Good for the world

By Rachel Matthews

It was worth wading all the way through A. C. Grayling’s latest (For the Good of the World, Oneworld Publications, 2022) for these following two paragraphs. They made me feel so much better.

Myself? I’ve never seen any other course of action than, in my own small way, accepting responsibility for looking after the earth as far as possible. That meant keeping an eye on its sustainability and keeping global warming as close to zero as possible. As hard as I tried, I saw that slip away with global overpopulation and government peopled by greedy and ignorant men.

A final point concerns the moral responsibility that presently living generations of people have to future generations. It is taken for granted that acting in such a way as to bequeath a poisoned and depleted planet to future generations – a planet more difficult to live in, with fewer resources available to manage doing so – is wrong.

A counterargument to this is to say that future generations will know no different, they will not be in a position to compare the planet they find themselves in with something different and putatively better; and they may still have as many opportunities, in their own way, to have lives worth living as we or any previous generations of people have had. Indeed, the fact that they – they in particular, and not some other set of people – are alive at all will be the consequent of choices we make today; one set of descendants will exist if we battle hard to limit global warming, another set will exist if we do nothing to battle global warming; either set will take the world as it finds it and seek the best for themselves in it. On this view, we cannot now decide on their behalf whether what we do helps or harms them in respects that matter to them. It would seem to follow, unintuitively but logically, that it does not matter – at least to future generations – whether we act on global warming or not.

Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA blog posts are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position. They are intended to stimulate thought, rather than present a final word on any topic.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash