Is it ethical to go to Bali?

Our ethical columnist discusses the Bali summit

Ethan Greenhart

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Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

I think it’s really important that the world’s nations are in Bali talking about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But part of me is concerned that so many of them have flown so far to talk about it, not only causing even more carbon emissions but encouraging the changing of an island paradise into an even bigger tourist trap than it is already. Is it ethical to travel round the world if it’s in a good cause?

Bill Bush,
Toronto

Dear Bill,

I made my feelings clear about the Bali conference in this column last week. The sight of 10,000 suits flying halfway round the world just to chit-chat about saving the planet, with absolutely no sign that they will do anything useful, is enough to make me regurgitate my lentil loaf. Puking exhaust fumes from their jets as they sip champagne (a drink stuffed full of little bubbles of climate chaos) in first class, they then stomp all over a once-beautiful island, stay in fabulous (ie, hugely destructive) hotels, eat food that has also been whizzed around the planet, then fuck off home again. (Sorry about the strong language, but I’m really SO angry about this.)

After a disastrous event like that conference, we in the West are just asking for it. That eco-prophet David Nicholson-Lord, the man trying to ‘pop’ the population bubble, said that Bali, ‘smells – of moral casuistry, of self-indulgence, even of that much-debated commodity, decadence.’ AND HE WASN’T WRITING ABOUT THE CONFERENCE! He was actually refering to that bombing in 2002, which is why he added: ‘Given that there’s good reason to regard tourists as the shock troops of development and post-colonialism, it’s really not surprising, however awful the consequences, that they find themselves targeted by anti-Western militants.’

Now, I bet you read something like that and think ‘anti-Western militants’ means religious nutcases. Well, I hate the West and I’m not religious at all (thought I have been called a nutcase!). I hate the Western way of life even though I live in the fetid heart of the motherland of mayhem. (Actually, America is the motherland of mayhem. Britain is more the first cousinland of catastrophe, but you get my point.) While I don’t approve of blowing anything or anyone up, I can certainly understand those who feel the need to tear it all down.

So, if we want to avoid terrorist as well as planetary atrocities, we’d better buck our ideas up. We just need to stop putting carbon into the atmosphere. Now. Just stop. We’ve got to grind to a halt before the planet does.

My frustration sometimes gets the better of me. Sometimes, I just want to get superglue (I know, I know, it’s a chemical) and stick it in the door locks of every car on the nearby estate. (I should point out that I’ve never actually done that, and it was pure coincidence that my trip to accident and emergency to have a tube of superglue removed from my fingers happened the same night as a spate of adhesive car vandalism on the aforementioned housing scheme.)

We don’t need a conference to save the planet. We just need to get on with it. Stop travelling (especially to Bali); stop eating (except homegrown and locally sourced vegetarian food); stop producing electricity (except for micro-generated solar and treadle pump power – power lines are a scar on the face of the planet).

But actually, even those selfish bastards on parade in Bali could have cut a deal if it wasn’t for America. Even Americans think that. Well, that visionary Al Gore does, anyway: ‘My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here. We all know that.’

And who is responsible for America’s obstruction? Not George Bush, not the big oil companies – although they must take their share of the blame. The real responsibility lies with the ordinary citizens – the ones who put an ‘X’ next to ‘Eco-warmonger George for President’ (‘X’ is about all they can write!) and who put that fuel pump nozzle in their petrol tanks to bleed the world dry just a little more every day.

I’m just glad a few people are starting to get the message, like carbon rationing guru Mayer Hillman: ‘The most dangerous threat of climate change [is] to our democratic institutions because the implication of democracy is that if you can’t persuade the majority to support a particular policy then you can’t introduce it. When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it. [Carbon rationing] has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not.’

Ultimately, the idea behind a conference is that people need to agree to something before you act. But delaying action is unethical – so talking about action must be unethical, too, right?

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”Ethan.Greenhart@spiked-online.com” title=”Ethan.Greenhart@spiked-online.com”}. Read his earlier columns here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Topics Politics

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