An article by Andy Revkin on DotEarth pointed me to this post on the Climate Ethics blog where Donald A. Brown of the University of Pennsylvania argues that it is our ethical duty to take action “to reduce the threat of climate change even if one assumes there is more scientific uncertainty about the causes and impacts of climate change than those identified by the scientific consensus view as articulated most recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

That is, given the worst case risks to hundreds of millions of others (if not to ourselves, our families and our neighbors), there is no ethical excuse for not acting to mitigate climate change at the global level. As Professor Brown puts it, “…science alone cannot tell society what it should do about various threats.”  But what about the argument that we should wait until all the facts are in and uncertainties have been resolved? Professor Brown writes:

In environmental controversies such as global warming where there is legitimate scientific concern, important ethical questions arise when scientific uncertainty prevents unambiguous predictions of human health and environmental consequences. This is so because decision-makers cannot duck ethical questions such as how conservative “should” scientific assumptions be in the face of uncertainty or who “should” bear the burden of proof about harm. To ignore these questions is to decide to expose human health and the environment to a legitimate risk, that is, a decision to not act on a serious environmental threat could have consequences particularly if waiting until all uncertainties are resolved could increase the harm.

Of course I agree with Professor Brown’s arguments, but I can’t think of many examples over the past 40 years where an argument based on ethics has won the day. I can always hope that things will change, of course, and maybe the threat of climate change impacts will help move decisionmaking to a more ethical base.

LifeHack is about getting stuff done most efficiently and effectively across all aspects of your life. In this article, the focus is on living the green life – again, as efficiently and effectively as possible. It’s a stripped-down, realistic approach that doesn’t provide you with the wiggle room to continue consuming as usual just because the consumables are labelled “green” or “environmental” or “organic.”

The hacks are broken down into 6 Principles of Green Living:

  • Simplicity
  • Fairness
  • Community
  • Sustainability
  • Planning
  • Transparency

Here, for example, is how LifeHack describes the green approach to community:

Too much of our world market is out of sight, and therefore out of mind. Since we don’t see the lives of the Bolivian granny who makes our chic shopping bags, or the Indonesian teenager who makes our shoes, or the Chinese mother who assembles our iPods,we don’t think about it. And we don’t think about the tremendous amount of resources it takes to get raw materials from Africa, North America, Asia, and somewhere in the Pacific to some factory in China to put together an mp3 player which will then be shipped (using resources again from all over the world) to some store in Oregon (that is again assembled using materials from all over the world) and into our pocket (of pants made in the next town over from the iPod factory, using cotton grown in Africa and rivets made of steel from Japan on machines made in Europe from materials mined in…).

On the other hand, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending a local farmer’s market, you’ve experienced something few of us do these days: an encounter with a part of your community, an actual living and breathing person, who made something for you to eat. There were some global resources used (even organic farmers use tractors, and they needed a truck to bring their stuff to market) but most of the labor and material involved came out of your local area — the soil you’re standing on, the person in front of you. You have a relationship with this person, and with their land. Your land.

Your local farmer selling to a local market — that’s sustainable. The relationship you have with that person — that’s sustainable, too.