Session: Is it morally permissible to travel to ASBH despite climate change?
Is it morally permissible to travel to ASBH despite climate change?
Friday, October 13, 2023
3:15 PM – 4:30 PM ET
Location: Harborside Ballroom (Fourth Floor)
In a year marked by devastating heat waves, catastrophic fires, droughts and floods, and generally all manner of climate disasters, the question of how to live a morally decent life amidst climate change looms large. Our collective greenhouse gas emissions warm the planet and lead to massive harm, which makes our individual emitting actions seem to implicate us in one of the most serious moral problems humanity has ever faced.
Despite this sense (shared at least by environmentalists) that each of us is contributing to the problem, there is a well-known challenge to the idea that we could be obligated to refrain from any emitting action: in short, our individual contributions are so small—so insignificant—that they do not cause or meaningfully worsen any harm. Thus, although one might think that each of us should travel less in order to reduce our carbon footprint, it seems there is no justification for thinking that it’s wrong to, for instance, travel to Baltimore in order to attend ASBH.
Is that right? Do none of us flaunt our moral responsibilities by attending this conference? In this session, two speakers will articulate different arguments that bear on the answer to this question. One of us will rehearse an argument made in the animal ethics literature, which purports to show that we can (and do), in fact, have a duty to contribute to collectives that make a difference, even when our own individual contributions do not. The other will rehearse an argument from the climate literature suggesting that, while we can have moral reasons not to so contribute, we do not have duties, and so while it may be a good thing to forego conference attendance for environmental reasons, none of us is morally required to do so. From there, both speakers will address the question of whether their arguments can coexist: does a duty to go vegan imply a duty to forego conferences? If we have only reasons to reduce our carbon footprint, does that imply that no one has a duty to go vegan?