Why would you do that?

We all have a choice in what we try to do with our lives.

What should you aim at in life? The pursuit of wealth, notoriety, position, power, respect? Or would it be better to just try to live a good life?

What would you consider to be a successful life? A life in which considerable wealth was gathered? A life in which a prominent position in business or politics was achieved? Or a life that could be looked back on with pride for having done as much good as possible?

If respect was aimed for, then the respect of others or self-respect? Would you aim at notoriety or wealth in the present at the cost of earning the disgust of future generations?

This page was written 2019/01/20, last edited 2024/03/03
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

People like Tony Abbott, Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer, Gautam Adani, Donald Trump and Scott Morrison, who seem willing to do anything to gain and hold onto money or power in the present at the cost of being despised in the future are making a poor choice. People like Rupert Murdoch, Alan Jones, Peta Credlin and Andrew Bolt, who deny anthropogenic climate change for their own selfish reasons will go down in history as corrupt monsters.

Surely people like Peter Singer, Bill Gates, Mike Cannon-Brookes, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Bob Brown, Lhamo Dondrub (the Dalai Lama) and Pope Francis, who will have the gratitude of future generations for the good they are doing, are far wiser and would have to be called far more successful.

Solar powered Sundrop Farms with the closed coal-fired Northern Power Station in the background
Solar and coal
Expect to see more scenes like this in the future, coal fired power stations shutting down and renewable energy taking over. It is the best course for the health of everyone and necessary if we are to not severely damage the planet. Good people will encourage it, bad people will oppose it.
Port Augusta, South Australia; Photographed 2016/09/12


I have written elsewhere on religion, it is a delusion.

Many people believe that religion gives a guide to how they should live; I believe I've shown that this too is delusional, neither the Bible nor any other holy book can provide a guide to living worthwhile lives. We can learn that by studying ethics.

As guides to how we should live and what we should consider a successful life religions are at best irrelevant, at worst misleading.


What is worth aiming for in life?

How should we judge the value of a particular person’s life? What makes a life successful? How should we judge success?

An admirable life is a life lived by ethical standards, an unethical life can never be admirable. Wealth, power and fame are trivial when weighed against the value of life lived according to high principles.

Looking after yourself in the present, if it involves actions such as exacerbating climate change that will give you a place in history among the worst criminals of the era, seems to me to be a grave error of judgement and a misunderstanding of what is truly important in life.

What would you call a successful life?

At the time of writing I am 73 years old. Just over a year ago I was nearly killed in a car accident and I am seeing the people of my age group gradually die off or deteriorate mentally and/or physically. These things make one think about what is important in a person's life.

It seems to me that a successful life is one that has been spent trying to do the right thing; the accumulation of wealth or power are at best unimportant and peripheral.

A truly successful life is one in which a person has wisely and intelligently done his or her best to make the world a better place on whatever scale: local, regional, global; either for Mankind or for any or all sentient life.

A few examples of wasted or misspent lives

Tony Abbott was, for a time, Prime Minister of Australia and he would love to be again. While in power he did all he could to slow action to limit climate changing emissions in Australia. He gained a high position in the Australian hierarchy for a time, but will be condemned for his actions by the historians and people of the future. The same applies to the Prime Minister at the time of writing, Scott Morrison.

Are these successful lives? I think not.

Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer have made millions if not billions of dollars out of mining and exporting coal at enormous cost to the climate of our shared planet. They have resisted the introduction of the renewable energy technology that will replace fossil fuelled energy and is needed if future generations are to have lives that are not greatly inferior to those enjoyed by my generation. They too will be recorded as some of the worst criminals of the era.

Then there are the professional liars; people like Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Ian Plimer.

None of these people have been living what I would call successful lives.

More recently (March 2019) ex Vice-chancellor of Western Australia's Notre Dame University, Celia Hammond has decided to run for federal parliament while denying anthropogenic climate change. She will quite probably be despised by her grand children (if she has any); what a foolish decision!

A few examples of what I might call successful lives, lives lived with the needs of the people and the world of the future in mind.

David Attenborough has advocated for the environment for as long as I can remember and more recently for climate action.

Tim Flannery "is an Australian mammalogist, palaeontologist, environmentalist, conservationist, explorer, and public scientist." He has also authored or co-authored 33 books and is an environmental activist.

I've been fortunate in knowing Simon Chapman, who has been vocal in opposing the lies of the tobacco industry, debunking the delusions of those who claim that wind turbines cause health problems, and advocating for the right to die with dignity.

I've written elsewhere about another friend who I admired; Blair Donaldson died in 2016.

Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has been very active in pressing for renewable energy development and funding innovative Australian projects.

Elon Musk, with his concentration on batteries and electric vehicles, is helping the world to transition from fossil fuels to renewably generated electricity.

I know nothing about the life of Mr Musk and Mr Cannon-Brookes until the last few years, I have included their names here because they seem to be trying to do good while Abbott, Morrison, Rinehart and Palmer have been behaving very destructively. Elon Musk certainly has his failings, but he seems to me to be doing more good than harm.

Bob Brown too is someone to be admired. He is perhaps the most successful environmental activist in recent Australian history and has been trying to do good for decades.

Attenborough, Flannery, Chapman, Musk, Cannon-Brookes and Brown are examples of people who will go down in history as progressive and visionary. I would call these people successful.

The unsung heros and villains

The few people I've named above are either Australian or well known to Australians. There are a great many less known names that could be placed in the groups that are on the right or wrong side of history. I've also written a page on good and bad people.

How will the people of the future look back on your life?

Related pages on this site...

Ask who?: if you were able to ask the most respected people in the world about climate change what would they say?


Corporate greed


Crime against humanity


The good people who are trying to limit climate change and the bad people who are opposing action: and the bad.

The greatest crime in the history of humanity

How should we judge others?: What qualities define the worth of a person?

Opposition to wind and to coal

Selfishness or altruism?

Lists of pages relating to ethics internationally and in Australia.