UT-Knoxville Energy Ethics Conference bridges debates

April 16, 2008 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Last weekend, a team of students and I volunteered at the first-ever Energy Ethics Conference in Knoxville, “Energy & Responsibility: A Conference on Ethics and the Environment” presented by the UT Philosophy Department.  The planning committee for this conference featured some of the most experienced and dedicated leaders in our area’s environmental community, and I had a great time taking in the discussions from world-renowned scholars, analysts, and researchers.  You can find a full list of the papers that were discussed with abstracts and credentials on the conference website.

By far the highlight of the weekend for me was the chance to participate in the Student Caucus on the last day of the conference, where a handful of young people were given the opportunity to prepare a Youth Statement that would be published in the book that’s coming out of the conference, as well as a number of journals and websites.  It was an honor to work as an editor for this statement, and a challenge to carry out a consensus writing project on a two-hour deadline.  While I was listening to the statement being read and watching the audience reactions, I got the distinct feeling that my citizenship began there and then.  Now I gotta go parse out the meaning of sustainable citizenship…

Anyway, reproduced here in full just for you, the Youth Statement of the Student Caucus at the 2008 Energy & Responsibility Conference:

The youth of the world have inherited a transformative mandate from the generations that have come before us. Deprived of the luxury to treat the future as a landfill, the unprecedented urgency of this mandate compels us to build a radically new world of healthy, just, and sustainable communities within our lifetimes. We are genuinely angered by the wasteful economy we were born into and we are committed to intergenerational dialogue with those who all their lives have fought the struggle we now take on. Amid uncertainty, we find hope; and in the long shadow of the challenges that loom on our horizons, we have no choice but to seek the light of opportunity.

We envision a just and sustainable world, a world of healthy communities living in harmony with their natural environment. Recognizing the solutions to global pollution and global poverty as inseparable, we are committed to opening spaces that transcend borders and disciplines for democratic, international conversation. To that end, we must address the threat of human development to the biodiversity of the planet and the threat of cultural dominance to the indigenous knowledge that must inform our global solutions. The privilege of leadership comes with the responsibility to defend the rights of all voices as we define a vision of the future.

In addition to empowering a planetarian imagination, we are committed to decentralized solutions on the grassroots level grounded in the principles of distributional equity and environmental justice. As we forge the policies and infrastructure of the future, we can no longer violate the self-determination of local communities around the world nor the intrinsic value of the biosphere that makes our lives possible. In our own communities, we are committed to nurturing future generations by actively promoting civic engagement and increased ecological awareness in our schools and in our homes. Building on the traditions of democracy and human rights, we must create an ecologically comprehensive definition of social justice embracing lifelong nutrition education, localized food security, and consideration of the long-term impacts of the choices we make as consumers and citizens every day of our lives. We sow the seeds of tomorrow in the soil of today.

We call upon all citizens, policymakers, and business leaders to implement the inexcusably neglected knowledge of solutions already in place for a renewed and equitable relationship with the planet. In addition, while we include advocacy and research in a diversity of tactics, we believe that global challenges call for local solutions from the inside out and the bottom up. It has fallen to our generation to cultivate healthy, sustainable communities across the planet. The work before us is large, but we are up to the task. We will bring upwardly mobile green-collar jobs into disenfranchised communities. We will advance access to environmental education to promote stewardship and sustainability in the lives of children. We will pursue technological innovations for climate-neutral production as we transition from where we are to where we have to go. And in our professions and amongst our peers, we will cultivate an ethic of democracy, compassion, and justice as practices necessary to the survival of the planet. The decisions we make today will have a greater impact on the future than at any other point in history. We call on you to be voices for the future in the lives you live today. The future simply cannot wait. The time to act is now.

University of Tennessee
April 12, 2008

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Entry filed under: events, government, southeast, tennessee.

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