Something I imagine everybody has experienced in the course of growing up is that the world is not full of goodness like we once imagined. As children, we were taught to adopt peace, benevolence, altruism, and honesty, but as we take gradual steps towards the real world, we are inflicted upon by the many legitimate conducts that seemed to contradict every moral thing that we were taught the world should function by. If there was an extent of rational and realistic truth to something, the majority followed it.
Growing up, we all began the prevalent process of acceptance. Human beings have accepted that the real world is supposed to be imperfect. We have accepted that there are tradeoffs in everything we do and that negative consequences are bound to arise no matter what choices we make. So, we let experience back up our judgment of the rational decision; we let self-interest drive our endeavors; we make benevolence a strategy as a part of our objective, and we place the importance of the economy above all externalities.
This is why, my friends, humans are dumping gallons of pollutants into the ocean under the rightful objective of industrialization. This is why we are letting temperatures rise at alarmingly fast rates while still choosing economic development over combatting global warming. This is why natural resources are being depleted, species are going extinct, habitats are disappearing, pollutants are soaring into the atmosphere and humans are still confident that they have been making the right choices.
Last year in August, I went with a group of researching students down Shanghai’s Huangpu River and collected water samples. Along the way, we saw children swimming and bathing by the dams. We watched women launder clothes in the sandy bay. We met some of the most agreeable locals who offered us generous meals and hospitality.
I got home with the laboratory results and completed my analysis most dejectedly. The data indicated that the water in the river was not remotely fit enough for human use, and my model demonstrated the locals had no idea how dirty their nearby water body really is, and they have been using contaminated water most casually under the illusion that it was genuinely safe.
This experience really affected me. We should know, that every year, 250 million cases of water-borne diseases are to occur, and 5 to 10 million people are to die from them. The consequences of choosing economic progress over the environment are coming back to the people. They are coming back to the innocent, the good people and sabotaging their well-being. These people could be you, and me, and anybody sharing with us this planet that we have accepted that we could destroy. One day, the consequences might come back to us so viciously that it would be too late for remorse.
Is this what we really want for our futures? Let’s think back to the times when we were children. Could our confident upholding of goodness and morality allow us to accept that fellow human beings are dying from the decaying environment?
We have grown up and learned to have rationality. However, those who look at the arching green branches and see the beauty in them have aesthetics. Those who care about strangers’ well-being have love. There are many more beautiful elements of human life than rationality, and we all know this. With goodness still being the widely commended value, I really believe we could make an integral change.
So today I call for you to stop considering money, rationality, and trade-offs. You, dear friends, and politicians, economists, all of you. Today, I call for you to start considering what it is that you deem good. A world where rationality crushes people in silver and gold, or a world where natural beauty paves the way for healthy human prosperity. Let’s work in unison and improve the natural environment before it’s too late. I believe we can do it.
By: Iris Li