A Letter from Reader on Rawls’s Concepts


JUST SAVING PRINCIPLE: A Moral Obligation for the Ensuing Generations

Two days back I received an email from one of Law Journal’s readers, Mr. James Louviere. He commented my post on Rawls’s concept and his rivals.

His comment, however, gives me another progressive side about Rawls’s conceptions that I haven’t mentioned it before. After getting his permission I would like to share his thought to all readers. Therefore, everyone can also know about the principle that he called “just savings principle”.

***

Hello Pan Mohamad Faiz!This is just a note to say what a fine job you did in looking at Rawls’s concepts and those of his rivals.

I did not see any mention of the “just savings principle.” I am deeply concerned with the welfare of the “WAUG Kids” – children who will be born in 2040, 2050, 2099, and so on. Rawls points out we have a moral obligation to leave a decent legacy for the ensuing generations.I’m an American, and I work at Assumption University of Thailand as a writer/editor in the office of the president (http://www.au.edu). Because my wife has just finished her Ph.D. in philosophy, with a dissertation on John Rawls’s theory and its critics, and the application of his principles to the real world of today, I have joined my wife in her concerns about the three most challenging problems humanity faces today: Injustice, irresponsible debt building, and abuse of the planet. That’s where the WAUG Kids come in. I want to make them an instrument to reach the hearts and minds of people all over the world, but particularly in the liberal democracies which A) do most of the damage, and B) are amenable to reform through the democratic process, if only we can wake them up to the underlayment of injustice, irresponsibility, and abuse that lies at the root of terrorism, economic instability, and global catastrophe.

I hear the WAUG Kids singing,

“Hey what about us? What have you been doing?
What did you do to kill the great polar bears?
What have you done to all the bees?
Where have the polar ice caps gone,
And how could you kill all he coral in the sea,
Kill he whales and eat the tuna fish ’til they were all dead?

“Hey, what about us? Don’t you know we’re born already owing so much?
How did the glaciers and the lakes disappear?
How could you leave so much plastic everywhere?
Why can’t we live without dread tropical chills?
And how could you poison all the clams?

“Where are you hearts, and tell us,
Where are your brains?
Why can’t be fuel our antique cars, boats, and planes?
Mercury and lead and copper, cadmium too,
Killed my little cousins and my grandmother, too!

“When you had the warnings and you heard the bad news,
When the tigers, elephants and sea lions too,
Only stayed alive by born in a zoo,
Don’t you think we ought to have a nice planet, too?
Don’t you think there’s anyone who’ll ever live except you?

…….

And so it goes.

James Louviere
Contact: louviere2001@yahoo.com

—–Inline Attachment Follows—–

Monday, January 8, 2007
Why the USA Must Hold Off on NASA’s Moon Station and Lunar Launch Pad Plan

I made Who’s Who in Science and Technology in 1997, as well as Who’s Who in the World, and I was pleased. The typist who wrote up my data looked at “coordinated a National Science Foundation Grant” and wrote “is head of a national science foundation.”

This is no doubt that this is why the editors elevated me to such a lofty status at Marquis Publications! Nonetheless, I admit that I’ve been teaching and writing about science and science teaching, science, technology, and society, and other issues, albeit in journals of the National Science Teachers Association, The Physics Teacher, EurArmy magazine, ClipIt (consumer magazine) and the Department of Defense Dependents Schools S/T/S Textbook, and I have not become a big name anywhere.

Nonetheless, I am going to call for a moratorium on NASA plans to set up a lunar launch facility and moon base from which to send manned and robot vehicles to Mars and beyond, and plans to set up robot photographic airplanes to fly around in the atmosphere of Mars and take pictures of the surface, and, I assume, any other objects within their field of vision.I do this because I am dreadfully aware of the future our own planet faces from the exponential and unquestioned expansion of human impact on the planet we are fortunate to call home, Earth.We look at this planet and what do we see? I, for one, see a planet inhabited by one species which is capable of using its intelligence and uniquely fashioned body parts to design and build tools of great power and adaptability.

