Humanism and Environmentalism

Doing good means more than doing good for today, and reducing suffering means more than reducing suffering for only those currently alive. Today, the average person consumes twice as much energy as in 1950, and this has taken a huge toll on our environment.

However, energy is not clean, and despite the recent advances in wind and solar technologies, the vast majority of power is generated by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) that pollute the environment, adding carbon to the atmosphere and causing global warming with possibly catastrophic impact of the quality of life for people in future generations. Indeed, yesterday’s energy is affecting us today in many ways which are all continuing to worsen for the next generation:

  1. The research is clear that the world will be 4C+ degrees warmer by 2100, reduce crop yields while world population will rise over 40%.
  2. The global populations of vertebrates -- mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish -- have declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012 due to habitat loss and need to grow food for humans. We are on trend to see all large wild mammals to go extinct in the next couple of centuries.
  3. Resources are becoming scarce, and we are facing massive global shortages of food and drinking water. Oh, and the bees are dying.
  4. As the world population continues to grow, so will our need for energy and other resources. The EIA predicts a 28% increase in energy usage by 2040.

From an environmental perspective, this creates a quandry: How much do we weigh the future societal benefit vs the costs to today’s living humans?

The Humanist must consider the impact on the uncountable billions of people yet to come if our actions will cause them harm, just as much as if they are living today.

However, prohibiting dirty energy usage because of its future impact on the planet would yield an immediate and definite effect on the billions of people who cannot access clean energy today. We cannot tell a family they can’t use electricity from a coal plant nearby to heat their home and feed their children because some people who aren’t born yet may be harmed. Quite frankly, those of us with jobs and living near cities need to commute to work and can’t easily give up cars and airplanes. Indeed, by simply living in this century, we are literally forced to use energy that pollutes the environment, and as a result, tomorrow’s families will have a lower quality of life than we enjoy today.

Humanists transform, and when we are talking about the environment and the future, we seek to transform to the benefit of billions of lives, for both today and tomorrow. As such, we have adopted an Ecomodernist approach to environmentalism:

“The ethical and pragmatic path toward a just and sustainable global energy economy requires that human beings transition as rapidly as possible to energy sources that are cheap, clean, dense, and abundant. Such a path will require sustained public support for the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, both within nations and between them, through international collaboration and competition, and within a broader framework for global modernization and development.”

It is clear that the status quo is going to cause immense suffering of people in the future. Humanists must therefore become active to dramatically cut our use of fossil fuels and promote alternatives - even if doing so may reduce the quality of life for people of the present to some degree. Doing anything else dehumanizes the people of the future.

References:
[sciencedirect.com]

[mnn.com]

[mnn.com]

[businesspundit.com]

[eia.gov]

[ecomodernism.org]

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