The Ethos of Green is driven by the Pathos of the Environment and limits the Logos of Action.
Whew! Is that a mouthful or what? To understand this statement, let us start with some definitions. These definitions are directed toward usages on which the above statement is derived.
Ethos: Ethos refers to the ethical appeal or argument derived from or ascribed to a particular issue. A word from the Greek language (sometimes referenced as “character”), it can also be used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals which guide a group of people, in size from a small group or community up to that of nations or an alliance of nations. It can also be the guiding principles by which adherents of a belief respond to issues surrounding that belief.
Pathos, again from the Greek is “suffering” or “experience”, is a term referring to the emotional appeal derived from or ascribed to a particular condition or issue and can be denoted as being the emotive response akin to sympathy sufficient to cause one to take action regarding a particular subject. In some, pathos could be the guiding cause for some to become activists in a particular cause, such as finding shelter for the homeless as a possible example.
Now Logos, as I am using it here, is again from the Geek “logic” or to “reason” and on the one hand is a reference to what one could consider t be the logical course of action derived from the effects rendered by Ethos and Pathos. On the other hand, it could be the conclusions drawn from evaluating the circumstances or issue from which the Ethos and Pathos derive. For some, the Ethos of the situation could dictate a Logos reaction.
Now, what is it that I am driving at here?
In this particular case, when I refer to Green, I am of course referring to a lot of the “Green” activities and “Green” organizations which have coalesced around environmental issues. In some measure, I am referring to the ethical limitations and guidelines by which they must operate.
When I refer to the Pathos of the environment, I am referring to the appeal of nature, the call (if you will) from living things to living things, the sensations of sympathy that humans have toward various animals and green living things and the obligations that this call creates in most, if not all, humans. Many studies have demonstrated that people do better if they have access to green areas, i.e. parks, green belts, trees near parking lots and apartment buildings, lawns and flowers and so on. In the case of animals, who can deny that polar bear cubs are cute, as are most puppies, kittens and the young of most any creature?
To some degree, then, I am talking about the ethical behavior of “greenies”, of those individuals who take a proactive stance when it comes to the environment. It could be said that I am referring to those who feel the pathos of the environment and respond in some manner. In Logos, I am referring then to the actions taken which this response evokes.
In light of this, let us look at the Global warming debate, or the climate change debate, or whatever particular term is preferable to use. It can be said that there are two (at last two) camps, which might be defined as “believers” or “alarmists” in one camp and “deniers” or “skeptics” in the other.
So let us take a look at my usage of the phrasing Ethos of Green, Pathos of the Environment and Logos of Action in this context.
For someone who believes that CO2 is causing dangerous changes to the environment, who feels the Pathos this harm is creating and engages in the logos of action, what forms might this take? There is the old saying: “The end justifies the means.” For those who believe strongly in this potentially damaging situation, they may very well believe that the ethos of the situation calls upon them to adopt this strategy. After all, it is the environment we are talking about here. Damage it sufficiently, humans cannot survive. It is the appeal of things like polar bear cubs and little baby ducks and all the other cute little animals that are going to suffer from the depredations nasty old humans are going to offer to them. If a little white lie saves a polar bear cub or saves even an ugly duckling, is this not justified in doing so? Does not the ethos of responding to the pathos of the environment support this?
Ethos is related to ethical actions, but when the ethical actions of the individual rub up against the ethos of the bigger picture, which is to win out? A researcher discovers information which demonstrates the effects to the environment is not as great as feared; the ethics of that individual may insist that this information be presented to all, as in publishing a paper for example. Yet the editor of the paper in responding to both the ethos and the pathos of concern for all things within the environment might well believe that publishing this information will result in further damage. By the lights of this individual’s understanding or by the tugs of the ethos of their beliefs, it can easily be justified not to publish the paper. The logos of their situation demands that the course of action be to prevent the publication, not because they disbelieve the validity of the research, but because they are responding to a higher calling, a greater ethos than that of individual responsibility to the truth. The logos of the individual researcher’s ethic requires what the individual has discovered be presented and distributed, regardless of potential dangers either pro or con.
Obviously there is conflict between the two driving levels of ethics.
In another way that ethos to green may enter the picture is in the case(s) of “green machines”, that is to say those large organizations committed to protecting the environment. In this case, the ethos of green also includes a subset which might be entitled the “ethos of the Greenback,” or the ethos of money, of the ethos of fundraising, of the ethos of the dollar. This large organization is committed to the pathos of the environment, of the need to do things to protect it, of the need to “do whatever it takes” to do so. What happens is a hijack or a diversion of the original intent. The original intent was to do good things for the environment. However, a large organization, just like any business, requires financing to keep the doors open. While the organization may decry the “greed” of large corporations, they find themselves driven by the same financial motivations. The office rent has to be paid, the paid staff has to receive their paychecks, and those who do the artwork and provide the wording used in the ads placed in various media have to be paid. In time, all the driving forces of capitalism at its most basic come home to roost even with those who decry the evils of capitalism the loudest.
