logical fallacy to the rest of the galaxy. The assumption that we can just continue the basic principle of our lifestyle while eating our way through the galaxy is another human delusions of grandeur - chance are that another species will see us as resource raiders and stomp on us like we stomp on locusts.

    While the approaches you suggest will prove to be helpful in the implementation of a future development strategy for this species, we'll first of all need to establish a global understanding of our place in the eco system - and that place isn't even one of "primus inter pares" - as George Carlin correctly put it: We're monkeys which are barely out of the jungle - nothing more, nothing less.

  2. Excellent rebuttal, John. Perhaps it's a paradigm that I'm stuck in, but I can't break away from an anthropocentric perspective on this topic. Granting the evolution into something "different", it's still "us": "our" future selves. The sun's expansion is what I was referring to when I posit that galactic colonization is a necessity, at least to avoid the one known, guaranteed, threat to life on the planet. If we prioritize our survival over the integrity of our ecosystem, because it's our continued survival at stake, the ecosystem cannot be compromised to the point that it would reduce our chances of continued survival. Any human interference in the ecosystem that has the risk of minimizing our chances for survival, is unethical. I think we're arguing for the same thing, but from two very different directions, now that I re-read what we've both written, I'm just looking at ecological conservation from an anthropocentric standpoint, where what we do, MUST be good for us and not entail any risks to our continued, flourishing, survival.


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