Ethics

Meaning and Ethics in Ecological Economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/02/2020 - 3:00am in

By Haydn Washington

The True Meaning of Ecological Economics

Cartoon about school of economics.

(Credit: Polyp)

Ecological economics has a problem: Pluralism is out of control, to the extent that “ecological economics” is starting to mean different methods, approaches, and values to different people. We need to know precisely what we mean by “ecological economics,” and to settle upon an ethical framework thereof.

The original thinkers in ecological economics, such as Herman Daly, were clear that ecological economics was an economics that operated within ecological limits. However, recent models associated with ecological economics do not make this clear, as seen in the following table:

 

Table 1: Models Associated with Ecological Economics

Model associated with ecological economics
Focus on population?
Focus on reducing resource use?
Focus reducing consumerism and advertising?
Focus on equity?
Refuses to be an “engine of growth?”

Steady state economy
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Degrowth
Mixed—depends on author
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Social ecological economics
No
Yes
Unclear, but Spash (2012) argues yes
Yes
Yes, though controlling growthism not key focus

Circular economy
No
Yes
No
Yes
No

Green economy
No
Yes
No
Yes
No

Sharing economy
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Unsure

Doughnut economics
No
Yes
Mentioned then ignored
Yes (key focus)
Growth “agnostic”

Population and Consumerism: Missing Factors in Today’s Models of Ecological Economics

The key problem indicated by the table above regards population and consumerism. Many so-called ecological economics models do not emphasize either factor. Discussion of population, especially, seems to be taboo! Proponents of all models want to reduce resource use, yet many fail to discuss or seek to change consumerism. All models address the need for greater equity (at least for humans). However, only two models are clear that they are not complicit with further economic growth (the steady state economy and degrowth).

Polyp cartoon about growth.

(Credit: Polyp)

Environmental scientists use the IPAT formula—Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology—to assess environmental impact. Accordingly, society cannot live within ecological limits if it ignores population as a driver of impact. Similarly, seeking to reduce resource use without tackling the worldview of consumerism is bound for failure. Yet, many models that are loosely described as part of or congruent with ecological economics fail to describe an economy that would actually operate within ecological limits. We must establish, clearly and unambiguously, that operating within ecological limits is the meaning of ecological economics. That means we must stop the denial regarding population and consumerism.

 

 

 

A Call to Create a “New” Ecological Economics

The other major problem ecological economics must face pertains to its worldview and ethics. Clive Spash notes that an all-encompassing pluralism has led to incoherence and a brushing over of fundamental conflicts among various worldviews. I believe it is time for a “new” ecological economics which foregrounds ecocentrism, ecological ethics, and ecojustice. An emphasis on these themes can assist society in reaching a sustainable future where it accepts nature’s intrinsic value and extends respect to, and an obligation to protect, the nonhuman world.

Anthropocentric era cartoon.

(Credi: Polyp)

The model from Table 1 that comes closest to foregrounding ecological ethics is the steady state economy. Most of the other models explicitly (or implicitly) represent a strong anthropocentric bias. With regard to any model, however, ecological economics should break free from neoliberalism, including the commodification of nature. The idea of “People’s Contributions to Nature” needs to replace the anthropocentric “Nature’s Contributions to People” (also known as “ecosystem services”).

Given the themes of ecocentrism, ecological ethics, and ecojustice, a research agenda for ecological economics will adhere to the following:

  1. Adopt ecocentrism and ecological ethics to give ecological economics the coherent vision that it has lacked since its inception.
  2. Investigate to what extent ecological economics has been influenced by anthropocentrism and subsumed by neoliberal ideology.
  3. Emphasize ecological limits while tending to ecological ethics and ecojustice. This includes a focus on the key drivers of population and consumption.
  4. Explore connections with Earth jurisprudence, particularly the broader call for systemic government reform.
  5. Embrace ecojustice and integrate it with social justice.
  6. Study what the economics of an ecologically sustainable (or regenerative) agriculture might be (e.g., organic farming, agroecology, permaculture, etc.).
  7. Apply ecojustice to nature conservation through the support of the “Nature Needs Half” vision where half of terrestrial lands are protected in conservation reserves.
  8. Examine to what extent the commodification of nature is driven by anthropocentric and neoliberal ideology and ethics.
  9. Investigate the deep denial in society and orthodox economics (and also perhaps lurking in some corners of ecological economics) of limits to economic growth.
  10. Determine why society and governments—if they speak at all of “justice”—speak only of social justice and ignore the need for ecojustice for nonhuman nature.
  11. Examine the concept of ecodemocracy, where nature is given representation in governance systems.

