I saw The 1975 in concert last week. They weren’t in my hometown, so the adventure included driving eight hours, attending the concert, getting a few hours of sleep, then driving eight hours back before I emceed an event the evening following the concert—all with my two college age boys and two of their friends. I may be getting too old for this.
One of their songs lists several excesses of our day, and the verses end with “modernity has failed us” before the repeated chorus of “Yes, I’d love it if we made it.”
This begs the question, “Will we make it?”
I recently heard a talk about Ethical Environmentalism. The speaker made several good points about the benefits we have reaped from the industrial revolution and technological advances. They also spoke about the unintended negative impacts we have experienced due to these same advances.
Ethics is the principles of right and wrong behavior that govern a person’s (or company’s) behavior or the conducting of an activity. For us to have “ethical” environmentalism, we must have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong. Therein lies the rub. If we can’t agree on what is right and wrong, we can’t really have ethics.
The environment isn’t the only thing suffering from our lack of ethics. Watch the news any evening, and you will see ample evidence of our lack of agreement about (or care for) what is right and wrong. Our lack of objective measurements of right and wrong lead to people doing what they feel like doing regardless of the consequences for themselves and/or others.
We all feel like doing things that are wrong sometimes. The reason we don’t (usually) throw a fit when we don’t get our way (like a 3-year-old) is that we have learned not to. Meaning, we have agreed that this is inappropriate behavior, not that we don’t ever feel like doing it. The same used to be true about running red lights, stealing from the self-checkout, and shooting people we don’t like or agree with.
We haven’t become less moral in the sense that we have worse desires; we have become less moral in the sense that we no longer care about other people as much as we care about ourselves. We have lost the first tenant of ethics which is to respect others as equally valuable. Also, we must respect everyone, including the people we disagree with, the people we don’t like, the people we can’t see, and the people who haven’t even been born yet.
Respect for others as equal is what keeps us from putting our interests ahead of others, from stealing, from harming, and from destroying the things we all share. If you want ethical environmentalism, you have to have an ethical society. If you want trust, self-regulation, cooperation, and collaboration, it must start with the belief that others are equally valuable and, therefore, worth limiting my behaviors so they can experience health, safety, and prosperity.
We cannot survive as individuals. We require community—not just for relational interactions, but for the very substance of our existence. We must have a common goal, or we will affect our own destruction. It won’t matter much how. The climate, health, safety, food, and shelter are all connected to human behavior.
Seeking individual success in any area may work for a short time, but, eventually, you find yourself living in a big house surrounded by homeless people, plagued by epidemics and weather-related disasters, and concerned about the safety of the food and water you need. Sound familiar?
Will we make it? Only if we choose to care about and for others. This shift won’t be generated by government regulations or international treaties. This kind of shift happens locally and then spreads. We start where we live and work. For leaders, this means creating a culture of value where people can experience being treated as equally valued and learn how to show that care to others.
I would love it if we made it. So would you. I can’t change the whole world, but I can change someone’s world by showing them I value them as much as I value myself. I can limit my freedom and behavior so the people around me are respected, safe, and cared for. If enough of us do that, we will make it the Bison Way.