There are important philosophical issues connected with the idea of ecology: e.g. What is an ecosystem? To what extent can ecology escape being merely anthropocentric (unlike biology)? Does the concept of ‘Gaia’ as employed in Lovelock’s work make philosophical/conceptual sense? To what extent does it make sense to think of ourselves as stewards of the Earth / as the Earth’s consciousness or conscience / as ‘visitors’ to the planet, only ‘accidentally’ dependent upon it? To what extent are any of these desirable stances to take? What would be the fundamental assumptions of an economics (or a politics – or a philosophy!) that took seriously that we are it seems utterly and inexorably dependent upon Earth systems? Are there inevitable clashes between animal rights and ecologism? Is there / could there be / should there be an ecological ideology or political philosophy to rival liberalism / Maxxism, etc? Must eco-philosophy be political? Is this a bad thing?
The world is in profound ecological crisis. Is there anything more important for philosophers to do than to figure out whether there is anything that we can do to alter this situation? Does the world need new thinking, as John Locke gave us new thinking to ‘found’ liberalism, as Karl Marx gave us new thinking to found Communism, to deal with this crisis of _our_ time?
[If you are on Facebook, and you have read this far, then why not goto ]

Quiet Coaches – civic action in action

I regularly ask people to be quiet in the Quiet Coach on trains [e.g. not to speak loudly on their mobiles]. An obvious thing to do. But so few of us do it. [English reserve – and fear – at its worst] When we do do it, then it keeps the Quiet Coach quiet – which is as it should be!
To enable us to have some peace and quiet if we want it, to be able to concentrate; to avoid us all drowning in noise…
Civility in this country is in decline. That is bad news for us all – we should all, as citizens, encourage people to be public-spirited and to care about others’ experience.
[Note: there suddenly seem to be a lot less Quiet Coaches on the train from Norwich to London. This is concerning me. Anyone else noticed this?]

UNESCO considers ClimateChange UniversalDeclaration of Ethical Principles

This is encouraging:
UNESCO considers a possible Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles in Relationship to Climate Change
Following the initiative of UNESCO and COMEST to promote serious debate on the ethical stakes of climate change, regional expert consultation meetings will be held across the world between March and May with a view to assessing the advisability of a Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles in Relation to Climate Change.
The outcomes of the regional expert meetings, along with other consultations, will feed into a report by the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) that will be submitted to the Director-General of UNESCO in July 2010. Subsequently, the Executive Board of UNESCO, meeting in October 2010, will decide whether to request the Director-General to submit to the 36th General Conference in 2011 a draft declaration drawn up in consultation with the Member States.
Organized by the Secretariat of UNESCO, in close liaison with COMEST and with local host institution and countries, these expert consultation meetings will create a forum where the possibility of universal consensus can be assessed through the articulation of local concerns regarding climate change and its effects.
The meeting schedule is as follows:
  • Europe and North America: Meetings are proposed in Yerevan (Armenia) on 19-20 April and at UNESCO Headquarters on 10-11 May.
  • Arab States: A meeting is proposed in Amman (Jordan) on 4-5 May.
  • Africa: Meetings are proposed in Dakar (Senegal) on 16-17 March and in Nairobi (Kenya) on 19-20 May.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Meetings are proposed in Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) on 9-10 April and in Montevideo (Uruguay) on 13-14 May.
  • Asia and the Pacific: Meetings are proposed in New Delhi (India) on 29-30 March, in Yokohama (Japan) on 22-23 April, and in Auckland (New Zealand) on 26-27 April.
UNESCO attaches great importance to the success of its regional consultation meetings, which will ensure that the full range of expertise is taken into account in considering the advisability of a Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles in relation to Climate Change.
This ethics initiative is set more generally within the framework of UNESCO’s Strategy for Action on Climate Change as approved at the 179th Session Executive Board in April 2008.
UNESCO’s work in this area is currently built around three strategic objectives:
  • Building and maintaining the climate change knowledge base: science, assessment, monitoring and early warning;
  • Promoting mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, including through enhanced education and public awareness; and
  • Moving towards a climate-neutral UNESCO.
The United Nations System determined that the overwhelming importance of addressing global climate change requires the concerted efforts of the entire System, not least because there is increasing concern that climate change and climate variability could undermine the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
For more information, please contact
John Crowley, Chief of Section, Ethics of Science and Technology Section,
Division of Ethics of Science and Technology:
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 38 28

Straw inadvertently confirms: it’s childporn offences that Venables is being accused of

Justice Secretary Jack Straw inadvertently seemed to confirm (on TODAY just now, around 8.15) that the reason Venables has been recalled to prison IS for child porn offences. In answer to a question from Humphreys about whether he might say more later today about what offences were involved, Straw remarked that as the news had been getting out, the situation was changed. He then realised his mistake and refused to comment further; but this ‘non-denial’ appears fairly clear. It would now immensely surprise me if it turns out that the offences are not indeed child porn offences.
Which really would underlie the appalling irony of this sad individual’s ruined life. A child kills a younger child horrifically, in the public eye (that famous CCTV image). 17 years later, he is apparently engaged in sexual offences – involving images of children. Tragic, for all concerned.
Straw’s tacit admission is 10 minutes in:

Nuclear: a thought

If we only think of our children, then we might think of nuclear power as a good thing; but if we think of more distant future people, then evidently nuclear waste is a horrific legacy to leave them, people who won’t even get any benefit at all out of the waste in question having been produced.

A scientist speaks, aftertheUEAhack

A very interesting comment from a scientist on a thread I was on today on Facebook:
>I’ll give my view as a scientist. I find it incredibly difficult to communicate the science at the right level without either dumbing down and being inaccurate or totally baffling and losing people. When I’m passionate and angry I scare people. But given the data and the evidence I have been terrified. When pushed as to why I am it is difficult to explain as there are so many overlapping theories and evidence an unless a lay person can grasp the basics then the rest is lost.

In the cases of others I think there is a tendency to think that as the people doing the research they are already doing their bit for the planet when in fact every single one of us needs to a full review.

So there you go. People have gotta understand that the time to change is now and we are all in this together. Peak oil, peak soil, peak phosphorus, is on us. Lets hope we don’t end up in peak bloody human misery because we make the necessary changes too late.

I say seriously if you have children and grand children then WAKE UP, research, think about it, read widely. There will be no techno fix. Its time for behaviour change and to value our natural ecosystems and services they provide. It is time to repay the debts to the planet, restore the soils, plant trees, stop further tarmac-ing of the earths skin, get off the fossil fuels, start treating all beings with respect, to stand up to cruelty and violence and work in harmony with our nature. Our natural resources can provide us with everything we need to feed, clothe and warm ourselves. Our health is dependent on the health of our planet. There is only one earth and one humanity. It’s not rocket science. It’s permaculture.


Turkey’s Armenian genocide recognised

Brilliant news that the U.S. Congress has declared that what happened to the Armenians in 1915 WAS a genocidal crime. Did they finally do so, however, in a number of cases at least, primarily to punish Turkey for its courageous strong line against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza? That was my immediate first guess, and speculation along these lines does indeed turn out to be widespread.
[Recommended, by the way, if you want to understand the Armenian genocide and its impact better: Atom Egoyan’s astounding feature film, ARARAT.]
We should never forget that Hitler said, in the mid-30s, as he began to plot the mind-boggling genocidal crime that was the Holocaust: “Who now remembers the Armenians?” We should remember them, remember what happened, and acknowledge all such true genocides.