moral blind spots

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Dune ..... Yes, that would be an example (one I should have thought about) especially in the first book or two, after that the series got too weird to be taken seriously.
You prefer those more conventional stories of life 10,000 years in the future? ;)
 

RJM Corbet

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If the future didn't have room for birds mating and nesting as they have done since long before man came into being -- and for seasons and thunderstorms and clean fast-flowing streams -- the fragrance of mountain herbs and the rich smell of new plowed earth -- I wouldn't care to go there ...
 

Parson

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You prefer those more conventional stories of life 10,000 years in the future? ;)
:D Yeah, sounds dumb doesn't it? I was really referring to things like the "God Emperor of Dune," where he saw all of the future and was walking carefully to walk in just the right footprints for the future. --- The later books were not as engaging for me, so that probably plays into my impression.
 

Mirannan

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The moral blind spot of world hunger can be simplified down to this - we grow enough crops to feed 14 billion people. We feed so much of it to cattle, that a billion or more humans are starving. If we fed people instead of cattle, there would be no hunger, and all of the land (roughly 1 third of the world's landmass apparently) currently used for animal agriculture, could be turned over to forest, and still have more food than we can currently use. This would also eliminate 51% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
Pretty much most of the climate problems solved, all hunger eliminated, no more farm animal welfare problems, our medical system would see a massive decrease in expenditure, no more deforestation, water shortages would be almost eliminated... Need I go on?

Just one change. One. Some day, hopefully humans will look back in utter dismay that we didn't solve this sooner.
I think it's worth mentioning that some (sure, by no means all) land used for raising meat animals is pretty much useless for growing crops - at any sort of reasonable cost, anyway. American semi-desert rangeland (as in Texas, perhaps) and British hills come to mind here. If cattle and/or sheep were not raised there, they wouldn't be producing food at all.
 

Mirannan

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Just a thought, but shouldn't people also have the right not to listen to what they don't want to?
Indeed. Which is why, if you are in the habit of acting like an adult, in circumstances like that you get up and walk out. Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to be listened to.
 

Onyx

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I think it's worth mentioning that some (sure, by no means all) land used for raising meat animals is pretty much useless for growing crops - at any sort of reasonable cost, anyway. American semi-desert rangeland (as in Texas, perhaps) and British hills come to mind here. If cattle and/or sheep were not raised there, they wouldn't be producing food at all.
Raised, yes. But most of those animals are grain finished, and that grain is edible by people. If you were to eat beef that was raised entirely in Nevada without grain finishing, you'd stop eating beef. The good "grass fed beef" is from cows grazing pasture that could easily support a food crop.


But really, the main problem right now is the methane.
 

SilentRoamer

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Well i recently finished reading Brian Aldiss: Non -Stop which poses a myriad of moral questions with some great complexity:

Is it right to board a generational ship - knowing you deny at least a portion of your ancestors life on a planet (as evolution surely intended it)?
 

Onyx

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Well i recently finished reading Brian Aldiss: Non -Stop which poses a myriad of moral questions with some great complexity:

Is it right to board a generational ship - knowing you deny at least a portion of your ancestors life on a planet (as evolution surely intended it)?
Evolution doesn't have intent.

Is it right to subject people to the dangers of planetary life when a habitat that doesn't have drought, earthquakes or hurricanes could easily be constructed?
 

Joshua Jones

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Well i recently finished reading Brian Aldiss: Non -Stop which poses a myriad of moral questions with some great complexity:

Is it right to board a generational ship - knowing you deny at least a portion of your ancestors life on a planet (as evolution surely intended it)?
That is an interesting question, but I think of it from a slightly different angle. Is it morally right to board a generation ship, knowing that scores of your ancestors will have no say in their living conditions, reproductive autonomy (too much population growth can be a serious problem on a generation ship, so I suspect there will be tight reproductive controls in place), political or economic freedom, and so forth. On Earth, at least, one could always move to another country if they don't like the one they live in (not intending that to be a minimization of the difficulties surrounding immigration, but it is a possibility), whereas, on a generation ship, one is stuck. So, does one have the right to decide on behalf of, say, 50 generations where they will live?
 

SilentRoamer

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Evolution doesn't have intent.

