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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Climate change and the problem of moral responsibility

What do we owe to future generations?
Climate change and the problem of moral responsibility.

A careful reading of the Synthesis Report of the March 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (Richardson et al: 2009) that involved 2500 professional participants, most of them climate science researchers, leads one to the conclusion that, because climate change can be prevented, inaction is inexcusable. This in fact is the title of one of the key messages to the conference and could be seen as the moral imperative of the Synthesis Report: “Inaction is inexcusable.”

Table of contents
1. Introduction
1.1. Summary of Synthesis Report from Climate Change
                        1.1.1. Climatic trends
                        1.1.2. Social and Environmental Disruption
                        1.1.3. Long term Strategy: global targets and deadline
                        1.1.4. Equity Dimension
                        1.1.5. Inaction is inexcusable
1.1.6. Meeting the challenge

2. Questions that are asked with regard to climate change
2.1. Is it too late?
2.2. Is climate change really a problem?
2.3. Is climate change just another unavoidable case of extinction?

3. Developing a climate ethic
3.1. What can we do now and what do we owe future generations?
3.2. The Precautionary Principle
                        3.2.1. Some threats of harm and unacceptable outcomes in South Africa.
3.3. Does ethics have a role to play in the face of climate change?
3.4. Mitigation measures
3.5. Who should make the most serious commitment to curbing G.H.G. emissions?

4. Eco-feminism and a climate change ethic.

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

7. Declaration

1. Introduction

A careful reading of the Synthesis Report of the March 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (Richardson et al: 2009) that involved 2500 professional participants, most of them climate science researchers, leads one to the conclusion that, because climate change can be prevented, inaction is inexcusable. This in fact is the title of one of the key messages to the conference and could be seen as the moral imperative of the Synthesis Report: “Inaction is inexcusable.”

In this essay I will outline some of the serious impacts that climate change will have within the lifetime of most of those alive today with even stronger effects on future generations and examine the problem of the moral responsibility of the current generation towards future generations. While I will argue in favour of mitigating and adaptive changes as part of our moral obligation to future generations, my main argument will be for the recognition of climate change as a fundamentally ethical issue requiring the development of a “climate ethics”. I will suggest that the link which eco-feminism sees between dominations of women and dominations of nature is one which can help us, particularly in the South African context of our experience of overcoming dominations of different groups over each other, to develop an ethics of environmental care as our gift to future generations.

1.1. Summary of Synthesis Report from Climate Change (Richardson et al: 2009)
The Synthesis Report contains some of the most up-to-date information on climate change and was presented in six key areas that are briefly summarised as follows:
1.1.1. Climatic trends – the Report details amongst other things the remorseless increasing in past decades in sea level; Greenland melt area; Greenland ice mass loss; surface air
temperature; ocean heat content; atmospheric CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and total greenhouse gases (GHGs) in CO2-equivalent.
1.1.2. Social and environmental disruption – the Report details actual climate disruption realities that have already happened such as (a) increased hurricane intensity, drought, fires and flooding  and impacts on tropical diseases, agriculture, malnutrition, and health in general; (b) major ecosystem damage including dieback of Amazon rainforest and Sahara greening;  (c) huge decrease in ocean pH (increased acidity) in the last two centuries that is unprecedented over the last 20 million years and with devastating consequences for coral and crustaceans; (d) increased species extinction rates 1,000 times that of background rates typical of the planet’s history; and (e) huge increased risks in relations to species, extreme weather events, global distribution of impacts, aggregate impacts and risk of large scale discontinuities.
1.1.3. Long term strategy: global targets and deadline – “rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid “dangerous climate change” regardless of how it is defined” (2009:6).
1.1.4. Equity dimension – “climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world ... tackling climate change should be seen as integral to the broader goals of enhancing socio-economic development and equity throughout the world”(2009:6).
1.1.5. Inaction is inexcusable – “Society already has many tools and approaches – economic, technological, behavioural, and managerial – to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. If these tools are not widely and vigorously implemented, adaptation to the unavoidable climate change and the social transformation required to decarbonise economies will not be achieved. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to achieve effective and rapid adaptation and mitigation. These include job growth in the sustainable sector; reductions in the health, social, economic and environmental costs of climate change; and the repair of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services" (2009:6).
1.1.6. Meeting the challenge - the key final conclusion was ultimately one about human values and the enormous risk we face: "Ultimately these human dimensions of climate change [the cultures and worldviews of individuals and communities] will determine whether humanity eventually achieves the great transformation that is in sight at the beginning of the 21st century or whether humanity ends the century with a "miserable existence in a +5 degree Celsius world" (2009:34).

