Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2022

Lessons from the Pandemic: Tragedy of the Commons vs. Social Contracts

The recent pandemic has provided a lot of insights into how societies and governments around the world respond to the kind of collective crisis, where the potential harm faced by each member of the community does not primarily depend on their direct actions, but also on the actions of anybody around them. We can hope to draw some lessons from these insights for the the climate crisis, which presents similar challenges but over a much longer time and at global scale. On the bright side, lessons from the pandemic have shown that eventually most governments and communities have eventually responded quite decisively and to a level that might not have been expected.  One specific episode that happened in Switzerland around June 6th 2020, I found particularly insightful: the question of wearing masks in public transport. In the days leading up to June 6th, an estimated less than 5% of passengers in public were wearing masks. Despite the government having strongly recommended it and repeatedl

Lessons from the Pandemic: The Bias towards Inaction

In the context of the climate crisis, I have been wondering why we have so far not been acting more decisively to prevent what could credibly turn into the largest civilisatory catastrophe in recent human history (at least in absolute terms).  The pandemic has provided an opportunity to observe the rapid unfolding of a wide range of collective and government crisis responses, that could help to identify some pattern. The  trolley problem  is a famous thought experiment to illustrate an ethical dilemma where the needs of the many might outweigh the needs of the few : a trolley is assumed to be barreling down the track towards a group of people that it would most likely hit while a bystander has the opportunity to move a switch, which will redirect the trolley on another track, where it will likely hit a single other person. While moral philosophers  have a more nuanced perspective on the moral equivalence of action vs. inaction, of doing vs. allowing ,  the laws and norms of most commun