Prompt 14

Prompt 14

I was in the group that presented Pollution, and I have chosen to relate our presentation on pollution to that of Wilderness Preservation (1).  Throughout this course my personal environmental ethic has become stronger, in that the moral value I place on the biological community was strong, but now my philosophy has been reaffirmed with concepts and theories that have given me a better grasp and understanding of the problems our environments faces and ways to go/avoid proceeding for our future.  The common theme throughout both of the subjects is humans and our destruction of nature.  I believe we as rational human being have a moral obligation to respect all aspects of life and land.  Whether we fully understand its purpose or not we need to respect role everything has in our world.

In most of the arguments made by the authors for both pollution and wilderness preservation readings, there is an anthropocentric view.  I think we should take a point from Leopold’s Land Ethic to understand that human are self-interested by nature, and then move on to concentrate on how we can change policies and procedures to live more respectfully with the biotic community and make the necessary steps needed to a more sustainable, cleaner, and healthier environment.

The concept of wilderness itself has been define by The U.S. Wilderness Act, which states that wilderness is “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The idealistically the majority believes that major reason for lands that have been preserved by our government was to keep it healthy, intact and prevent any destruction or pollution by development/industrialization.  After reading the presentation I found the lands preserved were because they were of no economic value to us accept esthetically beautiful.  However, pollution is a major concern now to people who want to preserve and rehabilitate land to a natural healthy state.  Mathew’s let-it-be concept would have us completely some and further modernization and allow nature to return itself back to a state of well-being.  I think this is too extreme, just as I believe Baxter’s humanist approach was too extreme on the other end of the spectrum.  Baxter had no regard for pollution prevention and in fact encourages polluting the environment if it meant the progression of humans in society.  Both concepts are completely impractical for society to adopt.  I think the most appealing and practical concept to the subjects of wilderness preservation and pollution is, the biosphere reserve.  The biosphere reserve was conveyed in the wilderness preservation (1) presentation as such, “These reserves are selected not on the basis that they are gorgeous empty regions with no instrumental use to the capitalist society. Instead, these areas are selected on the basis of their ecological qualities and are intended to preserve the “biological diversity and ecosystem health” (Callicott, 440) of the natural world.  I think this concept would appeal to French, Murdoch and Oaten.

French recognized the need for better policies regarding individual and corporate responsibility to clean air and less pollution globally.  She does not propose the complete absolution of our way of life or industry, but emphasizes that measures need to be taken to undo the damage we’ve done to the air and prevent any further destruction which has caused major illness worldwide.  Murdoch and Oates also recognize the plight that industry, overpopulation, and poverty has put on our environment and feel it is the wealthy countries’ obligation to intervene and change practices in poorer countries and educate them on how to live more sustainable lives.  Therefore, if we could implement the biosphere reserves here in the U.S. as well as educate and facilitate third world countries to do the same, they would no longer be such huge contributors to pollution, and would become more able to sustain themselves without the help of foreign aid like food banks because they could finally utilize the resources of their own land efficiently.

I realize that implementing a biosphere reserve way of life would be hard because of the power capitalism and goal of profit has on our policies.  This brings me to the topic that was not as blatantly relevant in wilderness preservation as it was in the discussions of pollution, which is racism.  The concept to deal with this was presented by Wenz.  He proposed the assignment of LULU (locally undesirable land uses) points.  In his concept the control of wealth would be take away and they (those in rich communities) would be motivated/forced to find solutions to problems like hazardous waste disposal and decreasing/eliminating the production (just like was done with chlorofluorocarbons previously thought to be crucial in aerosol products), because they would now have these pollutants/toxins in their own communities, just as those in the economically impoverished areas.  We humans have an obligation of responsibility to the entire biological community; this includes the people of different races, economic means, and countries.  As we better the entire human species by holding ourselves accountable and taking actions in that regard, the environment can flourish.