Completing this agenda will bring us closer to adopting the only model that emphasizes ecological limits, provides an ethical framework, and strives for ecojustice: the steady state economy. Only when we have a steady state economy, virtuous to nature, will the earth thrive again for its human and nonhuman occupants.

For more information on ethics in ecological economics, check out these works below:

Burkey, T.V. 2017. Ethics for a full world: or, can animal-lovers save the world? Clairview Books, West Sussex, UK.

Washington, H. and M. Maloney. 2019. The need for ecologic ethics in a new ecological economics. Ecological Economics 169.

Washington, H., I. Lowe, and H. Kopnina. 2019. Why do society and academia ignore the Scientists Warning to Humanity on population? Journal of Futures Studies.

Haydn WashingtonDr. Haydn Washington is an environmental scientist and writer with a 40-year history in environmental science. He also writes extensively on ecological economics and ecological ethics. He is an Adjunct Lecturer in the PANGEA Research Centre, University of New South Wales. His books include Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand (2011 with John Cook), Human Dependence on Nature (2013), Demystifying Sustainability (2015), A Sense of Wonder Towards Nature, (2018) and What Can I Do to Help Heal the Environmental Crisis? (2020). He is the co-editor of the 2019 Springer book Conservation: Integrating Social and Ecological Justice. Haydn is Co-Director of the NSW CASSE Chapter, board member of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, and on the advisory boards of the journals Ecological Citizen and Sustainability. He is also on the Steering Committee of the new group “GENIE” (www.ecodemocracy.net).

The post Meaning and Ethics in Ecological Economics appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


The government’s migration policy shows Theresa May’s once predicted Nasty Party is now in power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/02/2020 - 7:23pm in

The continual creep of the UK towards dog-whistle populism and all that follows from it continues with the government's announcement of new controls on migration.

As the Guardian notes:

Britain is to close its borders to unskilled workers and those who can’t speak English as part of a fundamental overhaul of immigration laws that will end the era of cheap EU labour in factories, warehouses, hotels and restaurants.

They summarise the points system as follows:

As the government says in its press release on the issue:

In line with the government’s manifesto commitment there will be no specific route for low-skilled workers. It is estimated 70% of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route, which will help to bring overall numbers down in future.

There will be those who say that this saves the UK from a breaking point, just as yesterday the government claimed that EU regularity non-alignment also achieved that goal, without evidence to support the claim.

Alternatively, as the CBI claims (with some justification), this will undermine the viability of many parts of the UK economy.

Brexiteers claim it does three things. It takes back control. It limits migration. And it will force up the price of UK labour, which will then be priced into work.

I agree that this will achieve the first of these two things. I really cannot see the price of labour rising significantly though: in sectors such as care and hospitality margins are already very small and there is strong price elasticity - meaning that capacity to pass on wage increases will be very low. It is more likely that we will see business failures rather than significant increases in the number of lower skilled workers already in the UK taking these jobs, which are already available to them.

The challenge that this move represents is, then, to the UK economy as a whole, where during any period of transition to whatever new labour rates emerge there will be periods of major disruption in some sectors.

These disruptions will, I suspect, be enough to have a serious impact on overall employment: it will not just be low paid jobs that will be lost as a result of this transition as whole companies fail.

And I suspect that this will also have a serious impact on growth in many low environmental impact and socially important sectors.

But there will be something, of course, much more important than that which will happen. Priti Patel has, I have no doubt, the intention of increasing racial tension when promoting this idea. The already commonly made claims that all who are not very obviously first language English speakers, let alone  from BAME communities, should ‘go back to where they came from’ will increase as a result of this move. Of that I have no doubt, at all. And I am sure that the promotion of that sentiment that this move will deliver is deliberate, even though as we know in most cases those targeted are British and have an absolute right to be here.

This government wants to promote the ‘otherness’ of Europe, at the very least. That will deliberately fuel racial tension, which they know already impacts very heavily on the lives of far too many in this country. To promote such a policy knowing its consequence, is an act of deliberate racism is my opinion.

I cannot  describe this move otherwise.

I condemn it.

Our path towards fascism continues.

