I care because of all the people who will be here after I die. It's not compassionate to destroy their world just because you think it won't matter in the end; they'll still have to live in it. I'm child-free, but I imagine the vast majority of Atheists with children care because of them.
It'll obviously be no surprise to at least some of you, going by some posts here already, that, as a Greenpeace Fundraiser, I found many Christians to be so detatched from the natural world that it wasn't important to nurture it. They were more interested in saving other souls, believed the world was their resourse to wolf down as they wanted and couldn't see the point in hanging on to the temporary physical environment, even seeing the demise of the ecology etc as part of the armageddon story.
The predominant themes among us atheists here seem to be that:
We need this Earthly life, having no aternative.
We care about our offspring.
We are free to see what is 'right' without dogmatic boundaries.
I'd like to go a step further and say that we (humans) are not a separate entity from the natural world we live in. We are integral. The native American saying which includes the lines, "we did not weave this web of life but are just strands upon it. What we do to the web we do to ourselves." puts it in a rather cool perspective I think. I am part of this planet. I belong in it. It needs me, in the right proportions. As a cancer cell destroys a host because it can't switch off and consumes resourses disproportionally, so we humans are doing this. I consider it my responsibility to represent, as best I can, a healthy cell that knows it's place and contributes to the organic whole of this planet and the ecology therein.
What do Buddhists, Muslims, Confucianism, Hindus have to say about the environment? I mean, if we are to generalize, we should have a broader perspective. Note that the cultural aspects of other Christians in the world may influence their thoughts on this issue differently. In fact, to most people on this planet, religious or not, that are dying from hunger, it might probably not be an issue of concern until they get their stomach filled. Remember, the U.S. represents but 5% of the population of this planet...
If we do not have an afterlife, then we have to accept that we will cease to exist upon death.
For some this implies their actions are ultimately meaningless.
However, once you are dead, the only remaining thing of importance... is those who are not.
The next generation is always more important than the last.
Regardless of religious or non-religious beliefs, we should always make sure that the political and natural environment is still sustainable for the future generations.
I do what I think is right because I don't think living in a world where everyone acts out of immediate self-interest is pleasant. Doing the right thing makes me feel good. Other people doing the right thing makes me feel even better. If it works that way for enough other people, there's your humanistic basis for morality.
"If it works that way for enough other people, there's your humanistic basis for morality."
Well, it seems to me that there is not enough such people. A simple look at what the richest on this planet do to the poorest is enough evidence that this theory just doesn't add up. This is similar to the communist theory or Adam Smith's invisible hand theory that do no match up to the reality of human nature.
I'm not a "go green" pusher or anything of the sort. I actually research all their claims, most of which are crap. But I do care about those things which have a lasting effect on the planet, such as the use of fossil fuel. The reason I care about things I may never see is that I am part of the human race. I would love to live 2 hundred years just to see where science and technology goes. Even though I would soon after die, it would have been wonderful just to know that we made it through. It's hard to explain, but the basic idea is that it's not all about me. Though the planet is loaded with assholes, I still have hopes for where we're going along the evolutionary process.
Basically, if I were to have lived a thousand years from now, realizing that the jack asses of the past ruined all chances for me to have a good life on a planet that was half livable, it'd really be a bitch. Realizing that there just might be people here a thousand years from now, I really can't face the weight on my conscience if I never did anything to make life a little less unbearable for those who shall hence forth come. It's basically like shooting some stranger. Though that individual means little to me, he or she has friends and family and has hopes and dreams. Could you live with taking it all away with a bullet? If I help ruin everything we are trying to build, I've sent a bullet in that direction.
Because we still have the morals natural selection has instilled within our species and respect our fellow humans, including our ancestors, and appreciate the natural world with a depth of insight that is deprived from the fundamentalist's mind. Christianity would have you believe this Earth was placed here for our benefit and use alone, and that we are to exercise our total dominion over it without abandon.