Ethical Degradation and a Tipping Point: A Micro Solution to Macro (Global) Problems

Everybody Cheats

A world leading psychology and behavioral economics professor at Duke University Dan Ariely wrote about well-known Enron scandal in his seminal book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves. “Everyone involved with Enron was deeply corrupt… but I began to think that there may have been a different type of dishonest at work–one that relates more to wishful blindness and is practiced by people… the problem of dishonesty goes deeper than just a few bad apples and … this kind of wishful blindness takes place in other companies as well”.

Another almost archetypal example is „Eight is Great“ – The Wells Fargo Fake Account Scandal – creation of millions of fraudulent savings and checking accounts on behalf of the company clients without their consent – shows the same phenomenon that cheating is not bad. There are many similar examples in business world – Volkswagen environmental scandal, classic example of Ford Pinto scandal etc.

Undoubtedly, analyzing these famous scandals, we see that not only leading managers have systematically cheated, but also more or less all employees cheat to some degree. The problem is the new normality–cheating becomes normal and universally acceptable behavior. In a scenario we call a prisoner’s dilemma, or even thinking of a concept of moral hazard, we have a choice, a dilemma. In the new normality it is not the case. That is the reason why multiple strategies referred to as ‘top-down’ do not suffice, no matter how comprehensive or sophisticated they are. ‘Bottom-up’ must be effectively integrated in “Top-down” strategies in a holistic approach.

Why are all aforementioned so significant? First of all, we might suggest that the ethical degradation at all levels, from top-down and from bottom-up, either globally or locally, appears to be the Biggest Ethical Problem nowadays. Secondly, the action is urgent since we are approaching the critical, tipping point, the point of no return, and on a global level, a point where there is no going back and where there are no capacities for the next generations to learn to be honest and responsible citizens. Let us hope we did not cross that point.

Our Case Study – Micro degradation of Environment

We live near the Budovar Canal, the stream near the village of Čortanovci at Mountain Fruška Gora. It flows through Eastern Srem, meanders and finally flows into the Danube River, near Stari Banovci, the Republic of Serbia in the Southeast part of Europe. The Canal had a large number of animals and plant species living in the water as well as on the riverbanks. Yes, you read it correctly: “had”! Today this place is an example of reckless behavior.

Having in mind the fact that sewage and wastewaters from nearby settlements are dumped in the Canal without any purification methods, we can tell that its current state is alarming. Beside the main sources of pollution, the problem also lays in diffuse sources, like run-offs from urban areas (streets, parking places, lawns, gardens etc.).

Research has determined that the quality of water in Danube River, where the Budovar Canal flows in, falls in the Third category (on a scale where the Second category stands for optimal quality). From time to time on the banks of the Canal, animal waste can be seen with very unpleasant odor, all of which can cause serious consequences for human health.

This problem occurred after years of inappropriate waste disposal. People have been throwing plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, plastic bags and organic waste into the Canal or just leaving them laying around its banks, hoping that the water would carry them away. Now, the amount of waste is so big that water cannot carry it away.

Questioning the local people, we have found that the biggest problems occur when the water level rises. Water ejects the solid waste that cannot be dissolved and that is when the human negligence reaches its peak, because the waste is spread around the street and no one seems responsible for collecting it.

We need to raise the awareness about importance of finding the solution for this problem and possible consequences if it is not resolved.  We animated the local association “Think Blue, Think Green” (in Serbian: Misli plavo, misli zeleno), devoted to public education on sustainable development, climate change and green economy. For this project we have the support from the Local Community Office of Stari Banovci, which is willing to assist by promoting examples of good practice among citizens, initiating actions for environmental protection and educating the citizens about recycling. Public forum with the members of environmental group was organized in Elementary school “Slobodan Savković“, in which children expressed their suggestions about water protection and its multiple benefits in human life. Traveling to school each day, children cross the bridge over the Budovar Canal, and look at the scene that should not be their first memory of nature that surrounds them. As a confirmation that this part of the Canal still has some life in it, fishermen can be seen, but much less than before. Let’s save what can be saved.

The Global Initiative Think Blue, Think Green – Red Flags as Alert for Green Lives Salvation


Observing the new normality of global ethical devastation a global initiative comes to mind –The Map of Red Flags all over the world displaying the problematic micro locations. The map would be published on the Internet, available to all. After solving the problem, a red flag would be replaced with a green one, with before and afterphotographs attached. In cases where environmentally responsible companies provide help, their logo would be placed on a flag as a sign of gratitude.

The Map of Red Flags Global Initiative mission aims at ending the process of devastating environment by out of control local waste disposal on micro locations. This global initiative is an appeal to each and every citizen of the world to make the Map of Red Flags of their local environment, marked with red flags of all polluted locations that have problems with soil, water and air. This map would be a push towards solving the indicated problems and call for everyone to improve the relations between the people and the nature.

Our vision is to establish a network of socially responsible companies and a system of online biding network for collecting resources to clean the location marked with the Red Flag. Socially responsible individuals and socially responsible companies and organizations like the Ambassadors of Sustainable Development, Young Reporters for Environment, ENOwill assure for themselves their own green flags as a token for thinking sustainably. It is to provide possibilities for new forms of support in protection systems.


While building a global community unites against dishonest thinking and behavior in the area of ecology and local uncontrolled waste disposal, we aim to educate people and lead them out of ignorance concerning the consequences of their everyday unethical behavior. We strongly believe that this disastrous new normality is the result of ignorance (in Socratic sense), not of the human nature.

The Global Think Blue, Think Green Initiative will prove our stand.

Student: Andrijana Arsić

Teacher: Vukašin B. Vasić

School: Vocational School of Economics “Nada Dimić”, Zemun, Serbia

„Андријанин и мој мали експеримент. Може бити и промоција Мисли плаво, мисли зелено али и нека наша размишљања како и куда даље са Зеленим заставицама Србије, победничким пројектом који је подржао Мисли, а све у организацији Амбасадора одрживог развоја“.

Овај текст је објављен на GLOBAL ETHICS NETWORK.  

О конкурсу и на UN Academic Impact

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