Theresa May’s once predicted Nasty Party not only exists, but is in power.

We could pay a terrible price for this.

What Makes A Good Person?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 7:01am in

Tags 

Ethics

I was reminiscing today about the few actually good people I’ve known.

Two stand out, my friend Peter, who fought for Hitler; and my old teacher and coach Craig Newell.

I had—a bad childhood. My parents were alcoholics, and my father was an angry drunk. Then I went to boarding school, and I was not the sort of kid who did well at boarding school, though the one I went to was well run and preferable to being at home.

I did not come out of this believing in the goodness of humanity or that authority figures could be trusted. It’s one of the reasons I’m a good analyst in our current situation: I assume people with power are basically scum, and that when they aren’t they do the minimum and do it badly, and I’ve usually been right.

(I can also tell who the few good people are, which is why I supported Corbyn and have no time for the people who lied and smeared him.)

The only person in my life who ever proved completely worthy of trust was Craig Newell. The reason is simple: Mr. Newell (as I called him) had a code, and I NEVER saw him break it. Not ever. He never talked about his code, mind you, but I could tell he had one. He didn’t judge hardly at all, and he was never cruel. I literally never saw him be cruel even once. I never even heard of him being cruel and I did hear of his rectitude (in the best sense.)

This isn’t something you can conceal in a place like a boarding school. It is not possible.

He didn’t go out of his way to be kind or good or anything, but he didn’t step away from it when the need was obvious (as he didn’t with me, if that isn’t clear. And I was not a pleasant teenager.)

What I learned as a child is that most people don’t even meet the responsibilities of their positions (husband, wife, teacher, boss, politicians, whatever.) A few do their duty, and I honor them for it, because it is rare. But to go beyond that and actually be a man of honor is unbelievably rare.

Still, Mr. Newell wasn’t as good a man as Peter, though he was more trustworthy. Peter went out of his way to be kind. Mr. Newell wasn’t cruel, and didn’t step away from need, but Peter stepped into need and helped.

Those people who see need and help, even if it is only a little, are, again, incredibly rare.

I tend to like people, and dislike humanity. But I don’t trust either.

Still, good people exist, as do honorable ones.

There is a Jewish myth:

Lamedvavnik (Yiddish: לאַמעדוואָווניק‎), is the Yiddish term for one of the 36 humble righteous ones or Tzadikim mentioned in kabbalah or Jewish mysticism. According to this teaching, at any given time there are at least 36 holy persons in the world who are Tzadikim. These holy people are hidden; i.e., nobody knows who they are. According to some versions of the story, they themselves may not know who they are. For the sake of these 36 hidden saints, God preserves the world even if the rest of humanity has degenerated to the level of total barbarism. This is similar to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Hebrew Bible, where God told Abraham that he would spare the city of Sodom if there was a quorum of at least 10 righteous men.

This story largely encompasses how I feel about humanity. Most humans are weak: they aren’t good or bad or honorable, because they don’t have the strength. It mostly isn’t their (our) fault.

But a few are good, or honorable and rarely, both.

Money would be rather useful, as I don’t get paid by the piece. If you want to support my writing, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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Honours: 2020

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/02/2020 - 3:50pm in

Tags 

Democracy, Ethics

I wrote a piece on Australia’s Honours system for Australia Day last year and decided this year to make it an annual event. So here’s this year’s column, which had a couple of hundred words edited out of it to meet the Conversation’s arbitrary limit of 900 words. (How can you run a self-respecting corporate operation without arbitrary policies? Or KPIs on the monthly ‘performance’ of your contribution.)

In any event, here’s the article in the full glory of its 1,071 word and 6061 character glory.

We think of Gough Whitlam’s government as the most radical in our post-war history, dedicated to its leader’s “crash through or crash” style. (In the end, it crashed.) But Whitlam’s approach to Australian honours was bold only on the surface. 

Imperial Honours were scrapped. Today it’s rare for Australia’s worthies to run round town being called “Sir Bruce and Lady So and So” or “Dame Raylene” by every Tom, Dick and Harry in the street (or Sir Tom, Sir Dick and Sir Harry at the club). But when you look closer, it’s clear that Whitlam didn’t really refurbish imperial honours so much as rebrand them. 

Back then there was a hierarchy of awards and though there was some correlation between your achievement and the level of honour you received for it, where you already stood in the social hierarchy counted for much more. 

