Southampton Greenworks

Eco-Sustainability is our Business

Ecologica 3

Morality.

What? Are we kidding?  No, we’re not kidding.  These days, “morality” is not a frequent word in casual conversation, but back in the day when religion had more sway in our culture, morality was a more common topic of thought and discussion.

The Oxford online dictionary defines morality as “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior”.  In other words, we each have a personal understanding of morality and we use that as a kind of checklist to judge our actions and the actions of those around us.  For example, we might think it moral to donate to charity, but immoral to shoplift. Seems clear, but reality, like a wet, blowy, dreary November morning, is filled with grey and obscured vision.

Some famous people have weighed in on morality:

  • Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/immanuel_kant_152153?src=t_morality.
  • Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/mahatma_gandhi_160769?src=t_morality
  • Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
    https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/oscar_wilde_107395?src=t_morality
  • To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_locke_151487?src=t_morality
  • Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations
    https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/thomas_jefferson_164184?src=t_morality

Most of us think we are motivated by economic needs, but that is only a small portion of the truth.  If we are destitute and hungry, then we are motivated to find enough money to meet the basic needs of ourselves and our families.  Survival is always the primary motive. However, most of us are not destitute.  The vast majority of us alive today have food, water, shelter, and safety.  Sure, greed is always a temptation, but a more powerful motive for most of us is a positive self-image: we want to be decent human beings.  That’s where morality comes in.  Our internal moral compass points to right and wrong, good and bad, and we tend to make decisions accordingly.

So how does this fit with ecology and sustainability?  Simple. If we believe that the ecosphere is necessary to our survival, then anything we do to help it is “good and right”, and anything we do to harm it is “bad and wrong”. And that’s the problem.  We want to be “good”, but we are harming the environment with virtually everything we do on a daily basis. Harming the environment is bad, it is wrong, it is immoral, but we do it all the time.  We want to be morally correct, but we behave immorally.

The reaction of many of us is denial.  We create elaborate mental defense mechanisms to filter out and block the reality of our deteriorating environment. We promote images of gas-guzzling SUZs in pristine natural environments, big houses with pretty lawns and gardens, jet-set vacations to beautiful ocean beaches.  We create the fantasy that we can enjoy a carbon-heavy lifestyle in a beautiful world, rather than accept the immorality of that lifestyle.

In ecologica terms:

Sh = f(Ah), where Sh is Survival of humanity, and Ah is Actions of humanity; Domain of Ah {immoral to moral}  Range of Sh {extinction to long-term survival}

In words, this equation means that our survival depends on our actions: if we act immorally, we tend toward extinction.  If we act morally, we tend toward long-term survival.

As we approach the winter solstice and our various religious holiday seasons, we can try to align our actions according to ecological morality.  If we’re thinking of donating to charity, consider a green charity.  If we’re in the mood for gift-giving, we can give the gift of carbon-sequestering by planting trees or purchasing a carbon offset in our loved-one’s name.  If we’re planning a family get-together, don’t travel.  Instead, get together with neighbours and friends within walking distance.  We can also consider other options like the Nature Conservancy of Canada (https://www.giftsofnature.ca/).

The benefit of this sort of eco-giving is that with very little effort, we elevate our self-image.  We find ourselves following that most important moral compass, the one that makes the most sense, the one that leads to the long-term survival of our species.

3 Replies to “Ecologica 3”

  • (1) “The key point and the obvious one to be made about the economics of denial is that the most endemic and numerically significant forms of (environmental harm) are also those which are supported by large and powerful economic interests. These interests have every reason to co-operate in the maintenance of a public denial concerning the reality of (environmental harm). Enormous fortunes are made in (environmental harm) and the top companies regularly deliver huge returns to their investors.”
    (2) When it comes to good/bad, right/wrong, (im)moral, and so on, there is a lot of grey in this life, in this world, with humankind. Myself, I believe in God, as a Christian and I believe that, with God, it is black and white, without the grey. But for people, even if and when it is clear what is good/bad, right/wrong, (im)moral, and so on; it is ‘easy’ to make denials, excuses, tradeoffs, and/or so on.

    • I take your point, Marnie. There are significant investments in the denial economy, and it is easy to make money if the environment is considered to be a dumping ground. I wonder if any of us are carbon neutral. We all buy products that damage the environment. We all use transportation that damages the environment. It’s wrong, but can we avoid it completely? I try, but I end up allocating a good number of planted trees each year to offset my “wrong” behaviours. The good news is that more and more of us are realizing that we are living immorally (from the ecological point of view). We’re slowly coming up with alternatives, and most of us will gladly support those alternatives. The denial mindset will eventually disappear as we evolve into a stewardship way of thinking and living.

      • Here’s hopin’ – and prayin’ – Rob. It is important for us to keep trying to do better and do less harm, no matter what. Even we can only slow the inevitable down, surely that is better than speeding it up.

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