We are outliers

Written by aaron Sachs

History suggests, for instance, that we need to understand ourselves as outliers--that the era of fossil fuels has been a truly exceptional one.  Never before have so many people lived in such ease, able to focus on consumption and comfort--and never before have we seen such levels of poverty, exploitation, pollution, and certain kinds of violence.  Consumer society rests not just on oil and machines but on degrading labor, and on degraded environments where vulnerable populations are losing their homes and livelihoods.  Climate change is killing people and creating refugees right now, and today, in many parts of the world, and the groups that are most affected have had little to do with creating the conditions they are facing.

This injustice will be perfectly clear to future generations, just as today we all recognize the evils of the slave trade.  And isn't it intriguing, as the  incisive journalist Andrew Nikiforuk has remarked, that the defenses of today's social order mounted by conservative ideologues--that our energy system and military complex employ millions of people, make us all happy, and allow us to live more secure live, with more time to further the aims of civilization--sound a like lot the justification of plantation owners in the pre-Civil War American South?  History is not prescriptive, but, like the study of ethics, it forces us to consider our role in social processes.

Aaron Sachs, State of the World 2014, p.108

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