If you were out there selflessly contributing to your local community, you might eventually get an MBE (that’s a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). If you got luckier and had made more of a splash, you might get an OBE. That made you an “Officer” of the very same order of most excellent British things. Above that was the CBE which made you a “Commander” of exceedingly excellent entities. 

At the very serious end of this spectrum were two awards. A prominent departmental secretary or businessperson might be made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or a Dame Commander if she were a woman. They could call themselves  Sir Bruce or Dame Raylene. (I know of no transitions from Knight to Dame of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, but for all I know they’re all over this back in the Home Country alongside the official coins and tea towels honouring Brexit.) 

If you were really special – say you were a governor-general or ex-prime minister or perhaps an internationally recognised scientist or a top business figure, you might become Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire or Dame Grand Cross. Still, in everyday life, you only got called “Sir Bruce” or “Dame Raylene”, so mostly only Sir Tom, Sir Dick and Sir Harry down at the club would know that you were a cut above them.

There were all manner of gongs to be won even above that for the very, very special, at which point the fancy dress came out and the fun really got going. Prime Minister 

Menzies couldn’t get enough of them and, on the death of the incumbent in the position (Sir Winston Churchill) the Queen invested him Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle, which included an official residence at Walmer Castle for his annual visits to Britain. 

Beautiful plumage.

Under the new Australian honours system with which the Whitlam Government replaced this system , there is no more Sir Bruce and Lady So and So or Dame Raylene. But virtually everything else has been left intact. The new Australian Honours were described as “orders of chivalry” which is quaint. And chivalrous I guess. They were formally instituted not by the Whitlam Government, but by Her Majesty (on Prime Minister Whitlam’s advice) and her crown sits atop all the Australian Honours medals. As previously, there’s a civilian and a military division. 

Letters appear after people’s name if they want to use them, just as in the old days. But there’s a new twist. No, I’m not talking about all the people who now write “AM” on their Twitter profile. If you’re awarded an honour, in addition to the medal placed around your neck at the ceremony, you get a lapel pin. 

Because all the honours get one and most seem to wear them around town and not just at official functions or in Anzac Day marches where those who won medals are celebrated for them, in some ways, the new awards are more rather than less conspicuous than the occasional Sir Bruce or Dame Raylene for the very special ones in the old days. 

And the values that drove them are much the same. The rank or status of the reward you receive depends mostly on your social status rather than your achievement. 

As I noted last year, the level of gratitude among recipients seems to follow an equal and opposite arc. Those at the bottom seem the most thrilled for being recognised the least. As Anne Summers lamented in 2013:

Seven years ago I nominated a woman I admire for an Australian honour. It took two years but it came through and she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for a lifetime of work with victims of domestic violence. I was disappointed she had not been given a higher award – I had hoped for an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) at the very least – but she was thrilled and so was her family.

In the run-up to commenting on these honours last year, Lateral Economics sampled about half of them from 2018 back to 2013. We’ve now looked at both the Australia Day and Queen’s birthday lists from 2019 and the 2020 Australia Day list. I can report that the features I was most critical of last year are alive and well, though in one respect they’re improving (slowly). 

The under-representation of women seems to be improving, if very slowly. And it’s unclear how secure the gains are, given that women’s under-representation increased quite sharply in 2014 and reached its recent zenith in 2017. (I note it surged after the election of Coalition in 2013, but have insufficient data to be confident of any trends.) 

 

Last year I reported that, with the exception of the highest award – the AC, of which there are very few (generating a very volatile series) – women become substantially better represented in the ‘lower’ awards. This was a weak effect and has since faded to insignificance. 

We also looked at how many honours went to those whose online biographies released with the honours include work done without personal gain. Here, as you can see from the figure below, (again with the exception of the volatile AC results), the more selfless you are, the lower in the hierarchy your award is likely to be. There is no sign of change.  

Thanks to Shruti Sekhar for research assistance 

The Mail never saw that coming

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2020 - 7:28pm in

Tags 

Ethics, Politics

This is from the editorial column of the Mail today:

Of course there’s a load of nonsense in there: this is the Mail.

And equally there is a message worth noting. It is that the Mail no longer trusts this government with freedom of the press.

Even the Tories’ natural allies now think that they are a threat to a freedom that underpins democracy.

First they came for the Opposition, and The Mail rejoiced.

Then they went for the judges, and The Mail sang along.

After that they went for the civil service, and The Mail joined in.

