Global Commons and the Environment

“We are using resources as if we had two planets, not one. There can be no ‘plan B’ because there is no ‘planet B’.” – Ban Ki-moon

This week’s topic was mostly focusing on the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, as well as how to ensure we keep promoting economic growth without harming our environment.

The subject of protecting the environment is one which is very important to me. All my life, I grew up believing that we, humanity, have some sort of a ‘moral obligation’ to the world. Since we have been living on this planet for centuries, we are the ones responsible for taking great care of it. Unfortunately, it is sad to say that we are also the ones responsible for polluting and destroying it. Man-made disruptions have been affecting ecosystems more than ever. We have been creating danger for both us and animals.

One of the biggest issues is indeed the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. It occurs when a group of individuals, all acting in their own self-interest, deplete common resources to the detriment of a larger group. An example we should not forget is overfishing, which not only removes essential predators, but is also a threat to local food sources. Another one is traffic congestion, which creates a negative externality: pollution. What is unfair here is that it is always society paying for its costs. What I find worrying is that we will never be free from such issues. There will always be negative consequences whatever humanity decides to undertake. For instance, according to the Vice-President of the World Bank: “The wars of the next century will be about freshwater.” Take a second and think, when you hear this, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Concern, indeed.

After all, I believe we should not lose hope. Over the last few decades, different international agreements (e.g. Kyoto Protocol) have been put in place designed to protect our environment, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which has reduced the effects on climate change. All of this, leads me to the following statement: “Personally, I appeal more to the modernists.” I do have faith that science and innovation will manage to overcome the growth problems we currently face. We, human beings are exceptional, and we should not let others manipulate us. I further support the idea that innovation is an unlimited resource, and that it allows for autoregulation.

Let’s not forget that biodiversity is important, and that earth is our home. It is where we live, and I believe that most of us agree on the idea of living in a better world, rather than in a polluted dump. My advice would be to always choose to do what is morally right and good to society, rather than simply transferring your personal costs to others.

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Ethics of Making and Sustaining Peace

“There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” – Mahatma Gandhi

This week, we discussed the topic of “Ethics of making and sustaining peace”, which I believe is a very important one since it allowed me to understand more in depth how different theories evolve around this subject.

What I found particularly interesting with regard the just peace and ethics of peace-making, are the set of principles for just peace proposed by Orend, contractualist and deontologist, who believes that “the just goal of a just war, once won, must be a more just state of affairs than existed prior to war”. In other words, the objective here is to aim at having a restoration, not a random one, but one which will be just and better than the one which existed before war.

Furthermore, I believe that whenever there is a conflict, peace should be considered as the one and only possible solution, and thus, it should be viewed as the main objective. It is important to intervene in order to be able to prevent similar wars from happening in the future, just as Orend explained it. In places such as Syria, however, which has been a major topic of discussion throughout the past few years, nobody is willing to intervene because they do not know how to deal with the transition to peace and peacebuilding, which leads to further discouragement. In situations like these, I believe it is more important to take a proactive stance, whatever the risk is, working to change the current situation towards achieving a balance between peace and justice, as well as between freedom and security, rather than simply neglecting the availability of intervening. According to Bellamy, utilitarian, a single set of principles for just peace is not enough, and here I support his view since we cannot build a bridge without having access to all necessary raw materials.

After all, the theory I support the most is the one of feminists who decided to change the starting point by bringing in a care ethics perspective. In my opinion, they developed the most relevant arguments, since they based themselves on an agreement on interdependence, by including other people’s perspective, of both victims and the international community. In other words, by collaborating, they believe that each party will be able to maximise the benefits to its own community, and thus, achieving peace and justice, freedom and security. As a result, everyone will be better off thanks to partnership. Not to forget that in order to attain a just peace agreement, we must include both its process and content.

Finally, from a personal point of view, I think we should all try to achieve both peace and justice, but if I had to choose I would much rather stick to peace over justice, since I believe it out weights the benefits of the other. Be careful, the more peace you want, the less justice you will have, and vice-versa. Similarly, in rational moments, I would rather give up some of my freedom, in order to receive more security in return. In the end, it is all about finding a balance between all, and taking into account rationality.

Ethics of War

“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” – John F. Kennedy

Before assisting to the lecture on “Ethics of War”, I honestly knew very little about the topic itself. I tended to neglect this matter since it did not evoke any interest in me. However, after this week’s discussion and student seminar on “Is torture justifiable?”, I learned a lot, and it made me realize that ethics of war is one of the most important concerns of Global Ethics.

We have seen so far how war has been commonly practiced by our diverse nations, and how societies have developed different ideas about how we refer to war, its purposes, and how it needs to be conducted.

I have often been asking myself how we, individuals, always manage to find excuses about not being able to feed the poor, or provide them with any kind of humanitarian aid, but, however, we always seem to be able to fund a war whenever and wherever it is ‘needed’.

What I personally find very interesting here is how the “Just war theory”, justifications of how and why wars are fought, has evolved over time with its two distinct aspects, known as “Just ad bellum” and “Just in bello”.

The first one deals with reasons to go to war: “What is your objective? What are the alternatives that can be taken into consideration?”. The one point I find positive here is that it tries to prevent war from happening.

Whereas, the second one deals with arguments of how to behave while in war: “The justice of conduct of war”. The advantage here is that it really seeks to limit the suffering which has been caused. We know that no war is forever, therefore, we should agree on the same principles that will allow us to live as neighbours afterwards.

Moreover, we have seen how Wheeler, utilitarian and deontological, opposes Walzer’s contemporary contractualist beliefs.

If I had to choose between who draws best on the just war theory, I would stick to Wheeler’s arguments. I believe that the importance lies at the heart of the individuals’ lives. It is crucial to minimize the killing of individuals, and not the survival of the state and of political communities.

Suppose you are facing a war with the choice to follow either contractualist beliefs or utilitarian. What would you fight for? Fighting to protect the innocent or fighting to protect the survival of the country? You should ask yourself: in reality who wins? Does our society seek to preserve the life of citizens, or does it defend the state as a whole?