If This Metaphor for Climate Change Doesn't Change Your Behavior, Maybe Nothing Will
Questioning the power of individual choice.
Theron Pummer posed this question of ethical vagueness in a post for Practical Ethics. After all, humanity has gotten to the point where our questionable choices have tipped the scales to the point of causing global climate change. But our single actions are like plucking one hair, Pummer explains.
In a more morbid example, Pummer writes about a more stylized version from Derek Parfit's book Reasons and Persons from the chapter Five Mistakes in Moral Mathematics. In this section, the author argues why “the share‐of‐the‐total view” is flawed and why we should “accept the marginalist view, which appeals to the difference made by each act, why we should not ignore either small chances, or effects that are trivial or imperceptible.”
Consider a man lying down on a table with a cloth over his face. One person puts a drop of water on the cloth; nothing happens. But if 1,000 people each place one drop of water on the cloth, the man will gradually become uncomfortable to the point where the exercise becomes waterboarding.
“Each of the 1,000 people can, it seems, claim that their act made no negative difference at all, since the victim can’t tell the difference between adjacent settings (we can suppose there’s no phenomenological difference whatever to the victim between adjacent settings),” Pummer writes. “It seems there is vagueness about when the victim’s pain level increases.”
Yet, each act contributes in some way whether it's deciding to vote with your dollar and shop local rather than go to a chain grocery store, or unplugging a device once its done charging rather than leaving it plugged in.
“Here, and now, is where we live. We don’t think, or feel, globally. We don’t worry about others as much as we worry about ourselves. And we don’t worry about the future as much as we worry about the immediate.”
Pummer argues, “In cases where it is genuinely indeterminate whether your act makes the world a worse place, you have a moral reason not to perform this act. I’m simply thinking that it’s worth avoiding acting in a way such that it is indeterminate whether so acting makes the world a worse place.”
There are ways to mitigate this moral vagueness. Solutions include the SunPort outlet, which draws its power from renewable energy, and the Nebia showerhead, which cuts water usage by 70 percent.
However, making these choices or not isn't always clear to us, writes David Ropeik, an instructor at Harvard. “Here, and now, is where we live. We don’t think, or feel, globally. We don’t worry about others as much as we worry about ourselves. And we don’t worry about the future as much as we worry about the immediate.”
The Nobel-prize winning economist Elinor Ostrom argues that, contrary to the widespread theory, with the right governance, humans are likely to forge peaceful solutions to coping with resource scarcity.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
It's a "canary in the coalmine," said one climate scientist.
- A team of researchers discovered that permafrost in Northern Canada is melting at unusually fast rates.
- This could causes dangerous and costly erosion, and it's likely speeding up climate change because thawing permafrost releases heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.
- This week, Canada's House of Commons declared a national climate emergency.
One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".
- Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
- Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
- A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Not every part of a satellite burns up in reentry. Considering the growing number of satellites in orbital space, that's a big problem.
- Earth's orbital space is getting more crowded by the day.
- The more satellites and space junk we put into orbit, the greater a risk that there could be a collision.
- Not all materials burn up during reentry; that's why scientists need to stress test satellite parts to ensure that they won't become deadly falling objects.
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