An Inconvenient Truth; Some Inconvenient Ethics

May 23, 2007

We watched An Inconvenient Truth last night. It’s a presentation by Al Gore about Global Warming. Very fancy graphics, very well presented. Yes, it do give some low blows to the Bush administration, which I won’t comment on, since it’s not my context. He paints the picture of how we are responsible for the current Global Warming, that is isn’t a mere
natural event.

OK, maybe just some comments about this. Global Warming is the process through which the earth is getting hotter and hotter, mainly because of CO2 gasses which prevents
reflected sunlight from leaving the atmosphere. Already a lot of heating can be recognized, even with the naked eye. I met someone from the Netherlands, Amsterdam, two years ago, and she told me that when they were children they always got a lot of snow in winter, and could go skating on the lake. By 2005 they only got a little bit of snow, and it has been 10 years since they could go skating on the lake.

The effects of Global Warming could become catastrophic in but a few years timespan, and serious effects could be expected within the next few decades.

I’m not going to repeat a lot of facts found in the presentation, but maybe add some of my own.

  • Those causing this catastrophe, isn’t the ones that will pay dearest for it. The developed countries won’t be hit hardest by this catastrophe. The farmer with access to the most advanced technology, will find new technology to help him continue farming, whatever happen to the weather. But what about the small African farmer? Still planting his maze by hand, watering it from the nearest stream, or waiting for the rain?
  • The developed countries will just pay more for their water, but what about those
    dependent on streams and lakes? Those dependent on the snow melting in the high
    mountains? Those without the ability to lay new pipes?
  • The examples can be endless. The question is, do we really know that it is not
    those causing the problem that will be paying for it dearest? Although I am
    aware that the burning of forests, also in Africa, did make it’s contribution.

When discussing questions of ethics, many students would revert back to the argument that if only you look at a long enough time-span, you will notice that doing the right thing is actually worthwhile. That you would make more money through it, or, on environmental issues, that the human race would live better if they did the right thing. I tried to show them that although it is something we should keep in mind when trying to convince a company one day, it’s not a very good way of doing ethics. In ethics, we sometimes get to a point where we will lose money or something else when we do what is the right thing.

Many people consider their faith as a kind of way to do things so that in the long run you can gain from it. But what happens when ethics get to a point where you will personally loose something for doing the right thing, no matter how you look at it? Isn’t that the challenge of ethics, to do that which is right even when you personally will gain nothing, neither would your group.

I realized when talking to a friend who Global Warming to be just part the natural cycle of the earth, that we need to be wary of making this mistake with Global Warming. We don’t need to look after nature because nature is providing a safe place to live, because the human race would have a difficult time if things continue in this way. No, we need to look after nature because nature is part of creation. Global Warming is kind of like Proverbs, it reminds us that “son, if you do stupid things you will bear the consequences”, it’s not the motivation to care for nature, but it is a reminder that if we don’t, it might have serious consequences. This is cause for an inconvenient ethics, where doing the right thing will have serious consequences for myself, and the human race, and sometimes doing the right thing will cost us more than not doing the right thing, whatever that might be.


One Response to “An Inconvenient Truth; Some Inconvenient Ethics”

  1. tamgo Says:

    I understand and agree with your position. Sadly convenience will always have a higher priority than ethics. This is a trend that can be observed in both developed and developing nations.

    As for global warming itself, we are making strides to reduce emissions, yet they are still not enough. The question is weather we can get to a point where we will have a sustainable relationship with the environment in the foreseeable future. I hate to have the pessimist hat on, but because of what I said earlier, I doubt it.

    You also have to take in consideration something that Gore fails to mention in his presentation. Something that is equally important. Earth naturally has temperature cycles. We really can’t say for sure how much of the rise in temperatures is natural (was going to happen anyway, whether we where here or not) or is induced by our emissions. I am not saying that our polluting is a good thing, or can be excused. I’m saying that until we don’t achieve a better understanding of the phenomenon, we won’t be able to avoid potential disasters. This understanding will be achieved by an unbiased study. Gore is too one-sided in his presentation, IMHO.

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