With these resources, this species has been able to extend its lifespan, explore the whole planet, observe far away objects in space, and produce an array of ways to drain the earth of its minerals, including metals, fissionable materials, and fossil fuels and with these, create mega-systems of transportation and entertainment, housing and businesses and entire cities that consume the products of man and create so much pollution that even the global chemical cycles – the water cycle, the oxygen cycle, the nitrogen cycle, for example – have been thrown more and more into jeapordy.

Climate changes and shorelines and massive numbers of extinctions are beginning to change the Earth we inhabited so far in our lifetimes into a new a frightening kid of Earth, a process which is growing more rapidly each day, and which will deprive our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of many of the joys we take for granted oday.Thus, I see this species, which refers to itself as “homo sapiens,” or “man-who-is=wise,” soiling his own nest and ruining his own planet.This posting blogs (endlessly, it seems) about the realities that make our current practices so perilous, before it takes a look at wha NASA wants us “wise men” to do next, which is to go and set up housekeeping in a new nest, first on the moon names Luna, and then on our nearby neighbor, Mars.

NASA thinks it’s going to be great to use the moon as a motel and springboard to Mars, and to invade the thin Martian atmosphere with robotic surveillance aircraft. Then NASA plans to set up housing there, too. To cut to the conclusion, I ask, if we can’t keep our own nest clean, is it right to go to empty nests and soil them too? But first, my diatribe about the condition of the earth, in the distant past, now, and in the next forty years.

For unimaginable numbers of millennia, geological periods, eons of unreckoned days, Earth underwent gradual changes except on those occasions when a wandering asteroid, comet, or other object, traveling at enormous speed, collided with the surface of the earth and brought about abrupt and violent change. Roughly speaking, some calculate that such events have occurred in a sixty-five million year cycle.

Whatever the gap between such collisions is, it usually spans a period of time far longer than our lifetime experience. Periods of time like that truly boggle the mind and are incomprehensible in human terms. That may account for our blindness in regard to how incredibly short a period of time it has taken for man, finally “enlightened” and freed from age-old “superstitions” and reveling in his new “rationality” and “technical know-how,” to exercise his creativity in ways that were hitherto impossible, and in using his newly empowered intelligence, he was produced industries and whole civilizations that have committed ecological blunders that imperil our very existence! The blunders of policy perhaps are caused by hubris (blind pride) and are not only real, but seem to be irreversible unless there is a sudden and resounding “scientific revolution” and “paradigm shift” on the part of every educated person on Earth. What is needed is change on a Promethean scale – like when “Prometheus” brought fire to Earth as a gift to mankind.

In this case, we need to stop the “progress” mania and reexamine our basic assumptions about what makes the world livable as a home planet and what part man is playing in the onrushing climatic disaster that threatens our quality of life and perhaps our very existence as a species. But I’m getting ahead of myself. . . .Earth has undergone previous and much more sudden, violent, and universal changes. All evidence we have leads to the conclusion that the periodic changes wrought by cosmic collisions have started with a tremendous release of energy and enormous amounts of particulate and molecular material (dark clouds of dust and gas covering much or all of the planet, and persisting for many years, perhaps for centuries}.

The results would perhaps be similar if the thousands of nuclear weapons that currently exist on earth were suddenly to be set of in one cataclysmic all-out nuclear war. Climate changes resulting from major collisions were rapid due to the release of enormous amounts of heat energy into the atmosphere, and the blanket-effect of the clouds which trapped the heat and did not allow for it to radiate back into space in the form of infrared light waves. The clouds did block sunlight to such an extent that plants could not flourish and they stopped trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) because they did not have enough visible light energy to make food from water and CO2. Without food for themselves, they died.

The animals that depended on abundant fresh plant materials died, and the raptors and scavengers that lived on the plant-eating animals also perished. Unnumbered species vanished into extinction because of the changed climate and lack of suitable food and habitat for foraging and reproduction. The temperature of earth dropped, Ice covered much of the land, because the particles of dust and debris in the atmosphere, unlike air loaded with clear CO2 or water vapor, blocked incoming light. The earth was dark and gloomy and filled with the stench of death for very long periods of time.All this is gathered from the fossil records, which use large periods of time as units of measure. You will not find fossil evidence on the surface of Earth that is dated by a calendar marked in days, months, years, or even centuries. Even millennia are insignificant units in the fossil equivalent of “history.” They tell a tale covering eons rather than decades.

