“As we pull down controversial statues and reassess historical figures, I’ve been wondering what our great-grandchildren will find bewilderingly immoral about our own times — and about us.
Which of today’s heroes will be discredited? Which statues toppled? What will later generations see as our own ethical blind spots?
I believe that one will be our cruelty to animals. Modern society relies on factory farming to produce protein that is inexpensive and abundant. But it causes suffering to animals on an incalculable scale.
Over the last 200 years, the world has become far more sensitive to animal rights. In feudal Europe, a game consisted of nailing a cat to a post and head-butting it to death; now, growing numbers of states have passed animal protection laws, McDonald’s is moving to cage-free eggs and there are legal debates about whether certain mammals should have standing to sue in courts.”
“. . . . A third area where I suspect our descendants will judge us harshly is climate change. Our generation’s denialism will lead to more extreme weather, more flooded homes, more heat waves — and resentment that early-21st-century humans could have been so selfish as to refuse to take small steps to reduce carbon emissions.
I raised this issue of our moral blind spots in my email newsletter the other day, and one reader, Brad Marston, a physics professor at Brown University, put it this way: “In 100 years our generation may be as poorly regarded as 19th-century racists are today (or worse), due to our failure to tackle climate change, leaving a damaged and possibly ruined planet to future generations.”
So I’m all for re-examining history and removing statues of Confederate generals. But just as important is our obligation to think deeply about our own moral myopia today and address it while there is still time.