Then they went for press freedom and The Mail never saw that coming despite all the precedents in the USA.

There are moments to despair. And moments to be angry. And moments to worry. And there are moments for all three.

Why is KPMG so obsessed by the Fair Tax Mark?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/01/2020 - 6:06pm in

Tags 

Ethics

This video is interesting:

I know Jane McCormick. And I know what she thinks about the Fair Tax Mark, which I co-founded. For reasons fo full disclosure, I should even add that a KPMG predecessor firm trained me as a chartered accountant.

And I have to say Jane is wrong.

She's wrong because the Fair Tax Mark has proved that it is possible to come up with a way of appraising the tax affairs of a company. Eight listed companies and fifty or so others have now signed up, and there are plenty more on their way. The Fair Tax Mark experience is that it can take up to two years to get the award. Those companies must think it's worth doing.

I am biased, of course, but I would suggest that they are right to think this worthwhile, and that they are right to think that an award from an organisation like the Fair Tax Mark is worth having a lot more than having one from KPMG. I strongly sense such an award is on its way.

There are several reasons for that. First, the Fair Tax Mark does not have to put notices like this on its videos:

Nor is the Fair Tax Mark conflicted by being both an auditor and a supplier of tax services.

And nor does the Fair Tax Mark work in most of the world's major tax havens, unlike KPMG, which creates another massive conflict of interest when use of them is obviously a cause for concern for anyone appraising tax practice.

What is more, until this week KPMG had never endorsed public country-by-country reporting. Even now, it's not apparent to what extent they have. And this matters when use of country-by-country reporting is critical to successfully appraising good tax practice. The Fair Tax Mark requires those gaining the award to commit to it.

So what's KPMG's problem? It looks like it's deeply aggrieved by being up against an organisation that is not conflicted when it is, profoundly so. They're probably even more upset that it is really easy to spot the difference.

I stress, I know I am biased. I am a founder of the Fair Tax Mark and I was until recently a director, and I still advise it. But I really think KPMG needs to recognise that they do not have all the answers when in this case they definitely do not. And it's time that they stopped suggesting that there is any reason apart from their conflicts of interest for this being the case.

Martin Luther King Jnr was prosecuted for tax evasion and we should worry about that

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/01/2020 - 9:05pm in

Tags 

Ethics

A fascinating discussion at the Joffe Trust conference on tax justice this morning on the way tax can be used as a mechanism for social oppression.

And I really mean oppression.

In the entire history of the state of Alabama in the USA there has only been one person prosecuted for tax evasion. That person was Martin Luther King Jnr in 1960.

As the Stanford website on King says:

King’s ....indictment came in February 1960, after an Alabama grand jury issued a warrant for his arrest on two counts of felony perjury. The state charged that King had signed fraudulent tax returns for 1956 and 1958. A state audit of King’s returns the previous month claimed that he had not reported funds he received on behalf of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and still owed the state more than $1,700. In late February a group of King’s supporters met in the New York home of Harry Belafonte and formed the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South. The committee issued press releases denouncing the charges against King as a “gross misrepresentation of fact” because King’s income had never “even approached” the $45,000 that Alabama officials claimed King received in 1958 (Papers 5:25–26).

King’s trial began in Montgomery, Alabama, on 25 May 1960. His lawyers effectively poked holes in the prosecution’s case, calling attention to the vagueness of the indictment and arguing that any expense reimbursements King may have received from SCLC were nontaxable income. Testifying in his own defense, King asserted that the tax examiner had revealed that he was “under pressure by his supervisors” to find fault with his returns (Papers 5:30). The all-white jury deliberated nearly four hours before returning a “not guilty” verdict. In a statement following the verdict King said: “This represents to my mind great hope, and it reveals that said on so many occasions, that there are hundreds and thousands of people, white people of goodwill in the South” (Papers 5:462). Although neither case posed a serious threat to King or the movement, these cases show the extent to which white officials in Alabama went to thwart civil rights gains in the state.

In a state like the U.K. where the rule of law is considerably less respected than it was, the use of tax as a mechanism for oppression cannot be dismissed at some time in the future.

This was offered as a thought today. I thought it worth sharing more widely.

Hat tip: Alex Cobham

Milking it

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/01/2020 - 9:16pm in

Tags 

Ethics

I was amused by this. It is a plaque on the wall of the old courthouse at Beaumaris in Anglesey.