For many years, the schools of geology taught that earth was rarely or never struck by massive object falling through space. Eugene M. Shoemaker spent most of his life trying to demonstrate the fact that many of the surface features of Earth are actually fading scars of long-past collisions.

Before his death in an auto collision, his views prevailed, and there was a major “paradigm shift” on the part of scientists worldwide. But there is another paradigm that persists, especially among those with a vested interest in the production and sale of fossil fuels, the mining of minerals, the production of synthetic chemicals and durable good, and other human activities that load the atmosphere with CO2 and the waters with dangerous and toxic run-off from old mines, refineries, and chemical plants. Nitrogen compounds created as fossil fuel burns is another toxin found in today’s air, and it, like CO2, combines with aerial water vapor to create destructive and poisonous acid rain. The diehards continue to insist that their professors and textbooks were right in saying that mere human being and their tiny little contributions to the vast resources of air and water have negligible effect of the world’s atmospheric weather engine.

This is going to change someday, and I hope it is soon, for everywhere today are unequivocal signs of rapid and frightening change in the way the world’s atmosphere works. Thus I cannot help but raise my voice in every way possible to shout “Open Your Eyes! See what human beings are doing to our only home planet!” Some of my best friends have been and still are experts in earth science, geophysicists employed by oil companies, and even professors at large state universities in the “oil patch” states like Texas and Louisiana. Others dear to me, high school classmates, college professors, corporate moguls, and philosophers know the simple facts I’ve stated so far, and the facts I’m going to discuss in the next few hundred words. In many cases, maybe most cases, they do not accept my conclusions, and will discount me simply as a seventy-year-old tree-hugging doomsayer.

I see myself as a prophet, unacceptable in his own country, to paraphrase the New Testament, but I make no claim to divine revelation, or to the status of a Gandhi or the writer of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson. Instead of being divinely inspired, I am, as Paul Simon explained in his lyric, “I can read the writing on the wall!” My writing and speaking is simply a process of serving as a “hose” from what is to those who have to know about it, reading aloud to anyone who’ll listen. My conclusions are not radical, but may be unpopular. They do take into consideration our debt to the following generations who will live on earth, and who will never see a polar bear or a walrus or an elephant or a tiger or mountain gorilla or panda in the wild, and, if some mutated virus strikes the animals living in zoos and laboratories, where the mechanisms of genetics and environment and nurturing don’t function naturally, the last polar bears, pandas, gorillas, and so on in captivity will die, future generations will never see them alive, ever.

The panda and tiger and polar bear will be the dodo birds and passenger pigeons and T-rexes species existing only in photonic encyclopedias, preserved in holographic documents and in vials of DNA. They will be gone forever from a new, altered, impoverished Earth, an earth without Artic and Antarctic ice caps, an earth with a newly greened, thawed Greenland, unlike the version of the earth we knew in the year 2000 to 2020.Here are the facts I see, and the scenario I see “written on the wall” of our current time (2007).

Once I’ve gone over the basic facts and given my predictions, you’ll see why I am calling for a moratorium on NASA’s plans for extraterrestrial colonization, hubris and Imperialism carried out on a whole new, would-be cosmic scale!Facts: In the past two hundred years, a mere nanosecond in geological time, two things have occurred which have radically altered the historic balance of forces in the atmosphere.Human beings have been working feverishly to exploit the ancient and irreplaceable fossils such as petroleum (crude oil), natural gas (methane), and coal in all its forms.

This depletion has been rapid because our clever minds, focused only on the here and now comforts of the “developed” peoples, have designed and produced transportation systems and whole cities made of steel, stone, glass and aluminum, hungry for energy in the form of electricity. These cities and systems are designed for maximum efficiency and the comfort of the city’s population. Their popularity is evident as more and more people abandon farm lands, deserts, mountains, and nomadic life to rush to air conditioned cities where they can enjoy the arts and entertainments, live clean and cool, eat well, and attend air conditions schools which will teach them to be even more “advanced” and enable them to work in industries and service professions where the aim is to make life ever easier and faster and healthier and longer, regardless of the effect the cities have on the world at large. Until two or three hundred years ago, comparatively minute amounts of fossil fuels and other minerals were consumed. Over the history and prehistory of man, people were relatively few in number and limited in understanding.

