“We are living beyond our means. As a people we have developed a life-style that is draining the earth of its priceless and irreplaceable resources without regard for the future of our children and people all around the world.” – Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropolgist
During our investigation of cosmic virtue as a feature of the meaningful life, last time we identified 5 guidelines with respect to planet Earth: (1) treat Nature as an ecosystem, (2) consider humans (and animals as possible) as ends not means, (3) observe and study Nature multi-dimensionally, including through symbols, the witness of elders, and science, (4) consume natural products as possible, and (5) overcome alienation from Nature by frequent exposure. The next step is to list some fundamental principles of greatest certainty regarding the environment.
- The Earth today is the result of over 4 billion years of geological processes.
- Geological changes are slow by comparison to a human lifespan.
- The terrestrial and marine areas of Earth are finite.
- Land is the habitat of plants and air-breathing animals and bodies of water the habitat of fish, some air-breathing animals and plants.
- Breathable air is essential to land animal life.
- Clean water is essential to fish and other marine species.
- Mineral resources are ultimately limited.
- The Earth is the only known planet capable of supporting life.
- Landscapes are a source of beauty for current and future generations.
- Human actions have effects on the Earth, some of which are potentially catastrophic.
Mixing these guidelines with the axioms and principles developed in an earlier blog1 on virtue regarding animals, we now have the building blocks necessary for a personal philosophy of virtuous conduct with respect to the environment. A few key items from the list of axioms of the Universe bear repeating. First the trajectory of the universe is an increase in complexity and life is the most compact complexity known by us. Second the value of individual parts of the universe is directly proportional to their contribution to the trajectory of the universe. Third all things being equal, a larger number of species of animals is superior to a fewer number. And fourth natural ethics for humans is founded on net benefit of good over evil in actions combined with a few categorical imperatives.
(continued next post)