This is a pretty big theme/series of questions that I've been thinking about recently. There are a lot of different directions it could go, but the general question is this: Do we as individuals have the responsibility to leave the Earth in as good or better shape than it was when we entered it?
This is easily applicable to environmentalism: should we attempt to balance out our negative impacts on the Earth's natural resources with positive contributions to science, policy, transportation, etc.?
It also, and this is more in the direction I’ve been thinking, could relate to our societal duties. For instance: if you are someone who had a privileged upbringing, do you have a responsibility to work harder and do more things to help other people than someone who did not have as privileged an early life? Should you try and balance out or even exceed how much you were given with how much you give the world?
Even more specifically this relates to parenting/intergenerational morality. For example, if your parents paid for you to go to college and get an education and you chose to study philosophy or religion or to go work for a nonprofit or something else that you felt was important for you personally to do but did not pay particularly well, is it then immoral for you to raise children and not pay for them to go to college - therefore not affording them the same opportunities that were given to you?
In summary: Is it morally necessary to have a net positive or zero impact on the world by the time you leave it?
Wow sorry for the misspelled title!!! I didn't think to reread my title.... That's embarrassing :/
I'm going to answer all of this assuming that we are talking about a theorettical person that has the will to at least try to do all the possitive things you stated, so that we don't confuse the person that is unwilling to do these possitive things, and the person that just ends up in circumstances that prevent him/her from doing these things.
I would say that to leave the world with zero impact is definitely not good.
God tells the first man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis: the Bible) to take care of the Earth, so I believe we should therefore take care of it. It's pretty obvious though that our first responsibility before the ground is that of taking care of other humans.
Is it immoral to not give your children the same opportunities you had?
Um...my dad actually went to college (I don't think his parents paid for it though--they might have helped). However, I know I will not get any financial aid from my parents to go to college. I'm okay with that, we're poor. We're poor because my dad studied theology, greek and hebrew. He's a scholar and loves it, but doesn't get paid to do what he does.
So, end result: my parents can't give me the opportunities they had, but however, I do get a huge head start on the knowledge they collected. Theology and philosophy is one of those things that you don't get paid for (unleess for some reason you become famous--don't even ask me how). In other words, I only see two ways you can become educated about T&P--from other people when you're young (parents are a good source if they own it, like in my case) or when you're much much older (college and seminary).
So in short, I really don't think it immoral of my parents at all or any other parents to not pay for their kids to go to college. I have a job, a roof over my head, food, somewhere to sleep, a Bible, parents that love me and talk to me a lot about the wisdom and information they have. I'm a happy kid :)
Misspelled titles, lol! You aren't the first, don't sweat it :)...not to encourage it or anything, cough-cough. HAHAHA!
Hi, great question by the way, I think Doctorbug does a great job of answering the questions, but I would like to take a crack at the first part anyway
"Do we as individuals have a responsibility to leave the Earth in as good or better shape than it was when we entered it?"
The question asks if we should leave the Earth in a better shape... a better shape to do what? What is it's purpose? I think it's current purpose Is to support us, but If we decide to screw it up to the point of killing ourselves, that's on us. The Earth (a big hunk of rock) isn't going to care, It will just move on to a new purpose of being a lifeless ball of rock. Although, If you define the Earth as our future generations, I would say that we absolutely have a responsibility to them, but not necessarily to the rock we live on (Earth).
If I may, here's an analogy that's inspired by a scene from the movie Rocket Man, a movie I can barely remember. An inept astronaut farts in his own suit. The suit doesn't care that he farted; Its only job is to provide oxygen and keep that oxygen contained. Though, after contiuously farting the astronaut begins to care. You could say the astronaut polluted his environment.
I think it's very interesting the different directions that you guys went in - from religion to farting astronauts and such... ;)
Doctorbug: I think the point you made about parents' responsibility to their children is very good. If we're just talking about giving our children good lives then giving them knowledge is certainly beneficial in that regard. However, this also raises the interesting question of how much pure knowledge is actually worth in our society. Or, more specifically, how much emphasis we (society) put on official "certificates" of knowledge (like college degrees) versus just plain intelligence and thoughtfullness (and knowledge of the kind that your parents might give you). These different sorts of education give you different things in life: maybe a college education gives you a better chance at getting a high-paying job but intergenerational philosophy and religion give you a chance at being a happier and more balanced person... Maybe giving your kids either of these (or both if that's possible) achieves the same kind of equilibrium so it's not a question of comparing their moralities.
And Smitty561: I agree with your assumption that people wanting to take care of the Earth is in our own best self-interests. However, the question that strikes me is when people are talking/thinking about environmentalism, how big of a perspective are they seeing? Is it just their future self in mind? Their children? Grandchildren? Town? Country? The entire human population? Animals too? Or is everyone different?
Well, I don't know how big the perspectives of others are. I'm not sure if I completely understand the question, but I think it goes into the, "what is the value of human and nonhuman life?" debate. Which I would love to have, but I want to make sure I'm not misrepresenting the question first.
Kind of the human vs. nonhuman question, but more just asking whether you think we're motivated to protect the environment to save animals and beautiful scenery (just to be good people) or because we know future generations of our family are going to need the resources, etc.?
Ok, this one is a little tough for me to explain. So, I'm going to give my opinion on environmentalism first. It's pretty simple. I like love nature and don't want anything to go extinct, but I'm not opposed to responsible hunting and such things. Also, if I ever have to choose between a human and an animal I will usually go for the human.
Of course all this relies on my belief that there is a difference between humans and animals (nonhumans).
1)We can think on a higher conscious level then animals
2)We have more developed objective morals
Mind you these first two points do a very poor job of proving a difference. This is where we stray from science into more the more controversial theology.
3)We are made in the image of God
4)We were put in a place of dominion over animals
5)We have a soul
These last three arguments rely on other debates which I would love to have.
I live in Minnesota, and here we have a place called the Boundary Waters Canoes Area Wilderness (BWCAW..most just say BWCA). It's a canoe restricted chain of lakes on the border of Canada and Minnesota. The main thing they teach is leave it cleaner than you found it. And boy you'd be surprised how clean that place is! It actually feels like the remote wilderness(cause it is) and the only trace of people you see is what the forest rangers put in a latrine and fire grate. Sorry..fanning over the boundary waters>_<
Smitty: we have debated all those arguments many many many many times, and most of us have gotten seriously tired of it. I would love to have it again..just there may not be many on the opposing side still willing to do so..
I need to add..they're not "scared" to debate..they put up amazing arguments, they're just tired of debating
I understand. I'm pretty new so I was just throwing it out there. The main reason I put up those points was to support my reasoning for holding the view of nature I stated.
So to go back to the other big defining question (because it's one I'm really interested to see what you guys think about): do you think we have the moral responsibility in society to give as much or more help than we were given in our early lives to other people? For instance, if someone were to grow up in a rich family would he/she have the moral responsibility to work harder and donate more to charity or whatever than someone who grew up in a less-privileged household?
Haha, PB, don't scare them off from descussing/debating LOLZ O.O (hush). I'll always try and throw in my two cents the chances I get :) I was sooo incredibly tired after work, I literally slept 16 hours. Okay, I'll stop derailing thread muahahahaha (my evil laugh--it's scary, right?).