Only with the advent of modern science and technology has the Industrial Revolution really taken off and produced the quantities of fumes, run-off, smoke, and toxins, and especially the greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) produced enough wasted thermal energy to have an impact on the huge weather engine which keeps air circulating, rain falling, and currents running in the rivers and oceans of the world. The advent of the internal combustion engine (including piston engines, turbines, ramjets, and all the other forms that may exist) and widespread use of commercial electricity in food refrigeration, processing, and cooking, vast numbers of passenger and freight elevators in tall buildings, ubiquitous air conditioning in homes, schools, hospitals, domed stadiums, electric lighting in libraries, classrooms, and on the marquees of Broadway, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Tokyo, night games in outdoor stadiums, conventions in windowless centers, kitchen appliances, computers, telephones, and “clean” electric automobiles, and even electric tooth brushes, and finally the endless fleets of aircraft large and small, motor bikes and cars and trucks, railroad trains and trolleys and subways, have become a necessity, and are all driven by energy sources like oil, gas, petrol, coal, nuclear fuel, and in some instances hydroelectric or even geothermal power. By far the most common power source is, of course, fossil fuel.

Energy companies were long able to find enough oil, gas (methane), and coal to supply energy economically. They competed for business and therefore market pressures kept the price of fuel low. As reserves ran low, and companies had to go global to find more resources, geopolitcal forces collided and wars have broken out as competition for resources became rancorous. Energy companies began to demand access to pristine forests, virgin hills, immaculate white beaches, and even large areas of the earth designated as “sovereign nations” for the sake of extracting what consumers are crying for, fossil energy.Fossil energy, according to the most widely held concepts, comes from only one source: long-dead plants. In their lifetimes, the plants sucked the CO2 out of the atmosphere in enormous amounts.

They used sunlight to convert it to starches, sugars, and oils. When the lands upon which they lived, or the waters in which they flourished were eventually covered over by the movement of large amounts of natural materials as a result of continental drift, earthquakes, and other massive geological events, they underwent a kind of metamorphosis which changed the plant materials into the oil, gas, and coal we find today. To produce energy, we have to break down the long-preserved fossil molecules and recombine the carbon with fresh oxygen. We call this “burning the fuel,” but it might be called, by a radical preservationist, “ravaging the relics of the past.” Not being emotionally involved with ancient molecules, I simply point out that, once broken apart and “burned,” these old molecules release Brand New Carbon Dioxide Gas into the atmosphere. What took millions of years to trap and conserve is used up in a trip to the grocery store or to cool off my apartment in Bangkok. Burning fossil gases runs the commercial power plant that powers the “lift” (elevator) I use many times a day.

At seventy, I don’t want to walk up and down the stairs to my apartment or office, both of which are on the twelfth floor of two separate buildings. I make my living in a room lit, cooled, ventilated, cleaned, and equipped with on-line computers. Next to me is my electronic synthesizer or musical keyboard. I enjoy it, and don’t hesitate to use it to compose and play tunes every few days. I say this to reassure everyone that I’m not a radical anything regarding energy use, but I still feel I have to shout about my proposed NASA moratorium. So, I’ve done my preaching, and a raised the question, Is America, as the leading proponent of “industrial and economic and social development,” also “highly principled?” Is the USA “wise”?Does our way of approaching the world we live in exhibit responsibility toward the generations that will inhabit the world in thirty years? Or three hundred years?Is our approach to nature even “fairly decent,” or truly civilized?If we have any doubts about what we’ve done to this planet Earth, how can we even think about single-handedly and unilaterally flying to the moon again, not just to show a rival super power that we can do it, but this time to establish our own colonial presence there as a stepping stone to flying to the other planets in our solar system, or even beyond?Let’s see what we left of the moon with our six moon landings.

