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Gary Hart

Gary Hart

Posted: June 21, 2010 11:43 AM

Setting a Standard by Which to Judge Our Lives

What's Your Reaction:

The views of others would be welcome on this question: If climate is changing in ways that will adversely affect the planet, is this a moral issue?

Let's assume for purposes of this question that there is a "tipping point" beyond which heating of the climate cannot be reversed and that this change will bring about mass migrations, rise in coastal water levels, upheaval of crop patterns, drying up of major water sources, and so forth. Assume further that populations in both democracies and autocratic regimes are not responding to arguments having to do with science, politics, policy, international treaties, and the range of debates now surrounding the climate issue. They are not responding for two basic reasons: the debate is too complex and remote; and they feel helpless about it in any case, even if they took time to understand it.

For those of us who accept the warnings of senior military figures that this is an international security issue of major, historical proportions, what can be done? Perhaps the whole climate issue is being managed on the wrong plane. Perhaps the issue isn't about us. Perhaps the issue is about our children. Perhaps public opinion and sentiment can be activated by this argument: we do not have the moral right to risk damage to the planet our children will inherit.

Veterans of this blogsite know that its author is transfixed by the fact that the preamble to our Constitution sets out the purposes for the creation of the United States as being goals and principles "for ourselves and our posterity." The Founders were looking into the future. They wanted this great experiment in republican democracy to last. Yet today we live in a culture that principally thinks only of itself and only of today.

So, whatever one's religion, and whatever one's politics, we all ought to agree that we have no right to endanger our children. It has always seemed to me to be a vastly underplayed card in the world of global politics that one common denominator unites all mankind: we care about our children. It is as fundamental to human nature as any other attribute. That being the case, could we not agree that, while scientists continue to refine the data and seek concurrence, and diplomats continue to negotiate treaties, and politicians continue (hopefully) to educate their constituents, we are accountable to generations born and unborn for this planet, and that we have a moral duty not to damage it by heating the climate or detonating nuclear weapons.

It has been wisely said that we do not own the earth: we take it from our parents and hold it in trust for our children. When all is said and done, and we are called upon to account for our lives on earth, this may well be the standard we must meet.

To comment, please visit Senator Hart's blog at http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/

 
 
 

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