Global Ethics and Environment

By Nicholas Low | Go to book overview

2

An outline of the problems ahead

Arne Naess


Introduction

After sixty years’ participation in international conferences, most of which have been rather unsuccessful, it astonishes me that I feel that this one will make a difference. One reason why I feel this way is, I guess, the great areas of agreement among us. One of the remarkable agreements seems to be that it makes sense to speak of unfair or unjust policies in relation to non-humans. But there are many other areas where agreements or near-agreements were small twenty or thirty years ago.

We face an overwhelming danger of ‘preaching to the converted’. It is essential to be clear about our disagreements. We shall then have a better chance to stand together in the ugly social and political conflicts ahead. We shall know better to what extent we can firmly rely on each other in those conflicts.


Development and environment

Some conflicts are called conflicts between development and environment. In the 1950s and 1960s the questions were asked: ‘How can undeveloped countries change into developed ones?’ ‘Can and should the developed countries play a positive role in this process?’ The ‘underdeveloped’ was defined in terms of unsatisfied needs of the vast majority of the population, especially material needs—the need, for instance, not to be harassed by the brutal state police of an authoritarian government. From the point of view of the people in both the so-called ‘underdeveloped’ and the ‘developed’ countries the needs were rightly considered real ones, not mere wants and desires. The use of the word ‘needs’ for the latter creates confusion. A minority in the so-called ‘developed’ countries considered it a question of justice to try to help the underdeveloped countries to become developed, but only in the sense of satisfying the obvious needs of the large majority. Aid, often misguided, was proposed and carried out on a minor scale. We learned that to reach the desperately poor was more difficult than expected, and that means other than humanitarian ones were necessary. Then a new maxim was created: ‘Trade, not aid!’ Articles were

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