Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

U.S. turned on the sink and refuses to turn it off or pay for clean up


I am reading a fine book by the practical philosopher, Peter Singer, called One World.  Singer suggests that the world is increasingly becoming one, and therefore, as the human race we must adapt our ethic to account for a singular, globalized world.  One of Singer's chapters, called One Atmosphere, argues that the reality one global climate, increasingly subject to rising temperatures, necessitates that we embrace an ethic that recognizes our responsibility to maintain and protect the environment.  Much of the chapter highlights the responsibility of industrialized countries, particularly the United States, in the dramatic acceleration of greenhouse gases, and subsequently, the industrialized world's contribution to global warming.  Sadly, those most culpable for gross emissions refuse to commit to legally-binding agreements that would reduce emissions and the possibility for continued global warming.  One passage struck me as particularly profound:
It is true that there are some circumstances in which we are justified in refusing to contribute if others are not doing their share.  If we eat communally and take turns cooking, then I can justifiably feel resentment if there are some who eat but never cook or carry out equivalent tasks for the good for the entire group.  But that is not the situation with climate change, in which the behavior of the industrialized nations has been more like that of a person who has left the kitchen tap running but refuses either to turn it off, or to mop up the resulting flood, until you -- who spilt an insignificant half-glass of water onto the floor -- promise not to spill any more water.  Now the other industrialized nations have agreed to turn off the tap (to be strictly accurate, to restrict the flow), leaving the United States, the biggest culprit, alone in its refusal to commit itself to reducing emissions.

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