There is a sense in which the synthesis report makes for very grim reading. The authors suggest that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that allowing the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities to continue unchecked constitutes a “significant threat to the well-being and continued development of contemporary society” (2009:7).

2. Questions that are asked with regard to climate change
2.1. Is it too late?
Anthony Weston (1999:43) poses the question “is it too late?” Although written 10 years before the synthesis report the issues he raises are as pertinent as ever, because the situation has deteriorated in that period. In the face of global warming and its threat of coastal inundation, super hurricanes and drastic and unpredictable climate changes, he speaks of “ hidden dangers, risk multipliers, processes that intensify other processes: global warming may speed up the decomposition of the dead organic matter, for example, that now lies on forest floors, flooding the atmosphere with vast new quantities of carbon dioxide and accelerating further warming” (1999:46) and says that it is no wonder that many feel that we are in a kind of  “endgame” and that it is already too late to effect change.

Al Gore (2006:305) likewise admits that it's easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless when considering a problem as vast as global warming and to be sceptical that individual efforts can really have an impact. He insists we should resist a sceptical response because the crisis will only be resolved if we take individual responsibility for it. He then gives a number of very practical ways whereby individuals can make a difference, including reducing emissions from home energy use; choosing energy-efficient lighting and appliances; and operating and maintaining appliances properly; insulating one's home; conserving hot water; reduce driving and driving smarter; recycling, etc. I suggest that as individuals, we owe future generations these commitments on our part in the present.

Perhaps his biggest contribution in the context of this essay is his call to “be a catalyst for change” (2006:318). It is a call to learn more about the state of the environment and informing and inspiring others to action; a call to voice support and disapproval through the ballot box; and to use purchasing and investing power to show support or intolerance of corporations and outlets. I will suggest later that eco-feminism can give many guidelines in developing a ‘climate ethic’ but mention here ecofeminism’s commitment to link theory with political activism, because Al Gore's call is likewise a call to political activism. Climate change can be prevented, but it has to become a societal issue through activism in order for changes to be effective.

Alongside Al Gore's optimism we can place Anthony Weston’s answer to his own question: “is it too late?” His answer can perhaps be summarised as an optimistic “perhaps not.” He sees in our very waking up to the problem of global warming a sign of progress (1999:47). He senses a hopeful sign in the fact that the list of past and possible cataclysms no longer comes as a surprise. He believes that no problem will be solved without an awareness that it is a problem (but is definitely not so naive as to suggest that because we have identified the problem, we will therefore solve it). He sees hope in the fact that while 30 years ago (40 now) the USA had no Environmental Protection Agency, today it is a cabinet level Department.

An equal sign of hope would no doubt be our own country’s (South Africa’s) Constitution[1] which includes the following clauses: “everyone has the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures” in Section 24 (b) (ii) and section 24 (b) (iii) which refers to “justifiable economic and social development and ecologically sustainable development.” While the vagueness and anthropocentrism of the environmental clauses in our Constitution can be criticised, the presence of such clauses lays the groundwork for the activism referred to earlier and to be discussed in more detail later. Furthermore their presence indicates in the very least, a positive awareness of the environmental problems facing us.

2.2. Is climate change really a problem?
There are many, both scientists and lay people, who do not recognise or acknowledge that global warming is a problem and the development of a climate ethic must take this into consideration and even be designed in a way that brings sceptics and naysayers on board in any case.

The online Wikipedia (Wikipedia: 2010) has a “List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming.”

This article lists nearly 50 living and 4 deceased scientists from leading universities and institutes around the world who have made statements that conflict with the mainstream assessment of global warming as summarized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific bodies. By its own admission it is an incomplete list. Under the following headings it lists scientists who dissent in the following ways:
I include one such entry from Wikipedia (2010) in order to show the type of information which is easily accessible to the sceptics and nay-sayers:
John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Centre at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, contributor to several IPCC reports: "I'm sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never "proof") and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.”
Not only does a climate ethic need to recognise and try to take on board ‘denialist’ scientists and the public who are influenced by them, it also needs to win over a public who have “heard it all before”. Weston (1999:50) reminds us that in the 1960s we were told, on the best of evidence, “that 1 billion or more people would starve to death by 1990, because populations had irrevocably outgrown food supplies. Since then, population growth has slowed down while food supplies have increased and although widespread starvation and malnutrition exist, they are arguably the result of political causes, not primarily population explosion. He says “the ‘population bomb’ didn't go off yet we were told that it was “too late.” It wasn't. Do we know it is too late now?”

