GeoffLamberton Ethically Speaking

We know the way its just the will thats missing

Weve seen the film, endured the election promises and an important international treaty has been signed, albeit a little late. The problem of climate change has grabbed our attention and become a media substitute for environmental crisis.

Species extinction, loss of fertile topsoil, air and water pollution, toxic waste build up, collapse of resource stocks, deforestation, a cancer epidemic from chemical poisoning. None of these issues captured our attention quite as effectively as climate change even though the cause and effect are the same. Humankind is destroying its only ecological life support system, and we dont have a viable backup.

Its absolutely pointless to fix climate change if our cure destroys the ecosystems that support life on this planet, so our focus needs to be on the wider problem. There are certainly many different dimensions to and causes of the environmental crisis. However for most we have found sustainable or near sustainable solutions.

Modern transport systems are an environmental disaster. We have built zero emission vehicles powered by air or hydrogen, and biofuel offers an alternative to petrol. We dont have the infrastructure to support these new transport technologies, but thats a political and economic rather than technological barrier.

We have a dangerous addiction to energy although we cope with water restrictions. Energy restrictions that is reducing demand and eliminating unnecessary consumption will reduce our addiction. Redesign and retrofit of buildings to eliminate air cooling and heating except in extreme climatic conditions is existing knowledge. Even the major contributing factor to the environmental crisis of excessive population growth has a solution, with negative population growth in countries with advanced education and family planning systems.

By the time we have found the political will to transform our lifestyles to fit the natural boundaries of the planet, any remaining technological problems will have been solved. The cause of the environmental crisis, including climate change and the other human induced potential catastrophes is not a lack of technical information or viable alternatives. The environmental crisis is a crisis of values, a crisis of ethics.

Everyday we make a series of unsustainable lifestyle decisions. And we know it. We justify these decisions with a series of empty clich. Our progressive lifestyles are non negotiable. We live in the free world (free to engage in a consumption binge which limits the opportunities of others). Jobs, economic growth, low interest rates, corporate profits are our higher goals. Our emissions are globally insignificant. These are all tired, empty excuses for inaction.

No one knows exactly what sort of world it would be if we chose all of the most sustainable technologies that we currently have at our disposal. The investment required to build the new infrastructure to run a sustainable global economy is enormous. Will economic wealth fall? Absolutely, but it will anyway as that is the very definition of the unsustainable path we currently follow.

But this is all good news. We dont need to wait for science to solve the problem. We already have the solutions. What we need is the will and to recognise our moral obligation to implement them.


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