Free English Essays

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Free English Essays

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Free English essays - sample on society

"Societies" can't make the kinds of conscious risk assessments that informed individuals do. Instead, those decisions are made by small subsets of the society, with most individuals (including many leaders) unaware that they are being made. Furthermore, although questions of intergenerational equity do play a role in individual risk assessment (women will, for example, avoid consuming substances in pregnancy they think may later harm their children), we believe that it should play a much larger role in social risk-taking. Social systems have adapted to the consequences of inevitable individual deaths. But should our generation's "decision" to wipe out much of Earth's biodiversity be carried out, the consequences could plague our descendants for a hundred thousand generations or more.

The consequences of mistakes in social risk-taking can be therefore much more widespread and long-lasting than those of individual risk-taking. As has often been said about the extinction crisis, we are not just causing the deaths of many other organisms, we are causing an end to their births. To most people, the latter is a much grimmer consequence, be it for rhinos or for humanity. Since the probability of the extinction of many organisms is very high and the consequences are deemed very serious, the risk being run by not dealing effectively with the extinction crisis is gigantic.

Social risk-benefit decisions differ from personal ones in another important way. The kinds of risks one faces day to day tend to be familiar and easily perceived, as are the benefits. Most of us have seen many automobile accidents, if not in person, then on the evening news. The risks one runs in driving are part of everyday life, but so is the convenience of personal transportation. Virtually everyone over fifty has seen a friend or relative die miserably of cancer and has lost someone close from a heart attack. Costs that are thought to lie far in the future may be heavily discounted - ”the "getting lung cancer in my seventies is a small price to pay for the joy of smoking until then" syndrome. But easily perceived risks are often ignored if one values the benefits highly enough. Skydivers are in no doubt about the potential costs of the chute are not opening but know the exhilaration of the drop. Many regularly confront the zero infinity dilemma of jumping out of an airplane for the fun of it and accept the risk.

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