Last night I downloaded Volume 1, No. 1, of the Northern Plains Ethics Journal. It is a work born out of the Northern Plains Ethics Institute, a scholarly endeavor that will regularly bring public and academic conversations about ethics together in one edited journal. You can download the journal for free at this link here. It is a collaborative project funded in part by the North Dakota Humanities Council (if one wanted to donate any modest or obnoxious monetary sum to the NDHC, they can easily do so at this link here).
Thus far I have read the introductory remarks by friend and colleague, John Helgeland, and also an article by another friend and scholar, Tayo Basquiat. Of the former, Helgeland says,
…ethics aims its focus at the future. So, ethics is the kind of thinking that imagines the future, to conceive how things could be better and different. Friends doing the Theology of Hope tell us the meaning of hope, namely, that tomorrow can be different from today. People need not feel imprisoned in a web of human frustration. Working through problems in concert creates a community of concern, a value of which is to understand that we are not alone in response to problems and challenges. (Helgeland, 2013: 5)
Of the latter, Basquiat speaks to ethics in the face of roaring economic energy development in western North Dakota. Numerous quotes popped out at me, and I’ll give you a short slice of one of those here. Speaking to how one faces the realities of violence on women as a repercussion of male-dominated petroleum booms, Basquiat focused on that, and broadened it to other groups. He says,
This difficult work is entailed in widening the values which are given power, because, as the old saw goes, when money talks, people listen. I propose listening to people instead of money. Vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly, and those unable to work are always in danger of having their values ignored and of having to bear the costs of models of development that focus too narrowly on growth. The question is how do we account for values such as personal safety or clean water if such values are always seen as derivative, secondary, or can’t be monetized for quantification in the calculus? (Basquiat, 2013: 42)
If we take what Helgeland and Basquiat said together, we do have the ability to shape the future, to modify existing institutions so that they can keep up with social and cultural changes. The onus is on all of us, though. I haven’t much to add to that, other than to again recommend visiting this journal in all of its thoughtful glory.