Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Deconstructing the moral fable of climate change

One of my favourite commentators is Josie Appleton.  Here is the text of a speech she recently gave, examining the moral basis of a specific ecomyth, climate change.  Her basic premise is that by... asking a few critical questions, we can start to separate the morality tale from the physical reality of carbon dioxide emissions.
Appleton makes the point that contemporary eco-ethics are characterized by an anxiety about change and an over-riding objective of social stability.  She states:
  • My main concern with eco-ethics is that it allows us to stop thinking about the meaning and point to life. It is like a layer of scaffolding built across society, which allows every individual, and every institution, to avoid the questions that they find hard to answer. Eco-ethics allows us to avoid the question of human purpose, by directing all our actions towards the clouds.
Both of these primary conditions (1) anxiety about change and (2) social stability,  are axiomatic: assumed to be correct and desirable, without any attempt to discuss their intrinsic value as predominant philosophies.  For example, has civilization progressed and prospered more in history during times of great change (technological, social, cultural) or in periods of extended stagnancy?  What are the advantages of social stability and its intrinsic perils (authoritarianism, totalitarianism, ethnic cleansing) versus the advantages of social upheaval (cultural expression, art, diversity)?
Appleton's essay is an excellent summary of the manner with which contemporary eco-myths should be dismissed.