2.3. Is climate change just another unavoidable cause of extinction?
A climate ethic needs to take on board, or at least bear in mind, those who fully accept the reality of climate change, but see it as just another unavoidable cause of extinction in the history of our planet, which has gone through several environmental crises which have led to mass extinctions.

Martin Spence (2001:105) discusses the unspoken assumption that the degradation or destruction of the environment is a relatively recent phenomenon, associated with the rise of industrial society or capitalism. This unspoken assumption often goes hand in hand with a vague notion that at some earlier point in history people tended to live “in harmony with nature.” He calls these “comforting myths” and goes on to cite authors who have published articles which have laid much emphasis on patterns of environmental degradation and crisis triggered by precapitalist and non-capitalist social formations such as the New World empires of the Maya and Inca, as well as in the Roman Empire and feudal Europe.

Acknowledging that these examples only go back 3000 years, he identifies the need for a comprehensive view of the relationship between human society and the natural environment which encompasses the experience of the non-urban, non-literate societies of the Stone Age. He cites authors who have published regarding the “well-established and academically respectable view that Stone Age humans were directly responsible for wiping out hundreds of species of large mammals and mega fauna in Australia and America.” This has major moral and political implications. For example, it can bolster the argument of deep ecology that people as such are the problem, or it can, according to Spence (2001:107) “be turned to good account by corporate cheerleaders, who can argue for “business as usual” on the grounds that we are preconditioned by evolution to degrade the environment so we might as well carry on and turn a profit while we're at it.”

Spence concludes that Stone Age hunter gatherers did not live in timeless harmony with nature, but instead were capable of exerting a dramatic and occasionally catastrophic impact upon the natural environment. “In acknowledging this, we acknowledge our common humanity with them - which includes a common ignorance in the face of nature, and a shared inability to predict the consequences of our own human actions” (2001:117)

3. Developing a Climate Ethic
A climate ethic thus needs to take on board not only those who see and accept climate change as an avoidable occurrence and feel a moral responsibility to try and mitigate and adapt for it, it also needs to at least attempt to take on board naysaying scientists and a sceptical public who’ve heard it all before and don't believe it, or who see catastrophic climate change as an inevitability; and it needs to do this for a people who, according to David  Ehrenfeld (1981:243) have developed a “mechanism that can be called the avoidance of unpleasant reality”  and another which he calls “the ignorance of the causes of problem.” Both of these mechanisms that he postulates are quite self explanatory in the context of this essay thus far. He suggests (1981:269) that nothing in his century (20th) is free from the taint of human arrogance and that we have “defiled everything, much of it for ever.” He further quite correctly suggests that it is time to look at the direction in which our civilisation appears to be moving, and to discuss the possibilities for making appropriate responses to our present circumstances. This surely describes the task of a climate ethic in a society still driven by humanism but “by the time the machinery of humanism has broken down sufficiently so that it is no longer capable of doing widespread destruction, how much will be left of what we value?” (1981:258).

Hopefully an effective climate ethic can be developed before this point is reached.

3.1. What can we do now and what do we owe future generations?
Acknowledging that in any given population there will be those who see climate change as avoidable, those who see it as unavoidable, those who don't see it as a problem at all and those who really don't care one way or another, we need to develop an ethic which has as an unashamed desired outcome the tackling of climate change as an avoidable phenomenon but which at the same time promotes a care for the environment regardless of whether that care affects climate or not. Anthony Weston (1999:585) suggests that maybe the earth doesn't need our saving but that regardless of that, we need to live as co-inhabitants with the environment of this planet because we are part of nature. We thus need to stop what destruction we can while not necessarily feeling the need to save the earth, but rather to join the Earth.

I would suggest therefore that we need to explore and put in place both mitigating and adaptive policies which encourage “joining the earth” while at the same time developing and promoting a climate ethic.

