Planet Earth is a sentient being – part 4
A Change in Ethics.
Click here to listen to Planet Earth is a sentient being – part 4
I mentioned in part 3 that a new moral imperative is key to a paradigm shift. The shift to happen will either come from one morally sound businessperson(s) or from citizens demonstrating ‘people power’.
Peter Singer asks ‘What ought individuals to do? (Peter Singer, 2010). The obligation of humans is to apply the ‘original position’ without a ‘veil of ignorance’ (John Rawls, 1999) to ensure justice for the whole of the Biosphere including humans. Understanding the realities and all the facts surely would mean ‘knowledge is power’ for citizens to then mobilise their respective governments. Morally it is the responsibility of those alive now to leave a world in good shape for those who are yet to come into existence. The polluter pays principle is a nice touch but any real recompense is almost a gesture of good will. ‘After the horse has bolted’ destruction is ethically wrong, as the potential polluter shouldn’t commit environmental crimes in the first instance. Without sentient status and UN protection the Biosphere will continue to be destroyed until there is one last tree standing and people will say “Well no one told me, it isn’t my fault”.
If there was real justice both financially and morally it follows that Robert Nozick’s ‘time-slice principle’ would mean citizens could look at existing elements now and ask is it just or fair that our/my Biosphere is being treated in this way? (Robert Nozick, 1974). Robert Nozick thinks however, that obligation to assist shouldn’t be an obligation, that changing things is a voluntary matter. Perhaps he is right, but unfortunately for the Biosphere the majority of citizens are happy to exist under the veil of ignorance and the 80/20 rules’ supreme.
Changing things for the betterment of mankind is seen as altruism and praiseworthy, prizes are even given out for it e.g. The Nobel Peace Prize, but not helping (omission) isn’t seen as wrong. Surely this is ethically warped as destroying the Biosphere is a definite evil (Peter Singer, 2010) and Peter Singer argues in his book Practical Ethics that it is the responsibility of citizens to challenge their governments to change systems. I completely agree with this but humans’ propensity to bury our heads in sand is what the commercial sector wants us to do so they go legally unchallenged.
Morally the corporates/governments behaviour or reasons that motivate them to exploit the Biosphere and people is both malicious and sadistic. Perhaps each one morally justifies their actions cause imperceptible harms. Collectively however humans are killing the Biosphere, which I believe, is a sentient entity worthy of rescue.
It is only a bottom-up approach from citizens that will challenge these behaviours. In the United Kingdom of Great Britain it is law that if one hundred thousand people petition the UK government with an issue then it has to be debated in parliament. Citizens therefore have the power if they were shown a moral imperative that would change systems. To not lobby governments would be self-defeating as we all rely on the Biosphere and is completely contrary to pure practical reason.
In conclusion, citizens are the key to ethical/global change to bring about the recognition the Biosphere needs. We are ALL citizens of the planet regardless of ones power status. The majority of humans have a future stake in their descendants therefore our obligation to assist is a moral must.
Racial, cultural or kinship affinities are what drives our societies. (Peter Singer, 2010)
To create a new world where all the molecules and atoms in the Biosphere are given equal weighting, we as a species must see a new ethic imbued in our cultures, a bio-affinity. This can only happen on a local deep ecology level as micro-altruism and then disseminated as a new moral imperative that becomes global.
The polluter pays and other principles and laws are failing to make an ethical change in our behaviour towards the Biosphere and massive paradigm shifts are needed in politics, governance, philosophies and laws. What we owe to each other then (T.M. Scanlon, 2000) is to ask our governments (via governance) to make proposals to the UN, fund research and development into new energies, reduce the livestock industries, address agricultural methods and support Bees.
To launch economic war with a ‘just cause’ is the stick, the carrot is restorative justice. We have all helped to damage the Biosphere but collectively we can restore it.
Simply put I conclude with a four-step plan to do that:
- Citizens need to force governances on their governments.
- Governments make a proposal to the UN that Planet Earth is sentient and therefore should be made a Member State.
- UN makes Earth a Member State.
- Earth then can fight back against aggressors using jus ad bellum.
Ethically speaking unless we develop a universal maxim to benefit the Biosphere first we are all committing the moral equivalent of murder.
40: But He answered and said to them,
“I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
New King James Version (NKJV)
 Religious Meditations, Of Heresies, 1597. Sir Frances Bacon was an English author, courtier and philosopher (1561-1626)
 Pareto principle.
 The Aarhus Convention 1998, which establishes a number of rights of the public (individuals and their associations) with regard to the environment. It came into force in 2002.
The three main rights the convention offers is:
1. Access to environmental information.
2. Public participation in environmental decision-making.
3. Access to justice.
For a full text of the convention see United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) http://www.unece.org/env/pp/treatytext.html
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Scanlon, T. M. (2000). What We Owe To Each Other. USA: Harvard University Press.
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