Climate Action – the Ethical Perspective

We are at a very critical point in human history.  Some commentaries on climate change say that we are very close to certain ‘tipping points’ after which the planet would have to find a new equilibrium, and we cannot know what would then happen to humanity.  We have moved beyond mitigation, or even adaptation – and adaptation action must be participatory – and are already dealing now with human rights and loss and damage in many communities.

What is our collective responsibility towards communities and families directly affected by climate change and towards the generations to come?

These are two key ethical perspectives – the responsibility towards the people of the Earth at this present moment and our responsibility towards future generations.  Implicit in this is the recognition of the human factors driving climate change and also the changes needed in human behaviour and life style that could move us even beyond sustainability towards human flourishing and the flourishing of our Earth.  What kind of political decisions would we need to take to move this forward and to achieve the best outcome possible?

Inherent in human flourishing is the recognition of the inherent value and dignity of every single human being and the awareness of the inherent goodness that lies within all of us, that is waiting to be deeply recognised and awakened.  Putting this at the heart of all decision and policy making will transform the way we relate to each other and the Earth.  Human flourishing depends on trust, honesty and equity.  True human flourishing depends on the quality of our connection to the Earth and our attitude towards our relationship with nature.

This involves moving from a world view of separation and domination to a worldview that connects all life, of harmony with the earth – the original indigenous world view that existed worldwide.  This was expressed recently at the Spirit of Humanity Forum in Reykjavik last week.  The current dominant world view has taken us to our current Earth condition.

A preparatory dialogue for the forum, Caring for the Earth, considered the inner dimension of climate change; how our being, awareness and attitude directly affects the way in which we relate to and care for the Earth.  I quote from the report:

“Whatever we do, whatever place we are in, we should ask first not what shall I do, but what does this place, what does this Earth require of me?  In other words we are called not simply to action, but to service.  Caring for each other and for the Earth is just that, service, deep service.”

In our work of bringing to the awareness of governments and the public as a whole the extreme situation of climate change, an awareness of caring for the Earth can bring greater clarity in decisions for the common good.  In other words this will awaken our conscience and help us move beyond only short term political interests or economic considerations and with the accountability of all actors.

In order to collectively progress towards achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement parties can protect and promote the rights of specific groups that are particularly exposed to the impacts of climate change, including women, indigenous peoples, children and migrants.  As expressed in the Summit of Conscience in Morocco last year, ‘when we look at the world currently it is as if the voice of conscience has become numb, if not silenced.  Compassion awakens within the alert conscience and we begin to treat each other and the earth with dignity and respect.’

In listening and acting according to our conscience, it is as if a burden lifts from the self and we become more whole human beings who can then begin to work towards change.  It is important to leave behind the chains of the past so that we can build a new future together.

Om shanti – a greeting of peace

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