Environmental Ethics

Volume 41, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Timothy A. Weidel
Pages 17-36

Laudato Si, Marx, and a Human Motivation for Addressing Climate Change

In the face of climate change, moral motivation is central: why should individuals feel compelled to act to combat this problem? Justice-based responses miss two morally salient issues: that the key ethical relationship is between us and the environment, and there is something in it for us to act to aid our environment. In support of this thesis there are two seemingly disparate sources: Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and the early Marx’s account of human essence as species-being. Francis argues we must see nature as an “other” with whom we have a relationship, rather than dominating nature. Marx considers how we currently interact with “others,” and the harms these interactions cause to us. In both contexts, we harm our environment by not acting to meet its needs, and harm ourselves by making it less likely to develop ourselves as more fully human persons. It is the avoidance of these harms that can motivate us to act against climate change.