Civil Protection

A lot of important activities do not receive the attention they deserve. During a humanitarian crisis, Europe frequently acts with varying involvement of Member States. This holds true in droughts, inundations, earth quakes, civil wars or imperialist state conflicts. The extent and time of commitment are an additional and differentiating element. Coordination of such activities is important for those wanting to help and those asking or receiving assistance. Efforts, equipment and political support vary enormously as well. There is a need to approach this topic more strategically. The Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network (UCPKN) goes a long way to attempt to find a common language, data infrastructure and responses in this respect. It surely is important to go beyond the piecemeal approach of the past to be able to address emergencies in multiple kinds more effectively. It is, however, also in some instances a highly controversial issue as well. For each term in this old (Tschernobyl nuclear disaster) and still novel field (Fukushima) for joint activities, we have to come up with compromises of definitions.
For example, what constitutes an emergency? Does the climate crisis and disasters related to it already constitute an emergency now? Some say yes, we have to act now to avoid bigger floods and wild fires as of next year. Others, do not want to tackle the root causes, but rather focus on curing actual devastating effects of disasters.
We are back to a well-known topic of preventive rather than curative approaches. In the meantime, we are convinced that we have to commit more resources to both approaches: immediate relief and structural change to prevent an otherwise never-ending sequence of disasters in varying places.
Most important probably is the keeping of address books and fast digital networking facilities to react and communicate with the competent institutions and civil organisations. Beyond the involvement and linking of experts in the field, the larger public and volunteers make up for additional invaluable resources to act.
It is crucial to make it possible for decentral links between cities like in city partnerships to be involved. Building on existing human to human links motivates and mobilises huge additional resources. Of course, continuous training is a very important element in all those efforts. We should embrace it in the private and public sector, at school and in retirement even. (Image: Extrait de Peter Paul Rubens La chute des géants MRBAB, Brussels)

Energy Ethics

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)