So, in these organizations fundraising becomes a major issue. In fact, fundraising becomes as important if not more important than the original goal. Without financing, the organization would fade away and do no good at all. So finances become important. The logos of the actions this organization takes starts to incorporate this necessary feature. When the ethics of the individual involved in of these organizations rub up against the ethos of the entire situation, often they accept as necessary actions which they as an individual might not like, or might even abhor, but in light of the pathos from the environment and the ethos of what needs to be done, they often then subscribe to the ethos instead.
How might this play out? Take an example such as this:
I have seen a number of images such as this in various places along with an article decrying how terrible it is and how something needs done about it.
How difficult would it be to do something? There are a large number of green organizations with a lot of money in their accounts. How expensive would it be to charter an old freighter or two, hire crew(s) and go out with some derricks on deck with some fine nets and swimmers to go scoop things like this up, to simply remove it from the ocean?
But for some organizations, whose ethos has grown to include fundraising as a primary methodology of operations, to do so would actually be counterproductive. Without such images, for example, they would not be able to inspire pathos in those who contribute to their cause. They need the finances to keep the doors open, finances to fund lobbyists to inform and manipulate politicians, lawyers to carry out their lawsuits, money foradvertising and speech making and word-smithing to keep their views out among the populace and among their donors. Their ethos has grown to incorporate the “big picture” rather than what their initial objective was. Their logos of action have changed from actually doing something about it to making sure everyone else does something about it. The logos of action would probably involve legions of lawyers suing somebody over dumping it in the ocean, or failing to prevent its dumping or introduction into the ocean, lobbyists to pigeonhole politicians about the need for more laws to prevent this and fines to punish those who do. The simplest course of action would be to use some of the money raised and go pick it up. That might even be the most logical. But the new ethos prevents that from happening.
So, we come to such things as the constant repetition of “this year was the warmest in the century”. “If things don’t change, the weather is going to do terrible things.” “Hurricanes are going to increase, storms are going to be more severe.” And so on and so on. Those who are engaged by the pathos of the environment, who are locked into the ethos of the green (and especially the ethos of the greenback) cannot take the position of “Well, things are actually not all that bad,” because to do so looses them the ethos and pathos of their supporters, their donors, whose logos of action is to write these organizations a big check in order to meet their logos of action spurred by their feelings of ethos and pathos. If the primary organizations and individuals who feel the ethos of green, who are responding to the pathos of the environment take the position that there is no such thing as global warming or climate change or human derived climate change, then how do they reconcile this position to the need TO DO SOMETHING? The ethos of protecting climate means that something, everything must be done and if this means repeating data which can be easily demonstrated to either be false or to be less of a problem as being more damaging and more dangerous, the ethos of the situation supports the position that it is okay to do so. It is but a minor matter in responding to the pathos of the situation. The greater good of protecting the environment outweighs the lesser evil of being part of a lie.
This also leads to the position of attacking the messenger of contrary data. The believer is responding to their ethos of whatever it takes to prevent damage to the environment, so it is okay to belittle the bearer of evidence that reports to the contrary of what their pathos is reporting. The fact that others are seen doing so only makes it even easier to take this course of action. Their ethos in the manner is affirmed by the actions of many. Their individual logos of action is to do anything which prevents that contrary information from being believable by others, which undercuts their own ethos.
Then there is the other camp. The skeptics, the ones believers label as “deniers”. The conflict arises often simply because it is a case of individual ethics versus this ethos of “anything is fair when it comes to the environment.” Often, those in this other camp are drawn every bit as much by the pathos of the environment, which is to say they believe in the need to safeguard it, to be active in promoting its welfare, but due to ethical considerations, they cannot make this transition to anything goes when debating the issue. The logos of action in this case demands that credible data be viewed for what it describes, that the story it tells be heard, that truth carries a higher premium, that the end does not justify the means but rather that the end is modified by the means of getting there.
Since, for the most part, skeptics do not have the large organizations that those on the “green” side have developed; they are not motivated by this need of constant fund raising. Their ethos does not incorporate the “necessary” white lies being told in order to get donors to open their pocketbooks and check books. There could even be some who view the ethical position they take as being superior to the other camp in that they are following the dictates of their own ethical viewpoint.
Overall, if this situation is viewed as one might a teeter-totter, presently the believer camp heavily outweighs the skeptic camp. All the time and effort spent in organizing and developing those fund raising organizations press down on that side and trying to move things from that position is very difficult. The real problem, when discussing this issue lies in this fact that so many organizations which started out with a very laudable goal has had their ethos altered so that instead of being any sort of action group, they have become little more than specialized fundraising groups, who have become very, very good at promoting their position.
The only thing skeptics have going for them, at present, is the weight of truth. Eventually, truth will out. What remains to be seen is how much damage will occur in the meantime. In the meanwhile, the only worthwhile course of action I see for a true skeptic to take is to simply and calmly state the truth. Attempting the tactics of those acting under the ethos of the believers in order to outdo the believers in their own methods will only muddy the waters. I wish it were otherwise, but I truly see no alternative.