Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2011
Think of some environmentally unfriendly choices – taking the car instead of public transport or driving an SUV, just binning something recyclable, using lots of plastic bags, buying an enormous television, washing clothes in hot water, replacing something when you could make do with last year's model, heating rooms you don't use or leaving the heating high when you could put on another layer of clothing, flying for holidays, wasting food and water, eating a lot of beef, installing a patio heater, maybe even, as some have said lately, owning a dog. Think about your own choices, instances in which you take an action which enlarges your carbon footprint when you might have done otherwise without much trouble. Is there consolation in the thought that it makes no difference what you do?
1 Vale, B. and Vale, R., Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living (London: Thames and Hudson, 2009)Google Scholar.
2 Other arguments for action have nothing to do with emissions histories. See Garvey, J., ‘Responsibility’, The Ethics of Climate Change, (London: Continuum Publishing, 2008)Google Scholar.
3 The settled scientific view is that there is a 90% chance that human activities are changing the climate. This finding is endorsed by all of the national academies of science of the world's major industrialized countries (a total of 32 national academies) as well as more than 40 professional scientific societies and academies of science all over the world. If you are in doubt start with Houghton, J., Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's various summaries for policy-makers, available for free at www.ipcc.ch.
5 Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
6 Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti in L'Osservatore Romano, March, 2008.
8 See Almeida, M. and Bernstein, M., ‘Opportunistic Carnivorism’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 17 (2000), 205–11Google Scholar; Hudson, H., ‘Collective Responsibility and Moral Vegetarianism’, Journal of Social Philosophy 24 (1993), 89–104Google Scholar; Matheny, G., ‘Expected Utility, Contributory Causation and Vegetarianism’, Journal of Applied Philosophy 19.3 (2002), 293–297Google Scholar; and Rachels, J., ‘The Moral Argument for Vegetarianism’ in Can Ethics Provide Answers? (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997)Google Scholar. For discussions of vegetarianism and consequences generally, see Devine, P., ‘The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism’, Philosophy 53 (1978), 481–505Google Scholar; Garrett, J., ‘Utilitarianism, Vegetarianism, and Human Health: A response to the Causal Impotence Objection’, Journal of Applied Philosophy 24.3 (2007), 223–237Google Scholar; Nobis, N., ‘Vegetarianism and Virtue: Does Consequentialism Demand Too Little?’, Social Theory and Practice 28.1 (2002), 135–156Google Scholar; Regan, T., ‘Utilitarianism, Vegetarianism and Animal Rights’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 9 (1980), 305–24Google Scholar; Singer, P., ‘Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 9 (1980)Google Scholar and Animal Liberation, Chapter 4, (London: Pimlico, 1995)Google Scholar.
9 Op. cit., note 4.
11 Op. cit., note 10, 2.
12 Op. cit., note 10, 173.
13 United Nations Statistics Division, Millennium Development Goals indicators http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/SeriesDetail.aspx?srid=749, accessed 23/3/2010.
15 See Gendin, S., (2001) ‘Why Vote?’ International Journal of Politics and Ethics, 1.2 (2001), 123–132Google Scholar; Glazer, A., ‘A New Theory of Voting: Why Vote When Millions of Others Do?’ Theory and Decision 22 (1987), 257–270Google Scholar; Goldman, A., ‘Why Citizens Should Vote: A Causal Responsibility Approach’ Social Philosophy and Policy 16.2 (1999), 201–217Google Scholar; Riley, J., ‘Utilitarian Ethics and Democratic Government’ Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political and Legal Philosophy 100.2 (1990), 335–248Google Scholar; Salkever, S., ‘Who Knows Whether It's Rational to Vote?’ Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political and Legal Philosophy 90 (1980), 203–217Google Scholar; Hardin, R., ‘Street level Epistemology and Democratic Participation’, The Journal of Political Philosophy 10.2 (2002), 212–229Google Scholar.
16 Op. cit., note 7, 336–7.
17 Singer, for his part, goes on to say that there is nothing logically inconsistent about eating meat and campaigning for animal rights, but I have a deeper, maybe wider, notion of consistency in mind.
18 Have a look at www.unstats.un.org for the numbers. The numbers in the paragraphs which follow come from this site. It is likely that things have since changed, but the point of the argument still stands.
19 I'm grateful to J. Baird Callicot for helping me see that consistency isn't the whole of morality. It's not a Vulcan view I'm pressing for with talk of consistency, just an insistence on local action in accord with global conclusions.
20 Thanks are owed to Anthony O'Hear for a very thought-provoking lecture series. I'm also grateful to the speakers and audience members for interesting talks, questions and comments.