Last week I read a paper by Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a joint centre of Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne. The paper was from a presentation Prof Hamilton gave last August at the American Sociological Association in Denver USA.
In his presentation Prof Hamilton summarised the latest research into global warming and came up with the conclusion that the best we can hope for is to limit temperature increase this century to 4C. In the words of Adelaide scientist Corey Bradshaw this will mean “our entire society, biodiversity and life as we know it will be severely diminished.
Prof Hamilton’s central message was that we have to take this as given – and “we must find ways to navigate it, to accommodate whatever it throws at us, to work out how to live on a planet less liveable.”
How we might ask? Last week I was sent this apocryphal story from Africa that gives me some hope.
An anthropologist invited some children to play a game. He put a basket full of fruit under a tree and told the children that the first one to reach the fruit was the winner and could have all the fruit. When he told them to run, they all joined hands and ran together, then all sat down to share the fruit. When he asked them why they ran like that, when one of them could have had all the fruit to herself, they replied “Ubuntu!”. In Hausa Ubuntu means “I am because we are”.
Western individualist culture has got the world into the mess we now find ourselves with global warming, widening disparities between rich and poor etc.
Some have dubbed this century as the Chinese century which suggests that as the aspirations of the Chinese people to consume like us are met, China will become the economic powerhouse of the world.
And meanwhile global temperatures will soar even higher – with increases as high as 12 or 16C.
If we are to have a future then maybe it needs to be the African century. And like those children we can learn to say “I am because we are” and really believe it.