Individual Integrity: Embracing the Moral Imperative to Protect Earth
Sep 28, 2011 10:17AM
By Kathleen Dean Moore
Climate destabilization and environmental degradation are scientific, technological and economic issues, to be sure. But they are also fundamentally and primarily moral issues that call for a moral response.
When we asked global moral leaders—“Do we have a responsibility to leave for the future a world as rich in possibility as our own?”—we received an outpouring of essays, articles, prayers and letters—all calling the world to action.
The resulting book, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, shares the compelling testimony of more than 80 visionaries—theologians and religious leaders, scientists, elected officials, business leaders, naturalists, activists and writers—calling for a moral response to current climate change that is right, just and worthy of us as moral beings. The motives vary: for the sake of the children; for the survival of humankind; because justice demands it; because compassion asks it; because we are called to be stewards of God’s creation. Whatever world view, religion and values an individual brings to the question, there is reason to act.
Consider the American Revolution, the emancipation of slaves and the Civil Rights movement, each driven by deeply held and widely shared moral convictions. Today’s climate crisis creates such a historical moment. But only if we grasp the moral urgency of the decision now upon us can we individually and collectively meet the challenge.
We hear the arguments: I’m just one person; it may already be too late; the forces against us are strong; there’s really no hope of making a difference, so I won’t bother trying. But it’s a mistake to believe that we have only two options: to act in hope or to abdicate all moral agency in despair. Between the two extremes, a huge middle ground exists—call it integrity—where we have the power to shape our lives to embody our most profound sense of what is right and worthy.
There is joy and liberation in waking up each morning affirming, “I have power over my decisions. I refuse to do what I know is wrong and will divest myself of the things I don’t believe in. By living with integrity and joining with others in communities of caring, I will create with my life a new definition of success and happiness.”
We can’t count on inventors, scientists or politicians to save us. What will save us are our singular human capabilities: to celebrate and to grieve; to love our children and the astonishing, beautiful Earth; to honor justice; and ultimately, to imagine how to live in a better way. We are called upon today to participate in the greatest global exercise of the moral imagination the world has ever seen.
Kathleen Dean Moore is co-editor of Moral Ground and author of Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature. For more information, visit MoralGround.com.