 

 

 

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Prompt 13

Prompt 13

I began my journey in this class with a personal ecological perspective that I think was actually demonstrated quite well in my post to prompt 01 (https://enviroethicsandrea.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/prompt-01/), in which I answered the statement: We should protect the environment to make sure we have enough natural resources for future humanity.  In this prompt I began by illustrating my values and where my point of view originates.  I specifically explained the importance of a balanced ecosystem.  I conveyed my perspective when I stated , “The ethical and moral responsibility of the land owners, companies, employees, law makers and regulators is to ensure everyone acts and proceeds in a manner that is to best for the future us all.” My overall position of the statement presented in prompt 01 was that we should protect the environment to make sure we have enough natural resources in the future was only partially correct in my view.  I further argued that, “future humanity has much more to learn, gain and appreciate from it; and what we do now will have an impact. I do not believe industrialization or harvesting natural resources is bad, but how it’s done can be.  Humans absolutely need to be more conservative with their consumptions of everything including food, water, land and energy.”

In my post to Prompt 09 (https://enviroethicsandrea.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/prompt-09/), I raise the question of why we humans should care about the rights of other species, especially when we are faced with so many challenges that are directly related to ourselves and our society.  How do we determine the relative importance of lives other than humans?  In other words, how should we think if we are not being completely anthropocentric?  To argue these questions I present my analysis of the essay “Biocentric Egalitarianism”, written by Paul Taylor.  In his essay, I assess that Taylor  believes that all living individuals have equal inherent worth based on our respect for nature in a life-centered system of environmental ethics.  He would like to persuade the majority to shift from an anthropocentric view to a moral attitude.  Taylor’s life-centered system was based on two principles: respect to nature, and inherent worth.  Unlike the positions posed by Regan and Singer, Taylor claims to have defined inherent value to non-humans if we adopt his two principles (respect to nature, and inherent worth) in the life-centered system.  In post 09, I chose to focus on the respect to nature principle, which is defined by Taylor as “a certain ultimate moral attitude toward nature…”  I chose to focus on this principle because I feel it ties in well with my own personal ecological perspective.

I value all of the biological community because I know each species is essential in the balance required for life…which includes human life.  Therefore I feel a moral obligation to respect nature as well as individuals.  I am aware that the choice I/we not only impact the health and safety for us now, but also shapes the future of our environment.

After reading both prompt I see that the ideas/ foundations of my personal ecological perspective are quite similar, however my perspective has developed in that I can further elaborate my position for and opposed to particular ethics positions.  I can now identify and recognize when I’m taking a particular positions from an anthropocentric view or more of a life-centered system, etc.  I recognize that I have a anthropocentric view as well as a strong moral attitude toward nature.

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Prompt 12

Over the course of the class I have learned about many different ethical perspectives.  After reading over all the posts I see that foundations of my personal environmental ethics perspective have not significantly changed, but I have identified with certain aspects of many we have discussed.  I have a much better understanding of the ethical principles/ positions I support and how to practice and view them in many different aspects of life.  I’ve maintained a certain moral philosophy that I wasn’t certain would ever fit into any one position entirely, until reading Callicott’s defense of the Land Ethic.  Now I identify myself with holistic ethics, particularly the land ethic.  With that said, I posted a question at the end of my prompt 05, now I believe I can answer that question with my post to Prompt 10.

In my post to prompt 10 (https://enviroethicsandrea.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/prompt-10/), I focused mostly on the parts of Callicott’s defense to Leopold’s “Land Ethic” that resonated with my own moral philosophies.  I established my beliefs in our human moral obligations to respect/protect other species and the biological community.  Balance in the biological community is crucial to all life, and principles of holistic ethics reaffirm the importance of the whole biological environment. The land ethic is a strict approach to holistic ethics that appeal to valid arguments of our reality, to case in point, “Some of the relevant issues emphasized by Callicott are regarding the moral paradox of such things like the economic use of animals, land, natural resources and the importance of retaining their stability at the same time.  Also asserted in my prompt 10 is the self-interested nature of humans and respect for all species in the environment, both are considered into the philosophy of the land ethic. Both considerations are what make the land ethic a plausible solution to our current problematic environmental policies and practices.  Leopold’s “Land Ethic” identifies the intrinsic value to nonhuman in the biotic community as a whole, in contrast to Regan who’s rigid goals allowed equal value to all individuals he deemed had intrinsic value.

