Whose Climate? Whose Ethics?

Whose Climate? Whose Ethics?

thumbnail

Acacia trees near Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve

A colleague in Kenya talks of the necessity of Africa countries adopting “low emissions approaches to development.” Another, Francis Sakuda of SIMOO (one of Brighter Green’s partners in the girls’ education and leadership initiative), writes of his experiments with green energy: he is working out ways of transforming the dung of Maasai pastoralists’ cows into energy. He wants to refine his process for the common good — not his own enrichment — so that “people get an alternative source of energy to stop tree felling for charcoal.” (Kenya’s tree cover is just 2%. and energy poverty, including where Francis lives not far from Nairobi, is widespread) I began to wonder: are we expecting, or perhaps even demanding, that those in the global South practice a more advanced (or better) form of climate ethics than those of us in industrialized countries?

Do we anticipate that they will make strong commitments to greener development, e.g., avoiding full dependence on the fossil fuels we’ve used for centuries with little regard (until recently) for their global impacts? Do we assume that they’ll protect their forests and carbon dioxide and biodiversity they contain, and plant trees, too — including to offset emissions in the global North? Do we expect that like Francis, they’ll work hard at a day job and in the evening work more to pioneer low carbon technologies? But if we do, what does this say about us and about how we conceive of and practice climate ethics (here’s a link to a great discussion on the topic held recently at New York University)? It’s a question that needs answering, even as Francis refines his dung to energy initiative.