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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/29/19

Alien Invaders and the Ethic of the Earth

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Klaatu's Speech The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
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Imagine this rather typical SF scenario: alien invaders arrive on Earth. They are vastly superior in intelligence, technology, and most importantly, ethics.

They quickly perceive that Earthlings are a dire mortal threat to the Earth's biosphere. They reason that they must take decisive action soon, or else the Earth will meet its biological death.

What are they to do? First, they take up a consequentialist position and reason that eliminating a significant portion of the human population would immediately alleviate Earth's acute environmental problems while saving countless numbers of species. Second, they reason deontologically according to a "planetary ethic" that the biosphere of a planet and all the species that inhabit it are sacred and must be protected at all costs. If one species is destroying it, it must be destroyed before it is further able to inflict greater and lasting damage to it.

However, some aliens see the problem more complexly. They, in their turn, try to work out a maximally "virtuous" solution that will both ensure the continuance of the human race and the flourishing of the biosphere. Of course, in this tale, most humans would root for the third option.

The question for us then, is how do we get there? If we adopt a mix of all three perspectives perhaps we will be closer to a solution. If we accept some version of a "categorical planetary ethic" then we as a species have an absolute duty to both the biosphere and all its inhabitants. We have a sacred duty of care and preservation. If this first premise is widely agreed upon then a number of possible restrictive actions follow:

1) Human reproductive freedom should/must be immediately limited to a rate of replacement and thus 0 growth. It is neither rational nor ethical that human population growth should be unlimited while the capacity of the biosphere to sustain such growth is not.

2) Human economic, political, scientific endeavors should be structured/organized in such a ways as to produce the maximum benefit to the biosphere and its inhabitants. The source of all life takes precedence over particular lives and their parochial interests.

3) Humans should be educated and sensitized to their universal duty to the planet viewing themselves not just as "cosmopolitans" but as "defenders of the biosphere".

4) Radical green politics should coordinate their policies on a voluntary, if urgent, worldwide foundation. Thus, Global governance should "green" with time.

These of course are just some basic ideas. The future of the Earth and not just humanity depends on both a change of consciousness and new ethical practices. We must leave our old nationalist, productivist, consumerist, paranoically competitive identities behind and become a new collectivity of planet loving "aliens" who have come to rescue us from ourselves.

 

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PhD in Continental Philosophy. Teach Political Philosophy at Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Germany.

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4 people are discussing this page, with 4 comments  Post Comment


Dan Corjescu

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Aliens and Ethics: What should an alien do with humans?

Submitted on Friday, Nov 29, 2019 at 6:26:40 PM

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Josh Mitteldorf

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A compelling narrative, within a readable and credible fiction (?) about aliens. Thanks!

I agree that population control and environmental policies are together the solution to our ills. And I've argued that we have not yet begun to pursue either of these with any seriousness. Population control requires a change in culture, and a confrontation with most major religions, which have historic reasons for promoting fertility.

The greatest potential is in environmental policies. Recycling is potentially much cheaper than mining. Renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels, but we are still using fossil fuels more because the US dollar is pegged to the price of oil than because of technology inertia. I believe the biggest potential is in permaculture. There are practices that the Native Americans once knew that produce just as much food from a given amount of land, but integrate the food crops within a natural ecology, so that no pesticides or fertilizer are needed. The result is healthier food and topsoil that is enriched from year to year. This is in striking contrast to the current practice of monoculture which depletes topsoil and requires more and more chemical aids with each passing year. The main downside of the Native American approach is that it is not amenable to mechanization or factory farming. It will require more people to be more involved in the business of growing food - maybe not a bad thing in the long run.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 30, 2019 at 12:24:07 AM

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Michael Dewey

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That's gonna get some screams from the religious right's issue about abortions which hope happens soon so we can help couples who want kids be able to raise them.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 30, 2019 at 2:05:59 AM

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shad williams

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We have home grown aliens. They are the ruling elites.

We don't need no stinking alien visitors to destroy us.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 30, 2019 at 8:26:19 AM

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