USA

National vs global boundaries of moral responsibility

Andrew Revkin  responds to a reader in Dot Earth who says moral responsibility to help people stops at one’s national borders.

‘Toward the end of a week focused on how the world’s rich can foster progress at the other end of the Slinky of social and economic progress, a reader here posted a provocative comment.

‘Chris of La Jolla, Calif., criticized supporters of a new United States initiative to disseminate efficient, non-polluting cook stoves in places still choking on fumes from wood and dung fires:

‘Really? We in the developed world have a moral obligation? The only moral obligation we have is to first help those in our country. After that, should we have the time and money, we can help in the third world. But there is no moral obligation.

‘I replied:
‘This is one of the fundamental issues of our time: Figuring out where borders of various kinds end. When your pants are made in Bangladesh, your cellphone components require minerals from gorilla habitat in Congo, your next deadly flu threat comes from a poultry/pig farm in China and your (and China’s) emissions (slowly) influence the climate and coastal future around the world, where do your interests — and responsibilities — end? . . .’

Read more at the New York Times: In pursuing progress, should borders matter?, 24 September 2010.

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