The Ethics of the Future

sunset forest

An important basis for all ethics has been the Golden Rule or the principle of reciprocity: you shall do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But the Golden Rule can no longer exist in a horizontal dimension — in other words a “we” and “the others” dimension. We must realize that the principle of reciprocity also has a vertical dimension: you shall do to the next generation what you wished the previous generation had done to you.

It’s as simple as that. You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. This must obviously include your neighbor generation. It has to include absolutely everyone who will live on the Earth after us.

The human family doesn’t inhabit Earth simultaneously. People have lived here before us, some are living now and some will live after us. But those who come after us are also our fellow human beings. We must do to them as we would have wished that they would have done to us if it was they who had inhabited this planet before us.

The code is that simple. We have no right to hand over a planet Earth that has less worth or in a more miserable condition than the planet we ourselves have had the good fortune to live on. Fewer fish in the sea. Less drinking water. Less food. Less rainforest. Less coral reef. Fewer species of plants and animals.

Less beauty! Less breathtaking! Less splendor and joy!

coral reef

Lionfish. Red Sea, Egypt (Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)