We also asked Edward Queen, director of D. Abbott Turner Program in Ethics and Servant Leadership at Emory Universitys Center for Ethics, what Southern Co. should do to deal with global warming:
The issue primarily ought to be framed in terms of to whom or to what does the Southern Company owe an obligation? Obviously, the company has many people and many values to whom and to which it owes obligations: Its customers to whom it owes an obligation of safe and affordable electricity, its shareholders to whom it owes a return on their investment, its employees, the law, and, one which gets ignored too often, the wider society without which it would not exist. For it is society itself, through the creation of the rule of law, the establishment of property rights, and the legal construct of incorporation that brings such businesses into existence and grants them their privileges.
Given these multiple obligations, it probably is difficult to condemn a company for producing a product in a lawful and transparent matter. However, it is morally questionable, at a minimum, for a corporation, such as the Southern Company, aggressively to oppose legislation that serves the greater good because it may be against its short-term self-interest.
And we asked a series of questions about the broader issue of global warming and corporate responsibility to the following individuals from around the country.
Dr. Kenyn M. Cureton is vice president for convention relations, executive committee, for the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville. CL interviewed him via e-mail:
Is global warming a serious problem? Do you think theres enough evidence to warrant mandatory controls of greenhouse gas emissions?
The scientific community remains divided on the effects and magnitude of mankinds impact on climate change. Consequently, it would be premature to require mandatory and strict controls or sign treaties on emissions before there is both consensus and verification.
Is there a religious side to the debate over global warming? Can faith lend insight into how society interacts with natural environments?
Southern Baptist beliefs are based on the Bible. Contrary to the evolutionary theory, which teaches that the universe is the result of an accident, the Bible teaches that an intelligent creator designed the heavens and the Earth (Genesis 1:1), declared it good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 32), and it reveals his handiwork (Psalm 19:1-6). Further, God created mankind in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), placed us in value above the rest of creation, and commanded us to exercise caring stewardship and dominion over the Earth and environment (Genesis 1:28, cf. Psalm 8).
However, mankind willfully disobeyed God, plunging the whole creation into corruption because of our sin (Genesis 3:1-19). Since the fall into sin, we have often ignored the Creator, shirked our stewardship of the environment, and further defiled His good creation. Some in our culture have completely rejected God the Father in favor of deifying Mother Earth, made environmentalism into a neo-pagan religion, and elevated animal and plant life to the place of equal or greater value with that of human life (Romans 1:21-25).
In order to advance radical public policy solutions, some are even using global warming theories to manufacture environmental doomsday scenarios, like Hollywood popularized in The Day After Tomorrow. These public policies could have a negative impact on the economy, and in turn, reduce opportunities for the working poor (Exodus 23:11, Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22)
In the non-binding resolution passed by the messengers to the Convention meeting in Greensboro, N.C., back in June, Southern Baptists:
What is the appropriate balance between allowing economically vital corporations to operate freely and controlling potentially dangerous pollutants?
That is the rub maintaining a profitable company while restricting pollutants. It is impossible to be definitive about the appropriate balance because I believe it would be different for each corporation.
Do coal-burning electric utilities, or other industries that burn fossil fuels, have a moral obligation to voluntarily do something about global warming?
All citizens have a moral obligation to care for the environment, and that includes industry. Those businesses that produce polluting emissions have a responsibility to find ways to reduce their negative impact on the environment. However, there is also the danger of overreacting and the result could well be the unnecessary restriction of economic development, which in turn would have a negative impact on the livelihood of our poorest citizens to whom we also have a moral obligation.
I miss Stefan's Vintage Clothing!
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