Monday, March 2, 2015

Morality and Practicality Revisited

Curbside trash pit in Coconut Grove (Note English/Spanish warning sign)
Back in April 2008, I posted a blog entry titled "Morality and Practicality" about how issues evolve over time from being matters of morality to being matters of practicality. I used the examples of divorce and abortion. Both have evolved in my lifetime from being considered immoral options to being considered undesirable but practical options.

In yesterday's New York Times, in the Sunday Review section, there was an article, "Is the Environment a Moral Cause?" by Robb Willer, that has me revisiting morality and practicality. The article presented this idea: "Where liberals view environmental issues as matters of right and wrong, conservatives generally do not." This had never occurred to me--not the part about conservatives--but the idea that for some, the environment is not a moral issue. As a liberal, I am normally on the practical side of potentially moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But on environmental issues, I am always on the moral side, to the degree that I didn't even realize there was another side.

Take littering, for example. To me, it is unquestionably, unconscionably wrong. I would no more consider throwing a piece of trash out of my car window than I would consider doing something deliberately hurtful to someone. The guilt would kill me.

The idea that there is another viewpoint on the environment helps to explain what I see every day here in Miami, easily the dirtiest city I have ever lived in. The streets and sidewalks are littered with trash, even in the nicer residential neighborhoods, and nobody seems to care. My wife and I had chalked it up to a different sensibility, a lazy one in which it is acceptable to simply drop something, like a soda can when it is empty, rather than make the effort to find a trash receptacle. Now I see that it’s not laziness but rather an absence of guilt that makes littering an acceptable choice. And that just kills me.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rocket Johnny

John Glenn has nothing to worry about!
The company I work for held its annual four-day meeting a few weeks ago. The theme was "One Team. One Mission." and featured screen graphics and t-shirts with NASA-related images. On the last day, along with eight other employees, I was given a Circle of Excellence award. As we were each called to the stage, images of us as astronauts were flashed on the auditorium's screen, mostly to appreciative laughs since the images were so well done.

At the closing party that evening, I asked the designer if I could have a copy of my astronaut image. He emailed it to me the next day. I emailed him back a thank-you and added: "My wife will get a kick out of it since I already told her I was volunteering for the one-way mission to Mars!"