Why are so many people aware of climate change, but unwilling to make lifestyle modifications that could potentially slow the impact?
This was the subject of an important lecture recently at CIEE Global Institute – Copenhagen entitled, “Hope in Hopeless Times: Climate Change & Ethics,” led by one of Denmark’s most knowledgeable and well-known public speakers, Mickey Gjerris, Ph.D. As Bio Ethics Professor at University of Copenhagen and a former member of The Danish Council on Ethics, Dr. Gjerris argued that, while the world is not black and white, from an ethical standpoint there are wrong and right decisions.
The lecture attracted some 50 attendees who listened intently about the ethical issues of climate change, moral shortcomings, and what can only be seen as “willed blindness,” in the ongoing debate on global warming.
Dr. Gjerris began his lecture pointing out that “humans are interconnected and are each other’s world and destiny,” yet we constantly struggle between acting on what we know we must do – cut down on CO2 emissions – and maintaining the lifestyle we desire. This moral dilemma is stronger and more urgent than ever before.
To counter our inclination toward a consumer-focused, environmentally harmful lifestyle, Dr. Gjerris argued that global citizens must redefine what it means to live “the good life.” As a culture, we must move toward stories that associate “the good life” with sustainability and nature. Further, we need to forego our inevitable biases and instead, tell ourselves that living a more ecofriendly life will not compromise our quality of life. In fact, Dr. Gjerris believes it will most likely improve our quality of life.
During the presentation, it was asked, “whom should be considered responsible for turning our climate change culture around?” The answer was: Everyone. According to Dr. Gjerris, we are all in charge saving the planet. “We all share the responsibility, at least in the industrialized world – because to quote a Spiderman movie – ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’”
Arizona State University student, Bailee B., who is studying abroad at the Global Institute - Copenhagen on the CIEE Open Campus Block program was glad she took the time to attend. “Instead of just focusing on all the negative aspects of climate change, the speaker gave a great outlook on how to view it in a positive way. His points about the unethical behaviors we participate in daily were enough to change my mind about multiple things. Now look at me... I am officially a vegetarian because of it!! What a unique experience.”