The Greatest Ethical Challenge Facing the World Today

     The world is filled to the brim with issues to be resolved. Every time you turn on the television there are news channels reporting on “the worst shooting in history”, which is a title that seems too often broken. Scientists continue emphasizing our planet’s imminent downfall due to global warming, proven from an increase in the frequency of catastrophic geologic events and the rising sea levels. Amounts of people living in slavery are at an all time high and continue to grow. Poverty rates seem to only go up. Countries are casting blame on each other for issues of nuclear arming, election medalling, and breaches of media security. Within our own nations, citizens are growing to distrust their leadership and become politically polar. The list goes on.

     When a sample of nine students from the University of Arkansas were questioned, “what is the greatest ethical challenge facing the world today?”, they tended to react differently. Each person had different backgrounds, college majors, ethnicities, and sexual orientations (see “Recorded Answers” below). Their answers reaffirm that there are plenty of issues facing the world today. However, after listening to each individual, it’s easy to notice how critical it is that we accept, understand, and respect not only other answers to the question, but the people who posed them. How we handle different answers to that question is in itself the greatest ethical challenge facing the world today.

     Andrew Buck, a college sophomore majoring in Biological Engineering, answered “…energy security; whether that be the use of nuclear power, coal, and natural gas due to the effect on our environment and health and safety.” Avery Phillips, a college freshmen majoring in Psychology and Arabic, said that the issue “encompasses human rights. From healthcare, abortion, body mutilation and circumcision, to the rights of IDP or refugees, people are conflicted on how to manage these issues and disperse rights ethically.” Jake Lance, a college freshmen majoring in Marketing, simply stated, “people that don’t know what they are talking about.” All of these responses, and the various others, were correct answers to the question at hand. However, no two people’s answers were the same. Does that mean one person’s answer is more valid than the other? Can one ethical challenge truly be greater than the other? That answer is simple: no.  

     Emotionally, all of these issues are terrible and disheartening to hear about. No one single issue can be placed over the other of importance and no one single person knows how to fix them. However, the answer to all is simple. In order to fix every single one of these problems, human kind must work together with a sense of acceptance, understanding, and respect for each other.

     We cannot control differences in people, but we can control how we react to those differences and if we choose to truly accept people for who they are and move forward from there to fix the current problem. Michael J. Fox once said, “acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” Let us not lose heart when looking at these issues, however grave and un-solvable they may seem at times; instead, let us work with vigor, knowing that we don’t have to face them alone. People rarely make a real difference by themselves.

     In order to conquer the issues of today and tomorrow, we must first truly understand our fellow man. We have seen first hand the horrors that one human can do to one another in times of anger; after all, we have two World Wars to prove it. The United States Air Force teaches their cadets that the next World War will be of the Social Scientists. This war won’t be fought by capturing enemy land, but instead, their psycho-cultural turf. The victor must have a knowledge of other cultures, because winning hearts and minds means winning the war.  This makes how we relate to one another that much more dire. The creator of the controversial atomic bomb, which brought both victory to some and death to others, Albert Einstein, recognized that, “peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” An arguable genius, decades ago, knew the importance of understanding; and now, more then ever before, it is critical that we actually understand one another. We cannot just act diplomatic and shake hands, but really look into the person’s eyes beside you and understand them for who they truly are. Failure to do so could result in our extinction.

     People are passionate. We have opinions that have been shaped in us throughout a lifetime of experiences. We are bound to get into arguments; because, we are bound to come into contact with others who have gone through life having different experiences, which shaped their current opinions. All to often do we forsake other people’s thoughtful opinions as something to grow from and, instead, see it as hostile to our own opinions. This is why a spirit of respect is so important when dealing with conflicts, and not just the idea of respect and acting civil, but really appreciating differences and honoring a code of conduct. Differences of opinions aren’t to be for granted, but rather cherished. Diversity of the mind and of opinion is a beautiful thing and one of the greatest gifts humanity has to offer, but also one if it’s greatest threats. As humans we must take responsibility to never let this gift become a threat, and we can do that with respect. We have everything to gain from it!

     Think of how high functioning the human race could be if we only learned to come to the table with an acceptance, understanding, and respect for one another. It’s not far fetched that we as a people could learn these three virtues and put them into action in our every day lives. If so, we wouldn’t just see a better and more inclusive world, but also, every ethical challenge facing it would start slowly fading away.

