A Humanist Approach to Environmental Issues

by ChaseDownActivist on Septembre 9, 2015 - 10:14pm

A Humanist Approach to Environmental Issues


As I was searching the web to find humanism-related news, I came across a site in which a humanist by the name of Alex Epstein gives his perspective on the use of fossil fuels. This energy philosopher, debater and communications consultant is also the head of the "I Love Fossil Fuels" campaign, a movement that magnifies and defends the beneficial aspects of the use of this energy. Epstein has even debated on several occasions with environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, 350.org and the Sierra club. His work for this cause, including his recently released book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, are available and well summarized at the Forbes Magazine website. 

Today’s common belief about the use of fossil fuels is fairly negative. Most of society thinks it is the primary cause of almost all of our current environmental issues. Indeed, for the past 40 years or more, great scientists and thinkers have accused it to be the reason behind occurring catastrophes such as global warming, air pollution and resource depletion. Also, more and more organizations are forming in order to alert the world that human activity has detrimental and perhaps irreversible impacts on our environment and our own future health and life conditions.

However, Alex Epstein shares a slightly different view on energy and environmental issues. Although he is well aware of the downsides of using fossil fuels, he believes experts exaggerate the problems related to fossil fuel use. Epstein argues that the benefits drawn from them are far more advantageous to human beings. In fact, he states “that the rapid increase of fossil fueled machines in the world has enabled us to improve every aspect of human well-being—life expectancy, infant mortality, nourishment, income, as well as key environmental metrics such as water quality, sanitation, and, perhaps most startling of all, climate danger (climate-related deaths are at record lows, down 98% over the last 80 years)” (Epstein). This goes to show that his standard of value is human life.

The article also raises an important question regarding the importance we attribute to human lives in contrast to other life forms: What is it exactly that puts humans’ needs and satisfactions above that of other beings on our planet? One possible answer to this is found within the doctrine humanist’s follow.

In the mind of a humanist such as Epstein, science is a tool that makes our lives better, not worse. Because they do not believe in God or any other form of supernatural force, humanists have agreed that humans alone have the duty of solving any conflict that lies in their paths. That is why they tend value human life more, while still respecting the life of other beings as well. Our ability to use rationality and morality at a higher level than any other being is thus what gives use the greater responsibilities in this world.

To conclude, I think humanists have a very introspective way of thinking and planning their actions. If we look back at the example of fossil fuels, Alex Epstein does not solely focus about the impacts it has on the environment, rather he discusses the pluses it gives to human life now and for future generations as well.  Personally, I think that fossil fuels have indeed helped us immensely to progress in all aspects of life, and it should never be entirely cut off as many suggest.

Works Cited

Epstein, Alex. "A Humanist Approach to Environmental Issues." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Sept. 2015