What will the future condemn?


in Politics, The environment

Over on Climate Progress, Joseph Romm makes a good case that future generations will condemn us for ignoring climate change. He argues that there are three signs of a behaviour that is common in a society at one point, but which is later widely condemned on moral grounds:

  1. “people have already heard the arguments against the practice”
  2. “defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counterarguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity”
  3. “supporters engage in what one might call strategic ignorance, avoiding truths that might force them to face the evils in which they’re complicit”

All of these factors seem to be in play, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and the changes in climate they are producing.

As I have done, Romm compares greenhouse gas emissions now with slavery in previous times. Both were once central to the economic sytems of some places, but both impose intolerable burdens on innocent people.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. September 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

The first link doesn’t work.

Milan September 28, 2010 at 5:29 pm


Byron Smith September 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Romm is quoting Princeton philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah’s piece in the Washington Post.

Milan September 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Thanks. Appiah also lists three non-environmental areas in which he thinks future generations are likely to condemn this one: the prison system, industrial meat production, and the treatment of the elderly.

. April 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Segregation was the civil war’s long tail. In 1963, two years after the mock inauguration of Jefferson Davis, George Wallace, Alabama’s governor, stood on those same capitol steps and declared that “from this cradle of the Confederacy, this very heart of the great Anglo-Saxon Southland…I say segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation for ever.” Segregation was so unjust that it is easy to see it as inevitably doomed. It was not. It took blood and struggle to end it. But ended it was, and two decades later Wallace himself, the face of segregation, apologised for his words.

Ten years after that, the South elected its first black governor, Douglas Wilder in Virginia. In 2008 Barack Obama won Virginia, North Carolina and Florida and ran strongly in Georgia. The gap in black and white voter registration has narrowed dramatically throughout the South. And black Americans, who left the South in the early 20th century in what became known as the Great Migration, are moving back. Today Atlanta is home to more blacks than any city apart from New York, and 57% of black Americans live in the South—the highest proportion since 1960.

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