Stephen Gardiner (2004:555) laments the fact that few moral philosophers have written on climate change. He correctly finds this strange in the face of the fact that many politicians and policymakers claim that climate change is not only the most serious environmental problem facing the world, but also one of the most important international problems per se. Citing a number of scholars, he goes on to point out that many of those working in other disciplines describe climate change as fundamentally an ethical issue. (Writing later he calls climate ethics an “emerging field” (2006:1)). Drawing on the work of Dale Jamieson, Gardiner (2004:575) suggests that our existing values are insufficient to the task of dealing with climate change for the following reasons: firstly, our present values evolved relatively recently in low population density and low technology societies with seemingly unlimited access to land and other resources; secondly, these values include as a central component an account of responsibility which presupposes that harms and their causes are individual, that they can be readily identified and that they are local in time and space; and finally he argues that problems such as climate change fit none of these criteria. Thus a new value system is needed.

In the context of this essay, I suggest that we owe future generations the “gift” or development of this value system.

3.2. The Precautionary principle
Jensen (2002:39 ff) discusses the “precautionary principle” and points out that it is becoming popular in law and politics. The precautionary principle when applied to an issue like climate change suggests that when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

Gardiner (2004:577) suggests that a reasonable case can be made that climate change satisfies the conditions for the core precautionary principle because many of the predicted outcomes from climate change seem severe, and some are catastrophic. Hence there are grounds for saying there are threats of harm with unacceptable outcomes.

3.2.1. Some threats of harm and unacceptable outcomes in South Africa
While some “unacceptable outcomes” were covered above in the summary of the Synthesis Report, I would like to look at some in a little more detail which are closer to home here in South Africa.

Fauchereau et al (2003:139) claim that Southern Africa's geographic location, contrasted oceanic surroundings and atmospheric dynamics are all conducive to extreme weather events and great interannual variability of the hydrological cycle. Since the major part of Southern Africa suffers from poor infrastructure and low socio-economic development, the consequences of extreme weather or climate anomalies are often devastating to both people and property. By looking at the recorded data and comparing that with projections based on global atmospheric models they draw the conclusion that while there does not seem to be a trend towards drier or moister conditions during the last century, rainfall variability has experienced significant modifications, especially in recent decades, with interannual variability increasing since the late 1960s. In particular, droughts have become more intense and widespread. Their study indicates that these changes could be related to long-term variations in the ' Sea-Surface-Temperature ' background which is part of the recognised global warming signal.

Thomas et al (2004:145) point out that climate change over the past 30 years has produced numerous shifts in the distributions and abundances of species and has been implicated in one species level extinction. Using projections of species distributions for future climate scenarios they assess extinction risks for sample regions. For South Africa they predict that 27% of all original species of Proteaceae will become extinct by 2050 as a result of land use changes and habitat loss caused by climate change.

While admitting that many unknowns remain in projecting extinctions they conclude that their analysis establishes “that anthropogenic climate warming at least ranks alongside other recognised threats to global diversity. Contrary to previous projections it is likely to be the greatest threat in many if not most regions. The ability of species to reach new climatically suitable areas will be hampered by habitat loss and fragmentation, and their ability to persist in appropriate climates is likely to be affected by new invasive species” (2004:148).

Pim Martens (1999:536) discusses the effect of climate change on the spread of various diseases. Malaria, a scourge on our continent, is identified as one that will not only become more prevalent in Africa as temperatures and humidities rise in places where the mosquito could previously not thrive, but will also re-manifest itself (and already has) in areas like those that surround the Mediterranean as the climate becomes warmer and more humid. In a similar vein, McMichael et al (2006:864) point out that many infectious agents, vector organisms, nonhuman reservoir species, and rate of pathogen replication are sensitive to climatic conditions. “In regions where low temperature, lower rainfall, or absence of vector habitat restrict transmission of vector borne disease, climatic changes could tip the ecological balance and trigger in epidemics.” They go on to show how epidemics could also result from climate related migration of reservoir hosts or human populations.

3.3.  Does ethics have a role to play in the face of climate change?
Stephen Gardiner (2006:398) suggests that if we do not think that our own actions are open to moral assessment, or that various interests (our own, those of our country, those of distant people, future people, animals and nature) matter then it is hard to see why climate change poses a problem. But of course these things do matter, and once we see this, “then we appear to need some account of moral responsibility, morally important interests and what to do about both. And this puts us squarely in the domain of ethics.”

Thus it seems obvious that ethical decisions are fundamental to the main policy decisions that must be made. These decisions include where to set a ceiling for global greenhouse gas emissions and how to distribute the emissions allowed by such a ceiling. These decisions in turn are guided by how the interests of the current generation are weighed against those of future generations, together with decisions regarding the importance of historical responsibility for the problem and the current needs and future aspirations of particular societies.

