Nils Gilman looks at the morality (or lack thereof) of our carbon-intensive way of life, by way of analogy with antebellum slavery. The average (mean) global citizen today wields roughly 20 times the intrinsic power of a single human being (~2,000 watts). It’s like having 20 “energy slaves” to do your bidding at any time. In the US it’s more like 100 human powered equivalents (~10,000 watts). Most North Americans have a hard time imagining life without the fossil fueled slaves. And so it was that most of us 150 years ago, other than a few radical eccentrics, had a hard time imagining our lives without the economic fruits of literal slavery.
Andrew Revkin notes on Dot Earth that the costs of an enormous earthquake in Indonesia, and in Japan are measured very differently. In Indonesia (or alternatively, Haiti) the cost is measured in human lives. More than 200,000 dead, but only $14 billion. In Japan, there’s a tenfold difference. ~20,000 dead, but $300 billion. I can’t help but think this says something about the morality of our global economy. What, I’m not quite sure.