Is it right to subject people to the dangers of planetary life when a habitat that doesn't have drought, earthquakes or hurricanes could easily be constructed?
I know evolution doesn't have intent - what I was getting at is that human physical and mental conditions are most suited to life on a planet - genetics even vary between peoples depending on location within said planet. Denying a human that is denying them the environment that evolutionary factors have developed them to be their most useful in. Hope I parsed it a bit better that time.

Your inversion is really interesting - future humans may see it as barbaric and morally reprehensible to condemn future generations to life or to go even further continued evolutionary development in a gravity well. A far future where humans are genetically altered at an extreme level and then placed in the conditions for for them.

That is an interesting question, but I think of it from a slightly different angle. Is it morally right to board a generation ship, knowing that scores of your ancestors will have no say in their living conditions, reproductive autonomy (too much population growth can be a serious problem on a generation ship, so I suspect there will be tight reproductive controls in place), political or economic freedom, and so forth. On Earth, at least, one could always move to another country if they don't like the one they live in (not intending that to be a minimization of the difficulties surrounding immigration, but it is a possibility), whereas, on a generation ship, one is stuck. So, does one have the right to decide on behalf of, say, 50 generations where they will live?
That's what I was getting at, it's different to a planet in that you have a completely closed system, much less flexibility and movement and opportunity for change.

In the Aldiss novel it leads to a development of an almost inverted moral code regarding the outward expression of internal conflict. They have moral paradigms like "Look before you leap" and "The devil you don't know may replace the devil you do".
 

Onyx

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I know evolution doesn't have intent - what I was getting at is that human physical and mental conditions are most suited to life on a planet - genetics even vary between peoples depending on location within said planet. Denying a human that is denying them the environment that evolutionary factors have developed them to be their most useful in. Hope I parsed it a bit better that time.

Your inversion is really interesting - future humans may see it as barbaric and morally reprehensible to condemn future generations to life or to go even further continued evolutionary development in a gravity well. A far future where humans are genetically altered at an extreme level and then placed in the conditions for for them.
Your premise is that there is something natural and pleasant about human ingenuity allowing people to live entirely on reindeer meat and milk on the Mongolian steppe, but using that same ingenuity to live in a tube with perfect weather and plenty to eat is somehow unnatural and cruel. People haven't been doing the natural thing since we started using tools and language to manipulate the environment, and a space borne terrarium is little different than a species that evolved in central Africa living in igloos.

And while I get the lack of choice, that's really a rich Westerner perspective. The citizens of Cambodia can't move out when they get bored with growing rice for a living.

Most human beings throughout history would consider themselves greatly fortunate to have a comfortable home "country" that exceeds their physical needs while having a genuine purpose to the existence of their community.


The bigger problem is going to be getting people who grew up in an engineered paradise to want to get off the bus when it arrives at some lethal exoplanet.
 

Mirannan

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Raised, yes. But most of those animals are grain finished, and that grain is edible by people. If you were to eat beef that was raised entirely in Nevada without grain finishing, you'd stop eating beef. The good "grass fed beef" is from cows grazing pasture that could easily support a food crop.


But really, the main problem right now is the methane.
OK, you're probably right about cattle - but AFAIK it doesn't apply to sheep; the upland areas used for rearing sheep really are pretty useless for anything else, and again AFAIK sheep are not normally finished in the same way as cattle are.

Incidentally, there is a similar argument about pigs; there is a good reason for the word "pigswill". And pigs, back in the day, were often left to forage for acorns and such in the forest. Pigs can and will eat things we won't.

Various forms of wildlife might also be used, in a controlled way, as food and that would probably help the environment in the same way as introducing predators does. In some places where predators are absent, deer are becoming a damaging nuisance. Rabbits in Australia already have.

And one can't help thinking that those endless thousands of wildebeest one sees on nature documentaries are a wasted resource.

Of course, we have lots of evidence of the fact that such exploitation has to be controlled. Stocks of various popular fish, and the horrible example of the American bison - and even more horrible examples of various species we have driven to extinction by eating them.

BTW, another source of food - particularly protein - that is greatly underexploited is insects. Some of which are actually quite tasty; I understand that crickets and locusts taste rather like prawns. And insects convert feed into bodymass much better than cattle do.
 

SilentRoamer

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Your premise is that there is something natural and pleasant about human ingenuity allowing people to live entirely on reindeer meat and milk on the Mongolian steppe, but using that same ingenuity to live in a tube with perfect weather and plenty to eat is somehow unnatural and cruel. People haven't been doing the natural thing since we started using tools and la

And while I get the lack of choice, that's really a rich Westerner perspective. The citizens of Cambodia can't move out when they get bored with growing rice for a living.