In my prompt 05(https://enviroethicsandrea.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/prompt-05/) , Regan’s rights theory was introduced and argued.  I claimed Regan’s position was in clear contrast of Singer’s utilitarian animal rights position.  Even though both views gave animals and nonhuman equal rights, their basis for determining which individuals had value was different.  Regan gave all individuals with inherent value equal rights, yet Singer gave equal value to any individual that had the ability to suffer/feel pain.  I pointed out where Singer and Regan failed to validate their theories; however I did agree with Regan’s idea that animals and other nonhuman should be respected and have value. Regan calls for the absolute abolishment of many of our current practices, to which some I agreed need an overhauling, but some practices are required.   Regan’s definition for what had intrinsic value was too broad.  I could not fully adopt his “rights view” because I found his goals (particularly 1 and 2) too rigid and unrealistic.  Unlike Regan’s “The Animal Rights Movement” and Singer’s “Animal Liberation” perspectives, I do not believe that any individual animal/nonhuman has equal value to one of my children.  Consequently, toward the end of prompt 05 I asked, “…I do not agree with the part in which it says “equally” because, how do we proceed and progress if everything on earth is equally valuable?” Since I did not know how to proceed with this philosophy and how it could be applied to my own personal environmental ethics perspective, I ended with this statement, “I am compelled to do something to change our current practices, and I do feel a moral obligation to help those that feel pain and suffer, but I am currently confused on how to go about it.”

Now I can use my understanding of the material from post 10 to answer the problems I raised in post 05.  After gathering a better understanding of holistic ethics and how it incorporates the whole biological community, my feelings of an inherent moral obligation to respect nature has been confirmed.  We are indeed obligated to maintain the essential balance for life on earth now and for a sustainable future.  Such progress is definitely more conceivable with the land ethic, than ever possible with Regan’s “Animal Rights Movement.”  It follows then, to respond to my previously asked question, “how do we proceed and progress if everything on earth is equally valuable?”,… I now know that my practices in life do not (and should not) need to be based on giving all intrinsically valuable individuals equal value.  Instead, we should do our best to respect all aspects of nature by protecting species from extinction and overpopulation, and make policies and procedures for personal and business practices that are as humane, efficient, clean and sustainable as possible….That is how we can progress as a moral society and a healthy environment. Therefore, my previous statement in post 05,“I am compelled to do something to change our current practices, and I do feel a moral obligation to help those that feel pain and suffer, but I am currently confused on how to go about it”,… I am no longer confused.  I will follow my personal environmental ethics perspective which is reaffirmed/guided by the land ethic.

 

 

Prompt 11

Prompt 11

I chose to compare and contrast prompt 10 of Sbranch.  In his post he clearly agrees with Leopold’s land ethic, specifically as epitomized by Callicott, and takes an ecological ethicist position.  I also take an ecological ethicist position for many of the same reasons Callicott conveyed in his defense of the Land Ethic.

Sbranch presents an ecological ethicist position thorough out his post.  Evidence to this claim is shown in his agreements with Callicott, his use of examples from the essay, as well as when he makes personal views of how they relate to our environment.  To take a case in point, Sbranch states, “I like that Callicott’s ideas have real implementation acknowledging the concept of an ecosystem.  I feel that past arguments that we have read enforce a concept of equality of species rather than the importance of the whole community.”  This is clearly his personal acceptance of holistic ethics, which values the importance of the entire biotic community rather than a utilitarian individualist position like the one presented by Singer.

In my own prompt 10, I used quotes from Callicott that not only validated Leopold’s Land Ethic but also reaffirmed my faith in having a rather possible environmental philosophy that maybe could and would be practiced by the majority.  I, like Sbanch, argued my agreement with the land ethic and an ecological ethicist point of view, but he was more specific in the scientific arguments used.  He mentions several scientific bases including, Darwin and the outdated idea of morals being “psychocentric.”  His other two focuses were that of community and relationships of humans and animals.  However my post focuses on two main things: Callicott defense and interpretation of the Land Ethic, and on the role of self-interested humans and our responsibility and interactions with and for the entire biological community.

