Leaving Paris

I’m opening this thread for discussion of the US leaving the Paris Climate Agreement. I don’t imagine many of you appreciate the historical significance of this event yet. But you will soon enough and it would be an oversight on my part not to address it in the context of ethical inquiry. In short, what happened on the 1st of June 2017, is that the US federal government abandoned a global effort, one supported by most American citizens, to avert a global calamity that has the potential to destroy human civilization as we know it along with much of the other life on the planet. In doing so we have abdicated our position of global leadership, undermined our own power and influence as a nation, and handed the economic benefits of deploying the technology that can and hopefully will sustain humanity to other nations and people. So this move was highly self-destructive as well as destructive to life on the planet. We will all have the rest of our lives to see how this plays out in the short to medium run. But we won’t have to wait long:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/sri-lanka-floods-leave-600000-people-displaced-170531132021197.html

Of course it isn’t that every flood is caused by climate change. But every flood from here on out happens in the context of climate change and the destructive power of floods, fires, droughts and heat waves is thereby amplified.

Our president didn’t mention global warming in his announcement of the US departure from Paris. But clearly his sense that this is the right thing for America to do is rooted in ignorance about the science. Lest that be a stumbling block, you might start here:

http://commons.bellevuecollege.edu/wrussellpayne/category/critical-thinking-notes/

As sad as it is to see such ignorance about basic science in a world leader, the greater flaw in this administration’s thinking, the one that makes this move so self destructive as well as environmentally destructive, is ethical. In short, our leader seems to see every situation as a zero sum game, where the only choices are winning at the expense of others or losing to their benefit. Given this mindset, ethical considerations are merely obstacles to winning. Ethical considerations aside, this kind of cynicism turns a blind eye to the assorted ways in which selfishness can turn out to be irrational even in terms of self-interest. Building flourishing societies in the context of climate change is not a contest to be a winner instead of a loser. It works a little more like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9Lo2fgxWHw

Conservative columnist David Brooks captures the basic ethical flaw of our current leadership very eloquently in this morning’s NY Times (fake news):

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/opinion/donald-trump-poisons-the-world.html?_r=0

Do pass on further interesting commentary as our society tries to digest this bitter pill. Including from those who think this is sweet candy. I’ll comment as I can.

Russ

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