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The Ethical Basis of Civil Resistance


Estimated reading time: 1 minute
With our survival at stake, why do we consistently fail to act on our ecological situation? A Catholic theologian asks what might motivate a genuine collective response.
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According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the latest IPCC climate report, released today, is a “litany of broken climate promises” that reveals a “yawning gap between climate pledges, and reality.” He called the previous report “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” With each such report, the contrast between warnings from the scientific community and our collective response only increases. With stakes impossibly high, this begs the question: if we have long known what we need to do to save ourselves, why do we so stubbornly fail to act?

In this talk, Dr. Carmody Grey asks what it would take to reverse our destructive course. Not rooted in the Dharma per se, this isn’t the kind of resource we usually share on One Earth Sangha. Dr. Grey is approaching these questions as a Catholic theologian. Yet her inquiry into human psychology, love, and what might motivate a meaningful collective response is too potent not to share.

“It is true that we have no time to waste… that we have to act with complete decisiveness. But it is an illusion to think that reflecting deeply and acting are in some kind of tension or that they are opposites. A member of bomb disposal squad has to become more calm the less time there is, has to draw more deeply on her understanding of how bombs work the less time there is. She mustn’t react to the situation, she must respond to the situation. In the case of the bomb expert, the object of her understanding is explosives. In our case the object of our understanding must be the human.”

If you’re interested in more from Dr. Carmody Grey, here’s an earlier talk that overlaps with some of the themes explored here: What do We Want to Sustain? Thinking about Faith and The Climate.

Picture of Carmody Grey

Carmody Grey

Dr Carmody Grey is on the Advisory Board of Las Casas Institute. She is currently Assistant Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University. She works mainly in the areas of philosophical theology and theological ethics, with a focus on science, nature and environment. She has degrees in theology from Trinity College Oxford, King’s College Cambridge and the University of Nottingham. Before starting her doctorate she was Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics at Bedales School in Hampshire, as well as pursuing her ongoing interest in ecology and the life sciences through a postgraduate degree from Edinburgh. She teaches and speaks publicly in a variety of arenas, and is a columnist for The Tablet.
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