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Ceridwen Dovey is a South African born novelist who now lives in New York. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Harvard in 2003, Dovey returned to South Africa to write[…]

Ethical change always lags behind technological change, Dovey says.

Question: Are our worries about climate change just a passing fad

Dovey: I don’t think it is. I think it’s an incredible moment that we have now because it’s a . . . it’s a chance to really refocus on our joint plight as humans, which I think we’ve lost sight of and we are constantly in denial about. And it’s a . . . It’s a reminder of this idea of a kind of global environmental commons . . . you know a kind of covenantal culture of these resources that are actually by their very nature indivisible. So you know we’ve parceled out the land, but we struggle with a joint or shared resource, for example, like the sea. I mean we’ve sort of managed to work our way around that, but now we’re looking at the atmosphere. And I just think . . . I understand that a carbon trading system is an immediate solution that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it troubles me because I think it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s denying the fact that this is a shared resource; that we can’t parcel out and sell of the right to pollute it. And again to me it’s a way of us sidestepping the real issue with climate change; is that it’s not just practical change that we need, but it’s philosophical change. And until we realize that this face of late capitalism that we live in is fundamentally incompatible with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, then we’re not gonna get through this, you know? And it’s gonna take incredibly creative and courageous global leadership to get us to make those kinds of philosophical changes. But I think another issue here is that ethical change always lags behind technological change. And I don’t know how we get them to move hand in hand. So what I think is happening is that the technological issues have overcome us, and that’s all about the technology __________. But we’re not actually ___________ ethical changes that need to go along with this kind of huge shift in the way we live our lives. That’s not happening, and it’s really that that’s gonna allow us to make the kind of changes we need to make. And just anthropologically it’s just such an interesting moment, because it’s changing the way we live more than anything since the industrial revolution. And we do have a moment now before the major sort of crises have hit where we can . . . we can turn it around and, you know, remember that we are all in this together, and we’re on this piece of rock in the middle of nowhere. And we’re all gonna die anyway. And it’s, you know . . . I think Evil Knievel said before he attempted one of his canyon jumps, “None of us is gonna get out of this alive.” So we just . . . It is this incredible moment, and so I just appreciate what people like Gore have done because they’ve . . . I think what needed to happen is we did need to capture people’s imagination, you know? And I think that’s happened. And so I don’t think it’s a . . . I don’t think it’s a fad or a phase. And even if . . . You know who knows? Maybe in 10 years the scientists will say, “Oh, we’re all wrong.” And even if that’s the case, I still think this is a kind of useful global accounting or reckoning with where we’ve come so far, and in getting us to investigate like philosophically how we wanna go ahead as a species.

Recorded on: 12/6/07