5KL: A Perfect Moral Storm

“[H]umanity is in the grip of a profound ethical challenge that our current institutions and theories are ill-equipped to meet….It is genuinely global, profoundly intergenerational, and occurs in a setting where we lack robust theory and institutions to guide us.”
–Stephen Gardiner

PrintIn September, The Architectural League announced The Five Thousand Pound Life, an ambitious initiative of live programs, digital releases, and a major design study that seeks to imagine a viable American future in light of the urgent challenge climate change poses to our environment, economy, and society. Since the initiative’s launch, League Executive Director Rosalie Genevro and J. Clawson Mills Fellow Andrew Wade published an introduction to the premises, prospects, and primary components of the project; Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication led off the public lecture series with a discussion of American perceptions and understanding of climate change; followed by a program with Melissa Lane, a professor of politics at Princeton University, who articulated a new ideal of citizenship for a sustainable society (documentation of which is now available on the League’s site here).


Stephen Gardiner

Concluding the fall’s Five Thousand Pound Life programming, which focused on climate change communication and ethics, Stephen Gardiner, a professor of philosophy at the University of Washington, Seattle, lectured on negotiating responsibilities and actions—both individual and collective—in the global, intergenerational crisis of climate change. The lecture began by framing the climate problem as a severe ethical challenge, a “perfect moral storm,” and then went on to confront the worry, memorably expressed by Dale Jamieson, that “today we face the possibility that the global environment may be destroyed, yet no one will be responsible.”

The argument of Gardiner’s lecture is embodied by his opinion piece “The Ethical Dimension of Tackling Climate Change,” reprinted on the League’s site from Yale Environment 360. Following his talk, Gardiner discussed the implications of his research for design with respondents Adam Yarinsky, architect and principal of Architecture Research Office, and Joel Towers, Executive Dean of Parsons The New School for Design. Responses and questions from Yarinksy and Towers, and a response by Gardiner, are presented after the essay.


The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.