from the world's big
A Global Ethical Society
\r\nProfessor Jamieson's most recent book is Morality’s Progress: Essays \r\non Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature (Oxford, 2002). He\r\n is also the editor or co-editor of seven books, most recently A \r\nCompanion to Environmental Philosophy (Blackwell, 2001), and Singer\r\n and his Critics (Blackwell, 1999), named by Choice as one of\r\n the outstanding academic books of 1999. He has also published more than\r\n eighty articles and book chapters. His research has been funded by the\r\n Ethics and Values Studies Program of the National Science Foundation, \r\nthe US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the \r\nHumanities, and the Office of Global Programs in the National \r\nAtmospheric and Aeronautics Administration. He is on the editorial board\r\n of such journals as Environmental Ethics; Environmental \r\nValues; Science, Techology and Human Values; Science and \r\nEngineering Ethics; the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare; \r\nand The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. \r\n\r\n
Question: Is American individualism compatible with today’s global challenges?
Dale Jamieson: We tend to have very quick and often misleading associations with words like ethics and values and so on and so forth. And it reminds me of a story, many years ago when I worked at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1980, the first years of Reagan regime, we were interested in founding a center that would study social policy questions but would really be concerned with the kind of moral and ethical issues that really separate people when it comes to public decision making.
And so we started something that was called The Center for Values and Social Policy which seemed to us to be a completely apt description of the work that we wanted to do. Well, it turned out that almost everyone hated the name of the center and we were completely flummoxed by it and being a little slow in the uptake, we only later realized it was because Center, okay, for Values, well, that’s a right wing buzz term, right? It’s people on the political right who are concerned with Values, and Social Policy, Social Policy, that’s a buzz word that’s associated with the political left, the people who want to reengineer society and all that.
So almost no one could relate to a center that was interested in values and social policy. So going back to your question about ethics, it’s true that when we think about ethical behavior and moral behavior in American society, a kind of individualist bias immediately creeps in, we think of people as being individually responsible for doing the right thing, we even associate ideas of ethics and morality with, I think, questions of purity. Not to be smirched with wrong doing and so on and so forth but when we live in highly complex interconnected societies that are in some way have some reasonable semblance of democratic governance, often our moral obligations are political obligations and policy obligations and obligations to act.
If you’re interested in doing something about climate change as we all should be, all of us who care about future people and creatures that will inhabit this world. Then buying a Prius is a good thing but an even better thing would be to be on the streets demanding urgent action from the United States’ Congress.
Question: Can individual moral stances solve the challenges we face?
Dale Jamieson: So when to come to issues like not lying, not cheating, not betraying your friends, these really are questions of individual moral action and individual moral integrity and so on. All of your obligations can be taken up with how you, as an individual act towards other people. When you get into more complex issues like environmental issues, for example, individual action is not going to solve those problems. The United States, the world, are not going to stop emitting greenhouse gases because every individual person makes a moral commitment not to do that, people have children, they have jobs, they have other kinds of obligations, we are all implicated in a kind of economic and social structure that require these kinds of emissions, no matter how well-meaning we maybe.
So, much of the point of individual action is really to communicate with other people and with political leaders and to demonstrate to them that we are willing to live lives which are less dependent on fossil fuels and we’ll show you that now by changing our individual life to some extent but we want you to take action, political leaders, so that we aren’t living in a society in which we’re dependent on poisoning the future in order to maintain present lifestyles.
So I see a lot of individual action when it comes to environmental questions really as a form of politics as a way of communicating with political leaders, much in the same way that acts of civil disobedience during the civil rights’ movement were really acts of political communication, trying to get laws changed rather than based on the thought that the individual action would really change the practices of segregation.
Now, I think when it comes to climate change, the single most important thing in the world is for the United States’ Congress to pass an effective bill that will put a price in carbon because if it starts costing something to emit carbon, this will provide an incentive, people do act on the basis to some extent of economic incentives to emit fewer greenhouse gases. And the only way that’s going to happen, the only way, is if there is a very strong, very active popular movement that demands it and such a movement would be unparalleled because it would be a popular movement that says, “Raise our taxes so that we change our behavior.”
Now, the taxes can be refunded to people and other ways, there are ways of trying to take some of the sting out of it but it does require people to say that these issues about the future are so important to us, we’re willing to change it at present and we want those changes supported by political and legal changes.
Question: Are American ethical norms behind the times?
Dale Jamieson: Well, I think that our moral systems and to some extent our legal systems evolved when we lived in relatively low population, low density societies in which you could be a perfectly moral person as long as you didn’t go stealing your neighbor’s wife or clubbing your neighbor in the head with an axe or stealing her property or something like this, moral obligations, very simple, very straightforward and very individual and much of the law is really centered on those kinds of very simple biotic kinds of relationships but we now live in a very high density society in which we have technologies that actually increase our reach around the globe.
So if I drive my car to the store, those carbon molecules that are emitted actually get into the atmosphere circulation systems and affect climate in a global basis. This is shocking, this is amazing! No one in the 18th Century would have believed that anything like this were at all possible and I don’t think we have, as part of our common sense, morality, norms and values that are really responsive to those kinds of issues, to the kind of power that we now are able to exert over the future and over people who live very far from us.
And in a way, I think the challenge of climate change in particular is the challenge for us to create and produce new norms for a new kind of world. And that’s why I think as important as the issue of climate change is, it’s even more important than it seems because if we can’t evolve very quickly, new norms to deal with issues like climate change, we’re not going to be able to survive in the kind of world we’ve created. So I think, really, the whole nature of democracy, of governance, of global community and of solving the kinds of problems of the 21st Century are really at stake.
The philosopher says individual ethical stances are ill-equipped to face today’s global challenges.
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Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".