The farmers are in dispute over a cow.

The lawyer is milking it.

Nothing changes.

Hat tip: David Mills

The day Gaza becomes uninhabitable

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 4:52pm in

by Anna Majavu, New Frame, January 13, 2020 In 2012, the United Nations published research suggesting that by 2016, the main aquifer supplying water to about two million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip would be “unusable” and that by 2020, the aquifer would have been damaged irreversibly. This would make Gaza uninhabitable by 2020. …

‘I’ Article About Research into Artificial Wombs and their Morality

This is another science story from yesterday’s I for 7th January 2020. It’s about current research into developing artificial wombs. At the moment, these would be for very premature babies, but they could in theory go much further, which raises some serious ethical issues.

The article by Alla Katsnelson, ‘Baby in a bag: could humans be grown in an artificial womb?’ runs

Critically preterm babies face an uncertain future. Although a foetus is considered viable at 24 weeks of gestation, only about 60 per cent of babies born so young will survive, and many will experience life-long complications.

For those born a couple of weeks earlier, the statistics are even more dire: just 10 per cent of babies born at 22 weeks are likely to survive.

building a so-called artificial womb could potentially save these babies. In October, researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands announced that they had received a grant for E2.9m (£2.5m) to develop a prototype of such a device. But the project isn’t the only artificial womb on the horizon. In 2017, researchers in Philadelphia transferred foetal lambs, aged between 105 and 115 days of gestation (equivalent to about 28 to 30 weeks human gestation), into a so-called biobag filled with artificial amniotic fluid. After several weeks in the bag, the lambs developed normally. And in March 2019, an Australian and Japanese research team kept younger lambs, about 95 days’ gestational age, alive in a different system.

Dr Matthew Kemp, who led the latter work, admits that researchers don’t fully understand foetal growth in the womb, which makes replicating it a challenge. The Dutch group noted plans to roll out a clinic-ready prototype in five years, but Dr Kemp says it will probably take much longer. And because the technology is so costly, it’s unlikely to be widely available any time soon.

So far, what researchers call artificial wombs are essentially souped-up incubators. They provide a fluid-filled space in which a foetus can receive nutrients and oxygen through a ‘placenta’. From there to full-on ectogenesis – incubating foetuses outside a human for the full duration of a pregnancy – is an enormous leap.

But many bioethicists note that technology moves quickly, and proactively thinking through the possibilities is important.

In this more futuristic vision, artificial wombs can do a lot for society, says Dr Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist at Fordham University in New York. It could allow people who can’t carry a pregnancy for whatever reason – illness, infertility, age, or gender – to do so. It might also shift some of the childbearing responsibilities carried by women. But it also raises concerns. For example, ex-utero gestation would probably turn reproductive rights on their head, says Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, a lawyer and bioethicist at the University of Manchester. If a foetus can gestate outside a woman’s body, the choice fo whether or not to have the baby might be deemed out of her hands.

Another issue is that our legal rights are predicated on having been born alive. “I don’t think that a gestating subject in an artificial womb necessarily meets that requirement,” says Romanis. “That raises some questions about human entities ex-utero that have never existed before.

There have been newspaper articles about the development of artificial wombs since the 1980s, at least. The Absurder published one c. 1985, and I think the Independent also published one in the 1990s. And the whole area of artificial reproduction has been a live issue since the first ‘test tube’ baby created through in vitro fertilisation in the 1970s. But it also raises the spectacle of the kind of dystopian society Aldous Huxley portrayed in Brave New World, where humans are bred in hatcheries, engineered and conditioned for their future role in society. The Auronar, the telepathic race to which Cally, one of the heroes of the Beeb’s SF series, Blake’s 7, also reproduced through artificial gestation.And one of the predictions in Brian Stableford’s and David Langford’s future history, The Third Millennium, is that during this millennium this will be the preferred method of human reproduction, at least in some extraterrestrial colonies. And over a decade Radio 4 broadcast a series in which various intellectuals created fictional museums. One was ‘the museum of the biological body’, set in a post-human future in which people were neuter cyborgs born from hatcheries. This is obviously very far off, and I doubt anywhere near the majority of humans would ever want to reject gender and sexuality completely, whatever certain sections of the trans community might believe.

As with cloning and Dolly the Sheep, it raises very profound and disturbing questions about humanity’s future and how far technology should expand into the area of reproduction.

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