Archive for March, 2009

Green Morality

March 3, 2009

As we seek to do the good and avoid doing evil, rather than going over much of the same territory as as the Ethics 101 post, I’d like to start with what I think is the strongest definition historically of what evil is and see where that takes us. By all means–feel free to disagree with me and tell me why!!!

St. Augustine proposed that evil is the lack of good, much as cold is the lack of heat. By good, of course, he had in mind a theocentric concept, but what if we replaced it with a hedonistic concept? Specifically, let me define “good” as that which reduces pain and increases pleasure, for the individual and for the species. I’d also like to throw in the caveat that we should sometimes defer a lesser good for a greater good.  So, chocolate is good. No chocolate is bad. Enjoying a good book is good. Having a migraine is bad. So what if I take narcotics to relieve the migraine–that’s good right? The narcotics relieve the pain AND induce a certain euphoria of their own, a two-fer! So I should take them all the time right? Hold on, cowboy, that MIGHT long-term get me in trouble with Johhny Law, but it WILL cause brain damage resulting in a de facto chemical lobotomy, which is bad.

Likewise, speeding in my car will get me to my destination faster, which is good, but risks trouble with the police, bad, not to mention increased risk of an accident, additional wear and tear on the car, increased fuel consumption, and increased greenhouse gas emmissions, all bad.

Living intentionally as part of the human species, IMHO, is less about manners and more about reducing your carbon footprint, especially if you’re living in Western, industrialized democracy. Global warming is spiralling beyond worst-case scenarios and if humanity is to endure beyond the next couple of generations, it will be because of choices we make NOW.

So especially when we add the consideration of other people and living in a lawful society, so far our green morality doesn’t seem too far removed from any conventional morality. Maybe it would be easier if I found some counterexamples where my green morality might differ from what you might otherwise expect most people in most cultures to do nowadays.

*Get off your fat butt and exercise!  Once you get used to regular aerobic and strength training, it actually feels good, and you’ll feel better generally.  And while your friends are having their first heart attacks, your doctors will be looking at your lab reports and saying to you, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!”  That also means walking instead of driving for short trips, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.

*Reduce your carbon footprint. Seriously. For most of us the most practical way to do that is to reduce our meat consumption.  Electric cars, LED lights, and other technological marvels as they become available will be wonderful, too.

*Only have the number of children you can nurture well. For most of us, that means one, and never more than two.
*Technology is fun and useful and planety-friendly–use it. Going for a walk in the park is fun and good exercise and planet-friendly, too.

*Chicken is several times more energy-efficient than beef or pork, so those few times a week when you do serve meat, emphasize chicken.

*Be aware of “energy vampire” appliances that continue to suck current even when turned off, such that you have to unplug them when not in use.

*Spend some time with your family every day possible–if it’s not for them, what’s the point?

*Your spouse is your only love and your only sex partner; the infidelity rate is about 50% and the divorce rate is about 50%, too–see a connection?

*Never raise a hand to your child in anger–you’ll only teach brutality. Perhaps sometimes physical punishment is called for, but your child should be able to see that it pains you more than it does him or her.

*Don’t save fine china, fine crystal, fine wines, etc., for “some day” that never arrives. Enjoy them with friends and family at the next festive occasion.

*If you’re single (or it’s just the two of you and you’re not expecting or planning to have a baby soon) and you’re not responsible for anyone else and you’re not going to be driving and you’re willing to take the risk that comes with breaking the law and want to try some of the milder drugs out there froma trusted source, take precautions, but don’t be afraid to explore. You could open up whole new vistas in your life. Remember that all drugs have side effects and you should NOT take drugs if you have some major, unresolved issues or stresses in your life.

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