Mating birds have astonishing capabilities. Some songbirds can expand areas of their brains during the mating season. Apparently this helps to outperform other birds in singing contests. The expansion of the brain in the preparation for mating is not so much of an interesting phenomenon in view of the fact of subsequent decline of the capacity. Of course in human engineering the expansion might be useful and the hope to repair a damaged brain is worthwhile as well. In a few years we might know how to expand brain irrespective of brain functions. The naive hope that we might just sing more beautifully in preparation for mating is probably misplaced. While everyone is talking about AI new horizons for HI as human intelligence or hybrid forms become more feasible. Meanwhile we continue to focus on our preparation for mating songs. It seems to exercise parts of the brain with the best intentions in mind. Composers have created fantastic arias and singers impressed audiences across the globe with melodies in preparation of mating like the birds. Art is full of such extraordinary examples. Let’s keep up the preparation as long as the season lasts and before climate change kicks in more forcefully. The mating season might be prolonged a bit, it might be too hot or too wet to prepare for mating as well.
Around the topic of energy there many ethical issues that urgently need sorting out. Carlos Diaz-Rodriguez and co-authors have provided a sound basis for such ethical considerations. To leave the disastrous path of energy provision through polluting fossil fuels and, additionally very risky, nuclear energy, they propose a departure from the principles and values that have guided us into a dead end. In their opinion we suffer from a mistaken belief to be able to control in extremis, through scientific methods, the forces of nature. In ethics this mistaken belief has roots in religious beliefs that mankind is mandated to make the earth subordinate to its own will. The authors propose to overcome this old paradigm with a new paradigm. This builds on the (1) “precautionary principle”, (2) justice as equity, (3) protection and the (4) principle of responsibility.
Most European readers of philosophy and social science are familiar with these principles. The virtue of the paper is to expose and juxtapose these principles in a clear format and a stringent application to the ethics of energy (production as well as consumption of it).
The precautionary principle is part of the European treaty on the functioning of the European Union Art. 191, but its implementation on energy issues reveals that it is a tiger without teeth. Younger generations across the globe are right to claim a more forceful implementation of this principle.
The perspective of justice as equity is bringing in later born generations as well into the balance costs and benefits of “cheap energy today” but huge costs of dismantling, repairing, stocking deferred to the future.
The protection principle refers to the loss of biodiversity and exploiting resources in areas of world heritage, for example.
The principle of responsibility goes beyond the judicial and economic principle that the person, company or state causing damage through exploitation of resources, and in producing energy with it, has to pay for repairing those damages.
As this is hard to achieve in real terms, there is an urgent need to reiterate the responsibility principle at all levels. Despite the inefficiencies of legal systems, the international legal order in particular, there is no way around than to insist on responsibility from the individual behaviour, company strategic goals as well as objectives set by nation states and international organisations. The Paris agreement and all COP XY conferences only prove the fact that irresponsibility continues to be a guiding principle.
Maximalist positions as well as continuing like decades before is failing people on earth. Organising a discourse on these ethical issues is a first step, but we have to be able to address negationists as well.
The missing principle so far is the solidarity principle. Without a firm commitment to intergenerational and international solidarity we shall remain unable to solve the ethical puzzle. It is high time to organise solidarity related to the field of energy.
(Image: “The fallen tree of knowledge” by Fabrice Samyn. Exposition in Yerres, France 2021-11)
Changing habits of eating is among the most difficult behavioral changes. We get so used to our habits to prefer certain alimentary mixtures that we tend to believe we can no longer change them. Depending on our will power we are able to command for more or less longer periods our food intake. Bodily functions of blood pressure or insulin levels play tricks on us of a powerful kind. Therefore it is interesting to see towards the end of a food market what kind of food is sold and what has been left over.
In the historic market of the food, wine and spice loving region of Burgundy in Dijon the ad hoc inspection of an étalage was surprisingly different from my expectation. ‘Paté’ containing meat was left over towards the end of the opening hours and the fish based ’Paté’ was almost sold out. A change towards a more healthy and somewhat more sustainable diet is slowly creeping into societies. This gives hope that food changes are possible and markets will adapt eventually as well. It is a change for the better for each person and our societies as well as the planet.
The smurf series of comics has been a world-wide success as children-books. Many adults enjoy re-reading some of their old comic books to their children or grand-children. Now let us try it the other way around. Our children try to sell us the concern for the environment by talking to us through the designs of smurfs, Schlümpfe or Strümpfe, as they are called in various translations. Maybe this way we are more open to take a serious look at the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN. Easily accessible and getting us through an emotional connection might work better than tedious lengthy documents and statistics of continuous failure (e.g. on hunger) of most parts of the world.
Tell the story of the smurfs with the SDGs in mind. See how far you get in remembering the whole list of 17 stories. Build a narrative around each of the images. There is no way around getting nearer these goals for our very own survival as a species. Intergenerational communication works both ways from young to old as well as from old to young. Design your own characters, if you like, with the same SDGs in mind. Only this way we shall broaden the supporters for the goals beyond the expert circles of politicians and policy advisers. Happy drafting and rapid implementation! We can do it, if we want to.
The complete monitoring of the SDGs of the UN for global development shows a surprisingly large coverage of topics. The search function is indiscriminate of some contradictions or returns the same entry twice like in sustainable industry. However, the simple check reveals frequent and less frequent entries. Entries 1 = Poverty, 6 = Water and 14 + 15 = Life on Land and in Water received less attention. The agenda for the coming weeks is set.
The 1910s have been eclipsed completely by “the Great War” between 1914 to 1918. The 1st world war certainly was the most horrific period of the decade of revolutions and mass arousal. From a global history perspective the years preceding and shortly after the humanitarian disasters deserve more attention, if we were to derive lessons for prevention of other world encompassing wars of imperialist states. The numbers 1st, 2nd, … 3rd (?) world war suggest an unescapable numbering of events. We no longer can think in this trivialising logic of war or historical determinism. Empires go to war more easily than democracies. This was the social scientists’ consensus after the Great War. It took several years for many European states to turn more democratic, allowing women to vote, or introduce more robust health and social security systems. Powerful aristocracies would not cede power easily, only the widespread poverty after the Great War and the human losses discredited many aristocratic regimes throughout Europe. The imperialist dominance of the beginning of the 1910s produced a spirit of ruthless conquest and exploitation of colonies around the world. It took another global war and almost half a century to dismantle these regimes. To understand global alliances and impediments of wars in the 21st century, the early 1910s are instructive as they inform the restitution of artefacts debate in the 2020s. In the history of ideas, the 1910s are probably best characterised as the period of attempting to turn “grand ideas” into political facts on the globe. The rise of Marxist ideology, liberal and fascist counter movements started to take powerful roots at the end of the 1910s. All these ideas and factual changes of the maps of power still seem to govern a lot of international politics even today.