Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Rethinking the Limits of Ethics

Cosmocentric Ethics and Climate Chaos

It is the sheer complexity and potential for devastation of present and future impacts of global warming on global climate that drives the necessity for innovative transdisciplinary responses. In ethics, no less than other domains of research, new perspectives that go beyond or transcend previous ethical frameworks are urgently needed. Under the imperative of sustainability, there has been an expansion of the scope of ethics from purely anthropocentric to ecocentric concerns and values.

Global warming pushes the boundaries of ethical consideration even further into the atmoscentric and climacentric, where new approaches to ethics are being driven by changes to the atmosphere and climates of the planet. All human cultures, all sentient creatures and every type of ecosystem are being profoundly affected by cumulative climate change. The movement from self-interest to planetary interest culminates in cosmocentric ethics or ethical concern about the status of the whole earth.

The transdisciplinary nature of cosmocentric ethics is clear when it is observed that changes in scientific understandings have been the major driver of changes in values and ethics. From a theocentric ethic humans have progressively moved to new ethical dimensions. The issues of sentience were highlighted by the sciences of comparative anatomy and physiology, the temporal and spatial interconnections of living and non-living systems were discovered by evolutionary and ecological sciences and now, the understanding of complex relationships between biodiversity, terrestrial ecosystems, oceans, the atmosphere and climate is being delivered by sciences/studies that transcend traditional discipline boundaries.

Added to the knowledge base delivered by these sciences is the emergence of new transdisciplinary fields of knowledge such as complexity theory and sustainability science. Discipline-based scientific knowledge that is seeking interconnections with other related disciplines and the new transdisciplinary domains, provide a new foundation for ethics. Cosmological citizens, informed about ethics via transdisciplinary environmental education, are in the best position to act on the implications of impending climate chaos.

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