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Democracy has evolved, now environmental protection needs to evolve

By Eric Claus - posted Thursday, 18 January 2018


There is no doubt that the human race has improved in its understanding of science and technology, but do we let that improved understanding convince us that we have improved in all other ways?

Are we more ethical than in past generations? Do we care as much about our fellow man? Do we care as much about the future of the human race? Life is now so much easier in the rich world, that it should be easier to be ethical. We don't have the pressures on us to survive like 100 or 200 years ago, when medicine and technology hadn't developed to make our lives so secure.

One example of social progress, that we can be proud of, is the development of democracy. It can be easy to think that we've always had systems in place that allowed every adult to have a vote in determining who controlled the government. In truth, though, the idea of democracy developed over centuries, the practical operation of democracy challenged some of the greatest thinkers in history and still challenges us today.

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Athens is widely considered the first democracy around the fifth century BC, but systems of democracy certainly didn't progress smoothly from there. Civilisations, knowledge and technology developed but most of humanity has been led by a series of Kings, Monarchs, Emperors and Dictators up until the 1990's.

One way to look at the evolution of democracy is to look at the kinds of people that were allowed to take part in selecting their government.

First nobody was allowed to vote. Monarchs ruled,

Then a few noblemen shared power with the Monarch,

Then wealthy property owning white men could vote,

Then white men could vote without a property qualification,

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Then men of colour, disliked religions and ethnicities in some countries could vote,

Then women could vote,

Over the same time that democracy was developing slowly, technology was developing quickly. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, technology can be developed by an individual or a small number of people, without the consent of the wider community. When Gutenberg was inventing the printing press, he didn't have to ask anyone for permission, he just went ahead and did it.

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About the Author

Eric Claus has worked in civil and environmental engineering for over 20 years.

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