Exhaust gas! We succeeded in degrading the pristine lunar non-atmosphere. There was practically no atmosphere on the moon in 1968. What is there now are widely scattered molecules of exhaust gases from our six missions to the moon and back.What will be waiting for the next visitor? Used cars! We left three two-passenger lunar rover used cars abandoned on the moon after our last visit in 1972. We share that distinction with the Russians, who left Lunakhod 1 and 2 behind Their rovers were robotic, “no passenger” types, since they never succeeded in landing a man on the moon. I guess it is fitting that the brilliantly planned and hurriedly produced Lunar Rovers outnumber the more modest Russian robot rovers three to two.

We should make it clear that all our Rovers were 1969 models.We left some footprints and a small assortment of sensors and transponders on the moon. Not really a bad record. Our astronauts removed some lunar rocks and dust and brought it back to earth. It was a modest sampling of materials, and not on the order to a looting of a museum or shooting off the face of the Sphinx.However, the plans for the moon include putting housing there, laboratories, workshops, and naturally exercise equipment, communications equipment, an array of solar panels, some kind of sewage treatment system, some kind of water and air renewal system, and possibly some plants for that purpose.

What else?If there is a launch pad, we’ll have to construct it. That will bring foreign materials in. We’ll have to have fuel containers for whatever propellants are used to launch the vehicles that leave from the moon and head for Mars and perhaps other places. What kind of atmosphere will the moon have after all the rockets have blasted off to return to earth? There will have to be supply ships and personnel shuttles coming in and returning to Earth. More and more, the moon, Luna, will be surrounded by the spent exhaust of departing, or the retrorockets slowing down the approaching landers. What will that man leave after decades and maybe centuries of colonial living there? It’s not appetizing to think about it!

As a science major in my undergrad days, and a longtime teacher and writer on science, I always get a kick out of seeing what NASA is up to, and what wonders they have waiting for us just down the pike.However, judging by the rapid changes occurring on Earth, and the catastrophic results of the relentless spread of humankind across the face of the planet, devouring more and more of the essential habitats plants and animals depend on for their lives, I think the current generation of scientists should find other things to do, and the policy makers and legislative committees should pay attention to more human and earth friendly projects for fifty years. Let two or three generations down the road look back at my Moratorium on the NASA Moon Base and see it as a shot across the bow alerting the government and scientific communities, policy makers, professors, scientists, financiers, executives and CEOs of large energy and building and paving companies, and teachers in every classroom, historians writing about today’s movements and future philosophers of civilization to come to a screeching halt in the spread of “Western ‘civilization'” and the “development” of the backward peoples of the earth, and reexamine our own treatment of our Earth.

Today’s Bangkok Post ran a front page article about Hong Kong, where the government is planning to open huge new “3rd Age” programs to provide special university programs and perhaps even a “3rd Age University” to educate the senior citizens. We have all been handed an extra twenty years of life in the last half-century. Stem cell and genetic research may soon be able to cure or prevent many of the life-spoiling or life-ending diseases that currently slow us down as we reach sixty and seventy and beyond. If all goes well, we will be able to look forward to being happy, healthy, constructive and vital in the last third of our lies as we were in our fifties. That would be a great time for us to return to school, take the degrees we never could earn earlier, and even reach higher professional goals, such as using our career-long nursing experience to attend medical school and become licensed physicians. We could see effective and experienced teachers earning Ph.D. and Ed.D.s and returning to the classroom as professors of educational practice. Or how about engineers going into pure science? Or mechanics becoming technical college instructors once they certify academically?

I can see a bank clerk becoming a vice-president once she has an MBA for a place like Harvard or Stanford or Assumption University of Thailand. I feel medical and educational innovations aimed at the largely undereducated people between fifty and seventy would be a great place to invest some government and private sector mone and some time senior citizens may currently be trifling away at casino slot machines or watching cable TV movies.TWAINMANI don’t want to stop NASA from dreaming or deprive young people of incentives to work hard in school and become pilots or astronauts or geologists or communications technicians.

I don’t want to nix space exploration by live humans either. But I do think we should stay off the other planets and all the moons until maybe fifty years pass, and there has been time to see what actually becomes of an Earth that is run by powerful people who don’t have even a hint of the planetary chaos they are creating by “raising up the poor people in undeveloped nations” and turning them into the same kind of heedless, unthinking, bull-in-the-china-shop “advanced”‘ people we live among right here, right now..

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