Ecological ethics versus entry for asylum seekers: australia’s moral dilemma (JUL)

14 February 2009

Media Releases 2009

Australians must weigh the obligation to care for fellow humans in need against the good of the environment and the rights of future generations, according to Dr Paul Collins, author and broadcaster.

Dr Collins says the debate about accepting refugees and asylum-seekers has been conducted in a trite and naïve manner.

“One side argues we have an absolute moral obligation to accept refugees who are likely to suffer persecution in their own countries while the other argues that these people will take scarce jobs away from Australians,” says Dr Collins.

“It is, in fact, far more complex – other moral principles have been forgotten. We do have an obligation to confront the complete lack of equity in the distribution of resources. But the good of the environment must also be given priority,” he says.

Dr Collins says there is a principle that ecological ethics has primacy and that human-social ethics are derived from ecological imperatives.

“Future generations have a right to share in the goods of the earth,” he says. “So we must consider the long-term environmental consequences of a larger population.”

Dr Collins says Australia may soon be faced with the problems of countries that are drowning as a consequence of excessive burning of fossil fuel.

“Since we cannot look after everybody, we have to consider the nature of our obligations to specific groups of people. I would give the Pacific Islands priority,” he says.

Dr Collins says we must retreat from our ‘development binge’.

“Australia must rapidly decrease its use of non-renewable resources, lower its standard of living by a quarter, halt all infrastructure development that is environmentally destructive, and abandon the notion of ‘expansion’ as the sole measure of our economy,” he says.

“This is the only way we can morally argue against a development binge in the third world. We should freely share knowledge, experience and technology with other countries and, in exchange, get their guarantee to stop people-smuggling rackets and to work on limiting population growth,” Dr Collins concluded.

Free Public Meeting

Dr Collins will address this moral dilemma in a public meeting at Havelock House, 85 Northbourne Ave, Turner (Canberra) at 3.30pm on Saturday 7 July. All welcome.

Further information:

Paul Collins, Ph(h): 02 6232 9442 Ph(mobile): 0412 550 370

Jenny Goldie (SPA National Director) Ph: 02 6235 5488 E:


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