I was rather shocked, as I hope were other members of the Georgetown community, to read Alexander Sanjenis’ recent viewpoint (“GU Wouldn’t Be Too Keen To Go Green,” THE HOYA, Nov. 9, 2007, A3) discouraging action aimed at mitigating the projected consequences of global climate change.

The fact that Sanjenis considers the article to which he was responding (“For Campus To Go Green, DeGioia Must Lead,” D. Pierce Nixon, THE HOYA, Nov. 6, 2007, A3) a “tirade on global warming” says a lot. In my opinion, it was a rather weak call for the prioritization of environmental concerns at Georgetown. Nixon waxes romantic regarding the pleasure he derives from wearing his hoodie in the cold and spending time at home “with that special someone” during the winter months. He then posits the possibility of life without winters, using this prospect to remind us that climate change stands to cause the possible extinction of many “plants and animals around the world.” He also mentions the possibility that it is ultimately Georgetown students who are left to pay for the university’s excessive energy consumption. Both viewpoints, nonetheless, reflect a marked disregard for concerns with questions of equity and thus remain blind to ethics. In this sense, Sanjenis and Nixon predictably ape the arrogance and cynicism of the corporate and political elite of the West.

Nixon does not grapple with the question of whether climate change is a reality; Sanjenis attempts to. He opens by dismissing the “global warming myth” as a “fraud on the American people.” His primary – and sole – source is Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who, having been given nearly $1 million in contributions over the course of his career by oil and gas companies, has unsurprisingly long denied the claims of global warming. It should hardly be necessary to remind Sanjenis that the scientific consensus is that global warming is occurring, and that it is at least partly the result of anthropogenic causes. Whether or not using such conclusions to formulate policies meant to mitigate the effects of climate change is a “fraud,” as Sanjenis would have it, it seems clear that the extent of the effects expected to result from climate change warrant a greater degree of concern than he would give them.

Most accounts of the effects of climate change show a marked decrease in precipitation for many regions of Africa and a corresponding decline in food productivity – in some cases, up to a 50 percent drop – with the result that food scarcity – hence, mortality rates – will greatly worsen for millions of people living in such regions. Other regions of the world are expected to experience increased outbreaks of diseases such as malaria, Dengue fever and West Nile virus because of the larger numbers of mosquitoes which are another effect of global warming. Glacial retreat in the Himalayas is expected to exacerbate water scarcity, making more vulnerable the lives of billions in Asia. Rising ocean levels, together with increased flooding, are projected to render uninhabitable about 15 percent of Bangladesh. any other unabashedly negative consequences could be cited.

That Sanjenis’ cost-benefit analysis of global climate change, which offsets Nixon’s concern for the loss of “cuddly animals” with the prospect that such “frozen wastelands like Greenland” could “become rich farmland,” excludes concern for the profoundly devastating impacts such processes will have on the lives of billions. This speaks to the fundamental poverty of ethical analysis exhibited by Sanjenis’ rhetoric. It pains me to say that such glaring omissions reflect an uncritical attitude toward blatant imperialism, whereby the lifestyles of “the average Hoya” or “the average American” contribute to the deeply unjust reality of global warming and capitalism, an economic system concerned just as little with whales, ecosystems and the biosphere as with the world’s dispossessed.

Interestingly, Sanjenis briefly raises the issue of communism in his viewpoint. Not only does Sanjenis exaggerate facts – he finds Venezuela, a country with a mixed economy and a social democratic republic, to be a country specializing in the exportation of “communism” – but it also seems relevant that, though Karl Marx was no ecologist, he certainly was concerned with capitalist society’s valorization of economic profit and concurrent dismissal of need of society’s lower classes. The spirit of such critical thought is crucially germane to the present day, as it seems clear that capitalism is an inherently anti-environmental economic system: Its high priests – mainstream economists – fervently deny that we should be concerned about natural limits to economic growth or that the existence of such concepts as externalities and market failures – anthropogenic climate change, for example – are reasons perhaps to re-assess capitalism itself.

If we do value human life and ecological sustainability, capitalism must be re-assessed. In truth, it must be done away with, for it is only when society comes to radically eradicate hierarchy – when human beings are no longer seen as inputs to production functions or invisible, irrelevant elements of society and the environment no longer considered an aggregation of natural resources – that we can speak of a just world, or one worth our pride.

Javier Sethness graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 2007.

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