3.4. Mitigation measures
For those who acknowledge and accept that global warming and associated climate change is anthropogenic and can be prevented, mitigation measures are surely our first duty to future generations. Chandler et al (2002:37) point out that compared to other developing countries South Africa's emissions intensity (emissions per unit of economic output) is “relatively high”. Harold Winkler (2010:1) puts it more strongly in stating that South Africa “is one of the highest emitters per capita per GDP in the world.”

From what I said earlier regarding weather patterns and possible extinctions, South Africa is both a contributor to the problem and its victim.

Winkler (2010:73-142) outlines various mitigation options for South Africa, many of which can be implemented immediately. These include energy efficiency, especially in industry; electricity supply options, including renewable energy and nuclear power; transport efficiency and shifts; and people oriented strategies, supported by awareness.

Our nation is faced with two scenarios - growth without constraints where we pursue a development path as if they were no carbon constraint, or the required by science scenario, where the full implications of what the science of climate change is telling us, is incorporated into our development plans. The gap between these two scenarios is huge but our nation seems to be aware of its duty to future generations, as can be seen in these words by (then) President Kgalema Motlanthe: “Government has agreed to a strategic policy framework for our emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025, and then stabilise for a decade, before declining in absolute terms towards mid century” (in Winkler 2010:205).

3.5. Who should make the most serious commitment to curbing GHG emissions?
Our nation's commitment to control and eventually cut down on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions  is commendable, particularly from a developing nation as ours, but there are many who believe that it is the developed nations which need to make the most serious commitment to curbing GHG emissions, especially as they have contributed most to the problem in the first place. Henry Shue (2001:453) likens the situation to that of a picnic which has been prepared for 12 people. Some arrive early and eat enough for two or three people. The last two or three people to arrive have nothing to eat because the early comers have eaten their share. The early comers have deprived the later arrivals of their share and thus harmed them. Furthermore, unless the first comers can “make some heroically implausible assumption” that the late comers don't have a right to be there or that the early comers somehow had a right to double the share of the others, then they have injured them severely and need in some way to make restitution.

The following paragraphs are a summary of Shue's ethical suggestions regarding who should cut down on GHG emissions and who should be allowed to increase GHG emissions. He suggests that just as any individual needs a minimum amount of essential resources like safe water and safe air, so too do people need what amounts to a minimum amount of the planet's capacity to deal safely with GHG emissions. This is because the vast majority of people alive today must, in order to survive, engage in economic activities that generate GHG emissions. The absorptive capacity for GHG emissions thus needs to be seen not only as a vital resource but as an increasingly scarce one. The situation, however, is reversible.

If/when our economies become based on solar, wind and/or geothermal energy that produces no GHG, this absorptive capacity will no longer be a vital resource. For now, however, it is and will remain for some time, a vital resource. Wealthy and developed countries have the capacity to develop alternative energy sources and to cut down on frivolously consumed energy. The poorest human beings need to engage in economic activities which, given that the current world economy runs on GHG producing fossil fuel, add GHG emissions to the earth's atmosphere. Going back to the picnic scenario, the affluent societies have deprived the poor of their ‘share’ of the planet's capacity to absorb GHG emissions.

Shue suggests the following in order to overcome this injustice: (1) in the forums where GHG emission quotas are “bargained” over, the bargainers with leverage (i.e. wealthy developed nations) need to take stands on principle on behalf of the weak - current and future in order to produce fair outcomes; then (2) there needs to be fair distribution of allocations of emissions that guarantee the availability of the minimum necessary emissions to every person; and finally, (3) because in the short term it will be expensive to take the measures necessary to reduce total global GHG emissions, the greatest costs will have to be borne by the states whose current emissions most exceed their allocation according to the point 2.

4.Eco-feminism and a climate change ethic

For all the aforegoing to happen we need to develop an ethic that really cares for the environment, an ethic that will be attractive whether or not one believes or cares that the earth is threatened by climate change. I want to suggest that eco-feminism provides the basis for such an ethic. We need to work towards a society that respects the environment. Sterba(2001:240) reminds us that when looking at societies, which are always human creations, we need to ask not only what does society do for people but also what any particular society does to people. The truth is many social structures serve to oppress some members of society for the benefit of others. This oppressive social structure in turn, works to reinforce a way of thinking and living that encourages domination in all forms, including domination of the natural world.

