In The Air We Breathe, broadcast on KUED in February, the effects of smog in the valleys of northern Utah were made clear. The smog is sickening and, in some cases (which is fated to increase in number as the population increases), killing us.
It’s not sudden death, but death in slow-motion, over a period of time. One point made by a scientist—one not emphasized enough—was what might be called death by genetic transmission to future generations. Toxic particles, breathed in today, damage cells that surface later as damaged cells in persons yet to be born.
I suggest we do what philosophers call a counterfactual thought experiment, or a “What if …?” scenario.
What if all the unborn later die from the effects of smog? What would change? With no one around, what would happen to the values we have today? What would happen to our traditions?
Obviously, they would vanish. In this scenario we assume that we value the unborn more than we do ourselves. They, not us, are what count.
For more on this kind of thought experiment, see Samuel Scheffler’s book Death & the Afterlife. “Afterlife” does not refer to our own personal afterlife, but to the unborn.