Short Climate Temper

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During a ride share with Blablacar from Berlin to Utrecht there was a little incident. A Peruvian passenger ignited my anger when he agreed with developing country’s leaders who are selling out their natural resources, such as Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa does with his country’s oil reserves that happens to be underneath tropical forest.

“Fuck you” I yelled. “I don’t care about economic justification. I don’t care about fairness. It’s yesteryear’s thinking. Our species is committing suicide. We are about to drive off a cliff. There is no trade-off, there will be only losers. We decide now about the horrors that will bury the dreams of our grandchildren. Do you want to be a bureaucrat of the apocalypse?”

I stopped there because I felt cramps in my neck from keeping my head corkscrewed backwards.

I was stung by the idea of a trade-off. Perhaps it’s my cultural histamines that made me lose or loosen my temper and throw myself in the ring for what I hold sacred. We are talking about a crime against humanity. The destruction of the rain forest and the rendering extinct of species are irreversible, as is the unleashing of permafrost methane, the demise of the coral reefs, the bees, and the birds.

So how does it sound if we hold on to that principled notion of sacred nature? People in developing countries have no right to enjoy the dirty comfort we have invented. They can scream all they want – we will not grant them any “rights” to contribute to destruction, because we don’t like the planet taken for ransom over a moralist stand-off between countries. The sell-out of a country’s natural “resources” under pressure is the same old story. The Global South has been emptied and the scrupulously investors, hunted themselves by even more scrupulous financial speculators, are competing over the last bits.

I don’t get tired to point out that I wrote about this Responsibility Ethics in my dissertation what has always seemed to be a no-brainer to me: In matters concerning our species we shouldn’t apply individualist ethics to nation states.

It is a categorical mistake if there ever was one.

If that is the only source of people’s morality, we should be extremely careful. You can’t impose a conversion to Kohlberg stage 6+ on them. Their moral reasoning should be respected, like it or not. A self-righteous voice that is ignored is more dangerous than one that is merely wrong. We should keep inviting people to debates, with ever more polite gestures, and ever sweeter persuasions.