“Morality, at its core, is about putting ourselves in others’ shoes and treating their interests as we do our own.” Oxford University Professor of Philosophy William MacAskill is the author of “What We Owe the Future.” In this writing, he imagines “living the life of every human being who has ever existed — in order of birth.” In the timeframe of humanity, he reflects on the birth of Homo sapiens to the present time and then looks into the future. “On the scale of a typical human life, you in the present would be just a few months old. The future is big.”
Professor MacAskill writes, “If you knew you would live all these future lives, what would you hope we do in the present? How much carbon dioxide would you want us to emit into the atmosphere? How careful would you want us to be with new technologies that could destroy or permanently derail your future?” Long-term is the term he uses to suggest the enormousness of the future and the high stakes of the present in shaping the future.
“We live through a unique and precarious chapter in humanity’s story. Out of the hundreds of thousands of years in humanity’s past — and the potentially billions of years in its future — we find ourselves living now, at a time of extraordinary change.” “The current rate of growth cannot continue forever. We are rapidly burning fossil fuels, producing pollution that might last hundreds of thousands of years. A time when we can see catastrophes on the horizon — from engineered viruses to A.I.-enabled totalitarianism — and can act to prevent them.”
“To be alive at such a time is both an exceptional opportunity and a profound responsibility: We can be pivotal in steering the future onto a better trajectory. There’s no better time for a movement to stand up, not just for our generation or even our children’s generation, but for all the generations yet to come.”
Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.