September 2012
Ethics & the Environment;Fall2012, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p75
Academic Journal
The proximate cause of climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases to the planetary atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels. Those emissions are rising because coal, oil, and gas provide the primary motive force for economic activity. The constant and concerted push by political leaders around the world for an ever-larger world economy, and for ever-faster rates of economic growth, exacerbates this problem. Given the looming threat of a changing climate, what explains this continuing preference for growth? Practical benefits and political expedience are parts of the story, but this essay points to the normative domain. It identifies a moral laxity shared by political leaders which fosters a preference for growth over other more ethically demanding but enviroilmentally sustainable ways to enable human betterment. In turn, that laxity is shown to arise from the uncritical appropriation of an irresponsible notion of freedom from constraint which is deployed as justification for the growth paradigm. This false freedom lurks at the bottom of the climate change problem.


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