Having thought about how ‘’ will be a crucial part of the transition to a low carbon economy, I got to thinking about morality. How can we know which borders to change and how? How can we make value judgements about sustainability?

I’m sure (hope?) that nearly all of you have your own moral framework within which you evaluate options and make decisions. Some of you will be religious, some of you scientific, some of you philosophical. All of you will be constrained to some extent by your evolutionary heritage: the urge to secure the best resources for those closest to you, typically in this kind of order: children/spouse/family/friends/religious co-believers/nation/race/humanity/animals/everything else.

So, in a world where we need to accept that changing borders is a necessary part of progress, how can we extend or refine our morality to cope with and benefit from the transition?

For what it’s worth, I think we need to listen to Abdel Khader Khan (Afghani Bombay Mafia don and spiritual leader to the book’s hero):

“Okay. Here goes. The Universe began about fifteen billion years ago, in almost absolute simplicity, and it’s been getting more and more complex ever since. This movement from the simple to the complex is built into the web and weave of the universe, and it’s called the tendency towards complexity. We’re the products of this complexification, and so are the birds, and the bees, and the trees, and the stars, and even the galaxies of stars. And if we were to get wiped out in a cosmic explosion, like an asteroid impact of something, some other expression of our level of complexity would emerge, because that’s what the universe does… …the final or ultimate complexity – the place where all this complexity is going – is what, or who, we might call God. And anything that promotes, enhances, or accelerates this movement towards God is good. Anything that inhibits, impedes, or prevents it is evil. And if we want to know if something is good or evil… …then we ask the questions: And then we have a pretty good idea whether it’s good or evil. What’s more important, we know why it’s good or evil.”

Let’s give it the acid test:

– if everyone did this we’d run out of fuel too quickly – therefore it’s not good. (I’ll refrain from ‘evil’, but…)

– if everyone did this we’d reduce our carbon footprint and increase the amount of available food – therefore it’s good.

I won’t labour the point: you get the idea. Does this idea of morality work for you? I’ve been using it since I read Shantaram and I have found it pretty robust: not that it means that I always choose the good option, but that’s another challenge entirely.