For as long as human beings have lived in communities, there have been “rules” intended to structure and organize society to prevent the degradation and dissolution of the environment in which we live. Hammurabi’s Code, Moses’ Ten Commandments, and the Golden Rule are all demonstrative of the laws intended to be the principles by which we govern our lives. As time evolves and new problems emerge from old ones, legislation is passed intended to address and resolve the dominant issues of the time. Yet if what is passed into law directly contradicts an environmental ethic, which concept do we accept, the law or the ethic? And if we choose the ethic, how must we consider the law? Do we ignore it, or even acknowledge it? This paper will argue that just as laws have evolved, so too has the collective consciousness of humanity, and with it, the technology we have created for ourselves. When the human mind creates new tools (affecting the government, economy, environment…), society is reshaped to accommodate them, directing the course of events accordingly. And with the current rise of the Internet today, information and knowledge can be transferred and transformed in an instant. If, theoretically, we can create a new sense of how to live, governed by environmental ethics rather than law, while preventing any environmental damage from occurring, then a new society would emerge from the ashes of the former. Free Society is an attempt to envision a new way to live.
By acknowledging an environmental ethic of which to live by, lists of questions are brought up. For instance, when encountering a spider, how should one act? Killing the spider would be to deny a right to life, and even relocating it could be paralleled to Nazis confining Jews to designated “acceptable” places, by some stretch of an imagination and transitive property. Likewise, how should one act towards a mosquito? Are we morally obligated to refrain from slapping and killing the critter to let it drink our blood? If we consider what the greatest utility would be for all life forms, wouldn’t a small bump and no loss of life be more acceptable than the murder (however minute) of the insect and “perfect” skin? These questions are designed to show that we must constantly rethink the concepts we have created and maintained for ourselves, challenging any and all authorities who determine what is, in fact, “right.”
If we can then assume that there is no authority available, because the authors (and theories) are continually changing, then how can we allow ourselves to be governed by a person who is not infallible? Democracy works under the assumption that the democratically elected representative knows what they are doing, or has the nation’s best interests at heart. However, if that representative is elected by less than half of the country, manipulating the law to sneak into power, while further deteriorating the natural order with the damaging policies that are imposed, are we allowed to criticize, or even ignore that authority? By rejecting an authority and recognizing that we are all active participants in determining “truth” as it pertains to ourselves, we can come together to create an environmental ethic that includes all of our various desires and beliefs: “Only when these various accounts are allowed to contest and resonate with one another is there the possibility of a more complete explanation emerging over time from the mosaic of perspectives.” (Frodeman 338)
The problem we can see with our world involves the concept of money. Without money one cannot eat, have a home, treat diseases, transport oneself, or generally survive in a money based economy. The term, “earn a living,” suggests that life is not a right, but that to be “acceptable” to society infers productivity- productivity defined by those members who have money to pay people to work. For instance, the military certainly pays its soldiers, yet maintains its place as the world’s top polluter, while promoting an agenda that destroys countless lives. Moreover, by putting such an enormous emphasis on making money (to pay for those otherwise unattainable commodities), many businesses will ignore environmental responsibility in order to maximize their profit. This leads to hazardous products being made as well as causing damaging effects to nature.
Money came about as a medium of exchange. If I wanted to go somewhere, I would have to bring money that I had earned as a way to purchase those items I need. Money connects people to each other and through its exchange, new items are attained. The great depression occurred because people were buying things with money they didn’t really have, and when it came time to collect, there was no real money. That’s because money doesn’t really exist in the first place! If I go to a bank and put my money in, they will loan that money out and more money will be created. During the depression, unemployment rose because there was no money to pay these workers, not because there weren’t any jobs to do.
And yet, money is not what creates labor, it is what rewards it. Humanity decides for itself what it will focus its labor toward. Whether we are talking about such human achievements as the Great Wall of China, the railroads, the pyramids, or any massive mobilization of human resources, we can see it is simply the allocation of physical labor that creates a finished product. Thus, if we abandon the concept of money, and allocate our human potential to one particular cause- the preservation of our world- maintained and governed by an established code of ethics, we can reassess our priorities and work in a system where money is abolished.
If humanity created an online community, in which money was absent, with a focus on art (time + energy = art) –music, education, agriculture, dating services, medicine, technology, etc, those activities not environmentally degrading—then we could effectively restructure society by filtering out all of those jobs that do not positively impact the world. “Useless” jobs, those that reallocate money, the government that allows things to happen, and any environmentally degrading job would be disintegrated, leaving the world to be free to do what it chooses to do. Organizations and groups would be voted in or out depending on whether it was “beneficial” or harmful to the community. Here, we can at last find a sense of “reconciliation” with the natural world, understanding that these “precious landscapes are connected, and that the zones of protection must connect and incorporate broader ecological and sacred landscapes.” (Rose 210)
The problem with ethics is that it is a top-down approach to governing. Someone decides what is “good,” and that decision is followed by the group. If people are in the position to govern themselves (meaning they are educated about the relationships between their actions and environment), then their ethics are self-contained, and they can act in ways that promote a natural harmony. Political and economic equality can finally be realized, and everyone acting will be supported for doing what they choose to do, whatever that may be. In this way, as more and more people realize the beauty of having everything for free, more and more people and communities and organizations and institutions will be absorbed into this new reality, while the effects of cyberspace are reflected into real space, transforming it completely. Nature, in this case, is not removed from our understanding of how we interact with the world, but rather expanded, encompassing the best parts of human nature as we live together in a free society. This helps us to contextualize the Internet as a means to envision a utopia that could potentially be created, our most influential technology acting to pursue our most necessary ends.
“Whatever has an effect as its consequence is called a cause. But not only that by means of which something else is effected is a cause. The end that determines the kind of means to be used may also be considered a cause. Wherever ends are pursued and means are employed, whereby instrumentality reigns, there reigns causality.” (Heidegger 313)