Most human beings throughout history would consider themselves greatly fortunate to have a comfortable home "country" that exceeds their physical needs while having a genuine purpose to the existence of their community.


The bigger problem is going to be getting people who grew up in an engineered paradise to want to get off the bus when it arrives at some lethal exoplanet.
Maybe it is a Westerner perspective, I was born in Britain so it's likely I do have that particular world view, although lets not get into socio-politics as we don't want to bring the ire of the mods. :)

I think we're getting tripped up on our particular imaginings of a inter generational ship/environ. I am not thinking of something that is essentially a terrarium in space but more a functional ship, there are plenty of SFF novels I have read where I would be happy to live in a non planetary environment - plenty of described ships or environs where I could live out my life and never get bored.

I think my posts have been affected by my recent reading of Aldiss' Non Stop. *Spoilers For Non Stop Ahead* In this the ship is largely defunct and the humans have extremely restricted lives, they're moving between decks with insane hydroponics growing all over, things have gone down the pan. *End Spoiler*

I suppose one of the problems is that you can't guarantee future generations well-being, you can't guarantee their survival and while those on earth have similar uncertainty for their future theirs is the default position whilst those on the journeys is manufactured of their own volition. We all make choices for our future and the future of our children if we have them and this would be a pretty big moral decision.

It could be that we get to the point where this isn't a particularly big moral decision, it could be like decide to emigrate to Australia or buy a shack in the middle of nowhere. Whichever way at some point there will be a moral dilemma before it becomes a normal and accepted everyday occurrence.
 

Onyx

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I am not thinking of something that is essentially a terrarium in space but more a functional ship,
I guess I've never understood the depiction of a generation ship full of metal corridors. If you don't have the technology to store human genes and birth the people you need when you arrive, how are you doing that with the rest of the earth life you'll need when you get there? So I've never understood having a ship full of people that wasn't like a park full of life. And if you can just breed what you need from stored ova when you arrive, you can do the same with the people using a much smaller multigeneration crew.

This is one of those SF problems that doesn't work on paper.
 

Montero

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Raised, yes. But most of those animals are grain finished, and that grain is edible by people

.
Yes and no. Technically people could eat the grain, but in the main it is of lower quality than that normally used for flour. Animal feed also includes waste products like the pulp from sugar beet after the sugar has been extracted.

Agree regarding inefficiency of cattle carcases - but if what you are doing is keeping cows for milk, then that changes the efficiency. The thing that has happened in the modern world is having separate breeds for dairy and meat and people coming to expect the chunkier carcase of the meat breed. Same with sheep - as in there are wool breeds and meat breeds and modern consumers expect a chunky chop. There is also the expectation that everything is eaten when young and tender. If you brought end of life dairy cattle and wool sheep more into the food chain then that would help a bit. There has been work on promoting mutton from end of life sheep. I like mutton - it has a lot more flavour than lamb and if it is properly aged and slow cooked, no problem with texture. It used to be that sheep produced wool and you ate them at end of life. Britain used to be a massive producer of wool and we were known for eating mutton. Cattle used to be multi-purpose too - not just meat and milk but also as bullocks for ploughing and pulling heavy wagons. At end of working life - eaten.

In terms of methane - have any tests been done on how much methane people produce - and whether it increases on a vegetarian diet?
 
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Onyx

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Yes and no. Technically people could eat the grain, but in the main it is of lower quality than that normally used for flour. Animal feed also includes waste products like the pulp from sugar beet after the sugar has been extracted.

Agree regarding inefficiency of cattle carcases - but if what you are doing is keeping cows for milk, then that changes the efficiency. The thing that has happened in the modern world is having separate breeds for dairy and meat and people coming to expect the chunkier carcase of the meat breed. Same with sheep - as in there are wool breeds and meat breeds and modern consumers expect a chunky chop. There is also the expectation that everything is eaten when young and tender. If you brought end of life dairy cattle and wool sheep more into the food chain then that would help a bit. There has been work on promoting mutton from end of life sheep. I like mutton - it has a lot more flavour than lamb and if it is properly aged and slow cooked, no problem with texture. It used to be that sheep produced wool and you ate them at end of life. Britain used to be a massive producer of wool and we were known for eating mutton. Cattle used to be multi-purpose too - not just meat and milk but also as bullocks for ploughing and pulling heavy wagons. At end of working life - eaten.

