Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Ethic for the Future

At a recent PEN World Voices forum on climate change, the Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaarder proposed an expansion of the ethic of reciprocity (the Golden Rule) to include the effects of our actions on future generations. A video of his presentation will be found in Andrew Rivkin's Dot Earth blog (Warning: the video is 1 hour 35 minutes long).

Gaarder's presentation is timely. The Golden Rule is not a rule at all, but a method for making ethical and policy decisions. Nearly all religious traditions recognize it in some form. It is simple and powerful.

Climate change is not only a scientific issue, but a moral one. The power of Gaarder's idea lies in his suggestion that the "others" in the traditional formulations of the Golden Rule must now include people not yet born who will live in the future that we create now. They will inherit the world we build or destroy.