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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a conservative I must disagree with that black and white view of environmental causes. Are you confident that all of the cigarette butts shamelessly tossed to the ground belong to the conservatives you assume have no moral bearing when it comes to the environment? I am a committed republican and dedicated to the environment. I am also appalled by litter and have no moral gap when it comes to Mother Earth. Feel free to blame those who are lazy for littering our planet but please do not assume it is a political identity. You give your fellow liberals too much credit.