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Environment & Altruism

By Matthieu Ricard on May 21, 2019

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Recently during the course of only one day I heard these facts about the environment:

1) The Greenland glaciers are melting much faster than previously thought. This is because of the cumulated effects of the melting ice and the acceleration of the movement of the glaciers toward the sea. We know that the complete melting of the Greenland would cause a 7- meter rise in sea level.

2) The water level of Lake Titicaca in Peru decreased by 80 cm during the last six months.

3) A group of British engineers announced that even if all the engineers presently active in the world would devote themselves to developing renewable sources of energy their effort would not be enough to stop global warming.

Even though awareness about environmental issues has increased markedly, the public does seem ready to take the dramatic measures that would prevent a catastrophe of this unprecedented magnitude.

A Green British MP said on the BBC World Service (13/11/2009, News Hour): ‟The problem is that the debate about climate change is mostly conducted at an intellectual level by people who live in cities, where everything is artificial. They don't actually experience the changes that are taking place in the ‟real world.” Billions of us now live in cities, divorced from the cycles of nature and are not in a position to experience what is going on. Whereas if you speak to indigenous communities from the rain forests or to poor people trying to grow food in Africa, they will tell you that climate change is drastic, that it is happening very quickly, and that it has large implications for nature and for human livelihood.”

In Copenhagen, one of the delegates from Nepal, Gyanendra Karki, corrected stated: ‟Climate change is not a political issue, but it has been highly politicized. Most affluent countries are not aware of what the people of the most vulnerable countries endure. They don't know how they live and suffer,” and he concluded: ‟We are optimistic, yet we do not dare to hope.”

Economic crisis have immediate effects on the financial resources of poor and rich people. A lack of consideration about other people's quality of life can affect a whole generation; but the neglect of environmental problems can cause irreparable damage to all living beings.

Those who do not as yet suffer directly from climate change or might be able to deal with it because they enjoy more wealth, must decide to make personal sacrifices without expecting personal advantages in return. It is in such circumstances that genuine altruism is put to the test.

This blog was initially posted in December 2009.