As Sbranch state, (and I totally agree), “What I found most interesting about this article was how Callicott allows a way for us to integrate land ethic into our lives.” We both took different pieces of Callicott’s defense to focus on in our individual posts, but our outcomes was essentially the same.  The philosophies in which the land ethic is based are good enough reasons for which we both think has a possibility of working in reality, opposed to the somewhat irrational individualistic restrictions of liberationist and other philosophies we’ve previously discussed in other prompts.

Prompt 10

Prompt 10

I concede that I have a tendency to be anthropocentric and consider my own self-interests; however I still insist that I am morally good and capable of having respect for all others including other species and the environment.  I recognize the perspective of holistic ethics and agree with the importance of the entire biotic environment.  When it comes to the topic of morality and respect for the biological community, I believe many of us in class will readily agree that we feel an obligation to protect the biological community.  Where this argument usually ends, however, is on the question of how far we take this position.  Whereas some are convinced that human benefit and/or economic profit are most important, others maintain that a balance in our environment is best.

In the presentation of the “Land Ethic” by Leopold (a former U.S. forest ranger and professor of wild life management), there is a holistic ethic approach to the environment, as well as the acknowledgement and consideration to selfish human behavior.  The main controversial issue resulting in its dismissal by several philosophers stems from the “non- philosophical language” in which Leopold presents his philosophy.  J. Baird Callicott (professor of philosophy and natural resources) defends Leopold from his peers’ criticism of the “Land Ethic” in the essay “The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic.” According to Callicott, “Here I first examine and elaborate the compactly expressed abstract moral elements of the land ethic and expose the “logic” which binds them into a proper, but revolutionary, moral theory…..I hope to show that the land ethic cannot be ignored as merely the groundless emotive exhortations of a moonstruck conservationist or dismissed as entailing wildly untoward practical consequences.  It poses, rather, a serious intellectual challenge to business-as-usual moral philosophy.”

I feel that Callicott succeeded in his goals in this essay.  He explained and defended the “Land Ethic” in such a way that made it more respectable to scholars and relatable to the average person.  Some of the relevant issues emphasized by Callicott are regarding the moral paradox of such things like the economic use of animals, land, natural resources and the importance of retaining their stability at the same time. I found Callicott’s explanation of the “Land Ethic” a much more “do-able” approach to a philosophy that gives intrinsic value to nonhuman life. I now view the overall goals and methodology I believe Leopold was intending.  I think Callicott was able to relate the validity of Leopold’s fundamental experience as a forest ranger and his perspectives on population control, land preservation and our human responsibility to all life as a whole.  As well as illustrate the possibility to live as a responsible moral human-being with a self-interesting nature and still be capable of sacrificing enough to be honorable to the ecosystem which provides us such a life. Previously I saw the value in the individualist arguments like Regan, but now my perspective has changed.  The Land Ethic gave me a new positive outlook on the nature of man and a conceivable manner in which we may be able to respectfully and sustainably coexist with all life for a longer future.

Prompt 09

Prompt 09

With the current economic crisis, a presidential election year, the movement on Wall Street protesting against the 1% that has the majority resources and power in our country, and another record breaking year of warmer temperatures and natural disasters which hit far away and here at our own homes, it is therefore hard to appeal to society the importance of arguments about animal/nonhuman rights.  In this anthropocentric society we live I ask myself, who cares about animals/nonhumans when we humans have so many important issues that are directly facing us today?  Of course those that are pet owners/animal-lovers have affection for those animals that they have an emotional attachment to, but the majority puts human rights first.  Most environmentalists, ecological ethicists and animal rights activists believe we should give nonhumans equal rights, consideration of rights, or we at least have an obligation to protect/preserve some species.  Is this right?  We humans are considered superior to all other species, so why does any of this matter?

Although the rights (value of nonhumans) may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in terms of today’s concern over government and environmental policies on private/business practices, climate change, and sustainable natural resources including clean air, water and land.  In the essay “Biocentric Egalitarianism” written by Paul Taylor, professor emeritus of philosophy at Brooklyn College, all living individuals have equal inherent worth based on our respect for nature in a life-centered system of environmental ethics.  This interpretation challenges the work of those critics (such as Warren and Russow), who have assumed that there is no way of defining intrinsic value for nonhuman organisms.  Taylor explains in his essay that intrinsic value can be found within our respect of all living wild plants and animals (earth’s wild communities) if we fully adopt the two criteria of his life-centered system of principles: respect for nature and inherent worth.

