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Moral Imperative to ‘Live Lightly’

By Dirk de Zwart, Wooragee Landcare and Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH)

Living lightly means different things to different people.  Attempting to live sustainably and reducing your footprint on the earth are two good reasons to live lightly.  Some live lightly by recycling, some by growing their own vegetables and fruit or being vegetarian. By  living lightly we also try to reduce our levels of consumption and to address climate change. 

Listening to a podcast of ethicist, Peter Singer, speaking about his three big moral issues of the 21st century makes you realise how important the concept of living lightly on the earth really is. All three issues are linked to our western affluence.

Singer’s first issue is world poverty.  What he is refers to is the abject poverty that many in the third world suffer.  It is a level of poverty where people do not have the basic necessities (such as food or medicines).  Contrasted to this is the abundance we have in Australia.  We have so much more than we need that he suggests it is our moral obligation to stop spending more on ourselves.  Singer advocates that we use our surplus to try to help others instead of always helping ourselves. 

Singer’s second issue is animal liberation, the topic he is probably most noted for.  One aspect of our way of life is our diet, dominated by the consumption of meat.  To satisfy this demand has led to the farming of animals in factories.  This is a cruel practice and a result of  our belief that animals are less important that humans. 

Singer’s third issue is climate change.  This is the issue that he believes we have to immediately take steps to halt.  Failure to deal with climate change may not seriously affect the lives of Australians, but it will lead to further poverty in the third world, because poor nations will not have the means to feed their citizens where droughts or floods begin to impact.  Further, the increasing consumption of meat to feed the appetite of the Western World, being one of the significant drivers of climate change, will lead to further poverty in the third world.  Living lightly is the most significant thing you can do to address climate change.

By adopting the philosophy of “living lightly” you will actually be addressing the three significant moral issues of the 21st century raised by Peter Singer.