In terms of methane - haven't any tests been done on how much methane people produce - and whether it increases on a vegetarian diet?
Methane is due to specific stomach flora. Kangaroo flora is being considered for use in cows and sheep because it doesn't produce much methane. This is a species issue, not a vegetarian issue.
 

Parson

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Stephen Palmer

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The main problem is feeding food to livestock, but there are many other, smaller, problems too.
The sheep/land argument above is correct imo.
Regardless of issues of plant crop quality, with an increasing population, feeding food to livestock instead of to people is madness.
Vegetarianism or semi-vegetarianism is the way forward!
 

Montero

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Population reduction is the best way forward on saving the planet (see Population Matters for example). Yes, individuals reducing their consumption helps, but dropping the number of individuals is also crucial.

Other than that - I have found a link on human farts - https://www.quora.com/Do-human-farts-contribute-to-global-warming
Which does show that a higher fibre diet increases the farts, but says they are still insignificant.

And a different article on cows
https://gizmodo.com/we-ve-grossly-underestimated-how-much-cow-farts-are-con-1818993089
Says 30 to 50 gallons of methane a day - which sounds rather high.

Other than that, a few comments:

1. Before we kept cattle, there were large ruminants over much of the planet - bison, buffalo, deer, elk, reindeer - which will have the same impact as grass fed cattle

2. It isn't possible to ignore crop quality - if people won't or can't eat it, then it is pointless, plus as said, waste products from human food also go to animals - it is already established those are bits we can't eat.

3. Both being an omnivore or a vegetarian includes drinking milk and eating eggs - for that you have to breed animals and birds and you have a surplus of males, which you either mature and then eat, or kill at birth. At present in Western farming practice most dairy cattle bulls and cockerels are killed just after birth. Commercial laying chickens are "autosexing" which means the cockerel and hen chicks are visually different, so people have the lovely job of separating the sexes and killing the cockerels. There are also a lot of bereft cows who give birth then immediately lose their calf. If the calves were grown to the point they are weaned and the mother is moving on, that would be more ethical. However, as mentioned earlier, dairy cattle are not "beefy" so they are less popular for eating, though there are people who are raising dairy calves for meat - or putting a beef bull on a dairy cow, so the calf has meat value. Though breeding pure dairy calves is still necessary for continuing the breed, with of course, the production of surplus dairy bull calves.

The detail is important in all of this - especially in terms of ethics.
 

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1. Before we kept cattle, there were large ruminants over much of the planet - bison, buffalo, deer, elk, reindeer - which will have the same impact as grass fed cattle

- They lived in naturally-limited populations fitting with their environments, unlike cows, which are mass populations on artificial, human-limited populations. Hence, devastating habitat destruction.

2. It isn't possible to ignore crop quality - if people won't or can't eat it, then it is pointless, plus as said, waste products from human food also go to animals - it is already established those are bits we can't eat.

- Protein is protein. And we need less than people realise.

3. Both being an omnivore or a vegetarian includes drinking milk and eating eggs - for that you have to breed animals and birds and you have a surplus of males, which you either mature and then eat, or kill at birth. At present in Western farming practice most dairy cattle bulls and cockerels are killed just after birth. Commercial laying chickens are "autosexing" which means the cockerel and hen chicks are visually different, so people have the lovely job of separating the sexes and killing the cockerels. There are also a lot of bereft cows who give birth then immediately lose their calf. If the calves were grown to the point they are weaned and the mother is moving on, that would be more ethical. However, as mentioned earlier, dairy cattle are not "beefy" so they are less popular for eating, though there are people who are raising dairy calves for meat - or putting a beef bull on a dairy cow, so the calf has meat value. Though breeding pure dairy calves is still necessary for continuing the breed, with of course, the production of surplus dairy bull calves.

The detail is important in all of this - especially in terms of ethics.
Agreed, but this works on the local scale. On the national/global scale, it leads to disaster.
I, a vegetarian of 30+ years, would certainly consider eating meat from a small-scale, locally responsible, ethical/humane slaughtering farm. But there are very few of those.

^^ oops, a couple of my replies in the quote!
 

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