I chose to focus on “respect for nature” which Taylor writes is, “a certain ultimate moral attitude toward nature…”  I believe this idea alone has the theme that is lacking when decisions/plans are made toward the broader environmental ethics debate of ensuring, not only the safety and welfare for current and future generations, but the survival of earth as we know it.  As a biology major I know that balance is crucial to any natural ecosystem or biotic community, with that said Taylor’s goal is to shift the majority anthropocentric view to that of a moral attitude toward a life-centered view.  Taylor states, “From the perspective of life-centered theory, we have a prima facie moral obligation that are owed to wild plants and animals themselves as members of the Earth’s biotic community…Our duties to respect the integrity of natural ecosystems, to preserve endangered species, and to avoid environmental pollution stem from the fact that these are ways in which we can help make it for wild species populations to achieve a healthy living existence in a natural state.”  The essence of Taylor’s argument is that respecting nonhuman life and following through on our moral obligations will only lead to a better and more sustainable life for all of us.

Although the basic idea of all humans being required to stop looking anthropocentrically seems impossible, Taylor does make a good argument on why it would be (morally at the very least) justifiable to do so.  However, unlike Regan’s argument, Taylor’s goals/restrictions on our practices of things like animal testing are not specifically mentioned, and I wonder how that would fair in a life-centered system.

Prompt 08

Prompt 08

There is a reoccurring problem in the arguments of animal rights and environmental ethics.  In previous I indicated the issues philosophers/animal activists Singer and Regan of creating a definitive standard to which the inherent value of an animal/non-human can be determined.  Although neither Singer nor Regan had a decisive way to go about deciding which individuals were worthy of inherent value, they both agreed that all individuals that did, should have equal values.  Warren, who is also a philosopher, reconstructed Singer’s and Regan’s arguments in which she pointed out the lack of boundaries for defining and determining the inherent value of individuals.  I also agreed with Warren when she argued that those deemed to have inherent value should not necessarily be given equal value.

The question of a standard in value is represented again in environmental ethics, also considered holistic ethics.  In lecture 06 it is stated that in “holistic ethics, this means that the good of the individual can be sacrificed to the good of the entire system.”  I interpreted this as, the value of one is not as important as the value of the biotic community.   Those who follow the Land Ethic, which is a strict view of holistic ethics, intend to maintain the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is necessary to define a standard for all three criteria, but how do we do this? For example, aesthetic beauty can be valued but its measure is subjective to an individual’s interpretation.

In “Why Do Species Matter?” by Lilley-Marlene Russow, a college professor of philosophy, examines the human obligations to species and argues the three traditional answers given.  I have chosen to analyze Russow’s argument to the third answer: “those that appeal to some intrinsic or inherent value that is supposed to make a species worth preserving.”  Russow agrees with such people as animal rights activists and holistic ethics who would argue for our obligation to save endangered or threatened species when she writes, “Thus, if a species is intrinsically valuable, we should try to preserve it even when it no longer has a place in the natural ecosystem, or it could be replaced by another species that would occupy the same niche.”  The essence of Russow’s argument is that we as the most intelligent and morally rational species do have an obligation to save other species from extinction whether we fully understand its exact function in the ecosystem or not.  As with the positions taken by Singer, Regan, and Warren that I argued about in previous prompts, it is not a matter of recognizing our duty to preserve and uphold the rights of other nonhumans, but the standard in which we determine their value.

In Russow’s argument to answer three, she maintains that “Unsurprisingly, the stumbling block is what this intrinsic value might be grounded in.  Without the explanation of that, we have no nonarbitrary way of deciding whether a subspecies as well as species have intrinsic value or how much intrinsic value a species might have.”  In other words, Russow believes that without a definitive standard to determine and measure intrinsic value, there is no way to do so for all the variations of (and within) a species.

There is a fundamental importance in the biotic community for animals/nonhumans and their rights (whether they are considered on an individual level or species); however the continual inconsistency in which we measure their value has and continues to hinder any significant progress.  Intrinsic value, like aesthetic beauty is a subjective idea; therefore the majority usually wins the argument in society.