     All of this being said, humans can be condemningly evil… but they can also be abundantly good. Anne Frank, after having a life of tragedy and loss shape her opinions, said that, “despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Let Anne Frank be an example to strive for, a girl who went through the worst humanity had to offer, but still saw the best in people. An acceptance, understanding and respect of that magnitude is hard to come by, but not impossible to cultivate within ourselves. That power could ensure people know “what they are talking about”, disperse human rights ethically, fix global warming, and solve the greatest of ethical problems in the world today.


Recorded Answers

Jake Lance: “People that don’t know what they are talking about.”


-Marketing Major


-From Florida

-Generally Conservative

-Debated in High School


Andrew Buck: “I would say energy security whether that be the use of nuclear power, coal, natural gas due to the effect on our environment and health and safety”


-Biological Engineering Major


-From Texas

-Moderate Republican


Jennifer Gallegos: “Solitary Confinement”


-Political Science Major


-From Arkansas

-Moderate Democrat


John Marrufo: “The fact that people believe feelings over absolute fact and that ties into the concept of subjective morality, when in fact there are moral absolutes that are very present in the world. People don’t want to follow these moral absolutes, however, because they are offended by them or believe that their emotions are a better guide.”





-From Arkansas


Lydia Miller: “Population growth”


-Biochemistry Major


-From Maine



Avery Phillips: “I would say the greatest ethical challenge encompasses human rights. From health care, abortion, body mutilation and circumcision, to the rights of IDP or refugees, people are conflicted on how to manage these issues and disperse rights ethically.”


-Psychology and Arabic Major

-Generally liberal


-Helped refugee effort in Greece during summer of 2017

-From Arkansas


Eric Wood: “How we as a whole handle the amount of people living in extreme poverty across the globe.”



-Generally liberal

-Psychology Major


-From Arkansas


Jackson Barclay: “The US debt. Both the government and the people don’t know how to manage/stop spending money.”


-Undecided Business Major

-Generally Conservative


-From Texas


Ashley Hines: “Political divisiveness and extremism.  For example, I don’t see how republican can be pro death penalty and against abortion; just like democrats can be against the death penalty and pro choice. I don’t understand how they can argue for one, but have different views when it come to the other life at stake.”




- From Arkansas


Views: 14240

Tags: #essaycontest2017, #student, #undergraduate


You need to be a member of Global Ethics Network to add comments!

Join Global Ethics Network

Comment by Al LeBlanc on December 11, 2017 at 1:01pm

Recognition that basic human rights, mutual respect/understanding, concern for our common home/planet and the "golden rule" all apply to our common humanity; notwithstanding, our ethnic, cultural and religious differences.

Comment by Ezeifekwuaba. Tochukwu. Benedict on December 7, 2017 at 6:06pm
Comment by Hunter Simmons on December 5, 2017 at 3:28pm
Undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas #essaycontest2017

Carnegie Council

Loisach Group and the Democratic Community Narrative

Senior Fellow Nikolas Gvosdev reports from the Berlin meetings of the Losiach Group, a U.S.-German strategic dialogue, where the trans-Atlantic relationship and the rise of China are important points of discussion. Could countering China be the basis of a new Euro-American conneciton?

The Ethics of Gene Editing & Human Enhancement, with Julian Savulescu

What does "good ethics" means when it comes to gene editing? What types of conversations should we be having about this technology? Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, shares his thoughts on these topics and more, including moral and human enhancement, and why he called Dr. He Jiankui's experiment "monstrous."

Vox Populi, Eurasia Group Foundation, and Narratives

The Eurasia Group Foundation (EGF) has released its report on public attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy. Senior Fellow Nikolas Gvosdev notes that, like the project on U.S. Global Engagement at the Carnegie Council, EGF is attempting to get at the twin issues of "the chasm which exists between the interests and concerns of foreign policy elites and those of ordinary citizens" and "the reasons why Americans are increasingly disenfranchised from foreign policy decisions being made in Washington."





© 2019   Created by Carnegie Council.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

The views and opinions expressed in the media, comments, or publications on this website are those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions held by Carnegie Council.