There are a variety of eco-feminist positions and I mentioned earlier that most of them link theory with political activism and identified that as a strength in the cause of environmentalism. Now I wish to highlight another area of commonality in eco-feminism and that is that eco-feminists agree that there is a link between dominations of women and dominations of nature and that an understanding of one is crucial to understanding the other.

Victoria Davion (2001:234) discusses the feminist view that “the shift in worldviews from the organic to the mechanistic was a major vehicle for the devaluation of both women and nature.” The shift from an earth-centred to a sun-centred worldview entailed a shift from earth as nurturing mother at the centre of the universe to the sun as conquering and subduing male at the centre of the universe, where nature had to be subdued and controlled. This led to the development of a “logic of domination” which uses premises about differences between entities and asserts that such differences constitute the moral superiority of one group and that being superior entitles members of the superior group to subordinate members of the inferior group. Davion (2001:235) quotes Karen Warren (1990) saying that a typical form of such arguments is as follows:
(A1)  Humans do, plants do not, have the capacity to consciously change the community in which they live.
(A2) Whatever has this capacity is morally superior to whatever does not have it.
(A3) Humans are morally superior to plants and rocks.

(A4) For any X and Y, if X is morally superior to Y, then X is morally justified in Subordinating Y.

(A5) Humans are morally justified in subordinating plants and rocks

Warren maintains that the same logic allows for the sexist domination of women under patriarchy by way of the association of woman with nature. She articulates this argument as follows:

(B1) Women are identified with nature and the realm of the physical; men are identified with the “human” and the realm of the mental.

(B2)Whatever is identified with nature and the realm of the physical is inferior to (“below”) whatever is identified with the “human” and the realm of the mental;

(B3) Thus, women are inferior to men.

(B4) For any X and Y, if X is superior to Y then X is justified in subordinating Y.

(B5)  Men are justified in subordinating woman.

The fact that domination of nature by humans and the sexist domination of women by men, rely on the same general framework and the fact that the devaluation of women depends on the prior devaluation of nature means projects to end sexism and the exploitation of nature are conceptually linked.

Davion suggests that “environmentalists and feminists should be allies” (2001:236). She goes on to argue that if one grants conceptual links between the domination of nature and the domination of women, and I agree with the argument that those links are strong and demonstrable, then it follows that “a movement that is not feminist will yield at best a superficial understanding of the domination of nature. Those fighting to save the environment should, as a matter of consistency be working to overthrow patriarchy, and those working to overthrow patriarchy should be fighting to save the environment” (2001:236).

South Africa has taken many steps to overcome patriarchy, with gender and women's issues high on many agendas, both social and political. An awareness of gender issues is taught from primary school level as well. Linking gender issues to environmental issues is a wonderful gift that eco-feminism could promote and could bring about future generations that truly care about the environment and who want to stop abusing it because they want to stop all forms of domination and abuse.

This brings me to the final contribution that I believe eco-feminism can make and that is in the area of the development of an ethics of care.

Des Jardins points out that in recent decades several feminists have brought many of the values traditionally associated with women's roles into the forefront of ethical theorizing. This ethics of care seeks to articulate and defend a perspective that  de-emphasises abstract rules and principles in favour of a contextualised ethics focusing on caring and relationships. “An ethics of care begins with a moral universe in which co-operation replaces conflict, relationships replace confrontation and caring for others replaces rights and duties” (Des Jardins 1993: 252).

Regarding our duties to future generations, an ethics of care can shift our focus away from abstract questions and start from the lived experience that many people do, in fact, care about what happens to future people, and what happens to our planet in the future. Instead of getting bogged down in questions regarding the moral standing of animals or ecosystems it asks questions like “do we care about animals? Do we have a relationship to the environment?”

I believe that raising the issues and pursuing them in the way ecofeminism suggests is a solid way forward in developing an environmental or climate ethic.

5. Conclusion

In this essay I have identified the reality of anthropogenic climate change while acknowledging that there are those who don't see climate change as a preventable or changeable phenomenon. I have suggested that we have a duty to future generations to embrace mitigating and adaptive measures but our greatest duty is surely to develop an ethic which promotes a responsibility to care deeply for the environment and its long-term well-being. I have suggested that eco-feminism provides the necessary building blocks for the development of such an ethic.

6. Bibliography

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[1] Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 108 of 1996.

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