My manner of engaging in philosophical activity relates to climate change.
For me, philosophy is framework for engaging in reflective and critical thinking; to work through questions demanding introspective solutions. Ideally, one uses philosophy to solve problems in a rational manner. philosophy is the rubric for arriving at the right decision. In this way, the first step is identifying the presence of a problem.
There will always be some degree of debate about the implications of global warming or climate change, however I don’t feel that there is any question that the rate at which we create and dispose of waste is detrimental to our planet. This particular problem interests me because I can see it is not on an trajectory of amendment, and I find myself in a liminal space where I can freely establish and export my knowledge to others. I am not an expert in waste disposal or sustainable practices by any stretch of the imagination, but to carry on a path of ignorance after identifying a problem and a means of resolution would be exactly the opposite of philosophical action. Carrying out this particular act of good will appeals to me more than other I’ve encountered, because the preservation of nature is all the incentive I need. I have begun to associate many acts of charity with self interest, whether it be for resume building or a desire to feel good about oneself. The beauty of nature is something that everyone has a right to, yet not everyone has the ability to protect.
I’ve chosen to relate this issue to Kant’s approach to ethics. To discuss waste management under the principle of universalizability would be incongruous, it has already been universalized to some degree and although the world has carried on, people are worse off. Few developing nations understand the impacts waste can reap on ecosystems and natural resources, thus they cannot be incentivised to curtail their practices. Kant argues at great length on the subject of moral duty. Most significant of his quotes in relation to this issue is “To be beneficent where one can is a duty”(P.90).
I feel that the argument is further validated when one has the capacity to transmit this beneficence to those who cannot yet carry out this duty. Reducing waste and improving sustainability practices is a categorical imperative. Kant defines this as “an action that is in itself good” (93). To ignore a moral obligation would equate to acting irrationally. In light of this, I have a moral obligation to understand the complexities of sustainable practices, and promulgate this knowledge as best I can, and as coherently as possible. In doing so, I am acting as a philosophical thinker by following rational principles and carrying out moral action.
“Categorical imperatives command us to do things whether we want to or not, with the result that if we ignore or disobey them, we are acting contrary to reason (i.e., irrationally). All moral duties are categorical imperatives. They apply to us just because we are rational beings. We must obey them even if we don’t want to”.
UBC is center stage for sustainability, there are numerous opportunities to learn about sustainable practices. I’ve taken to attending as many panels and keynote speakers on campus as possible, with the ambition of understanding the challenges we face. Kant claims “that the ultimate point of morality is to improve well-being rather than do justice.“(P.154). A moral act has been clearly defined, and to ignore this moral duty, especially while others do not have access to it, would be wrong. Self education on topics such as sustainable practices are so readily available at UBC, it seems a crime not to understand them and try to improve upon them.