Monday, April 30, 2012


Blogs (Kate, Blake, Alexis)

Tomorrow -- we will have a review session.  Since this wasn't listed on the syllabus, I won't take attendance.

  • by giving natural objects rights (Stone)
  • through ecosabotage (If a Tree Falls, Foreman, Martin)
  • by demanding environmental justice ... B+B (Wenz)
  • through green personal choices - recycling, buying a hybrid, changing lightbulbs, not buying bottled water, eating less meat, etc. (Pojman, Begley)
Green personal choices
The Super-Green Life

Thinking about green lifestyles
  1. Can you reduce your footprint and be just as happy? Around the globe (great resource)
  2. If you make green choices, is there any downside? Sharon Begley and more from Begley  
  3. Begley discusses experiments done by Toronto psychologists Mazar and Zhong - volunteers split into two groups.  Group 1 visits online green store, Group 2 visits another online store.  
  4. EXPERIMENT 1.  Afterwards, subjects in each group play "dictator game".  "They were given $6, and told they could propose to divide the money with a partner any way they liked.  The caveat: the partner could accept or reject the proposed division, and if he rejected it, then no one would get any money."  Group 1 (that visited green store) proposed less generous splits. 
  5. EXPERIMENT 2. Volunteers are given $25 to spend at the two stores.  Afterwards, they are even less generous when playing dictator game and cheat at a computer game.
  6. Interpretation:  "people have an inner sense of how morally virtuous they need to feel to support their self-image. If a few actions (including espousing actions for other people) are enough to justify how we like to think of ourselves, then we do not need to perform any additional virtuous actions. It's as if we accumulate moral points for ethical actions, and having accumulated "enough" we are free to act amorally, or even immorally. That's why reminding people of what wonderful humanitarians they are causes them to give less to charity." (Begley)
  7. Will green lifestyles solve major problems? Begley:  It takes collective action and legislation to solve environmental problems
  8. Moral of the story, according to Begley: DO make green choices, but (a) watch out for later "compensation" and (b) look for collective action opportunities 
  9. What collective action opportunities exist?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Final Review

At the tab above.  Monday we'll discuss whether to have a review session on Tuesday.  If anyone wants to do so, we will.

Monday's topic--a green lifestyle.  Will personal choices save the planet?  Read Begley.

Friday, April 27, 2012

CHANGE - Just Garbage

Summer Session I:  Prof. Philippe Chuard, Phil. 3313, Knowledge and Skepticism - "(1) it will be maximally interesting and exciting, (2) super easy (relatively speaking, of course), (3) fun (someone will have their brain envatted during class, and an evil demon might even visit)"

Fall course:  Prof. Jean Kazez, Phil. 3375 Topics in Moral Philosophy: The Meaning of Life - course blog

The ethics of sustainability (powerpoint)
All of the remaining blogs will be presented Monday.
I'm almost done with the papers -- will post grades later today and return Monday.
Study questions for the final will be here in the next day or two.
We'll discuss whether green lifestyles will save the planet on Monday (please read Begley at link).


Dallas Landfills
Export  of electronic waste to developing countries
Garbology (Edward Humes)

Peter Wenz, "Just Garbage: The Problem of Environmental Racism"
Terms:  LULU (locally undesirable land use)

(1) Garbage and other LULUs disproportionately affect poor
(2)  The poor are disproportionately non-white.
(3) Thus, garbage and other LULUs disproportionately affect non-white people.

VIEW 1:  It's not racist
(A) Doctrine of double effect--"an effect whose production is usually blameworthy becomes blameless when it is incidental to, although predictably conjoined with, the production of another effect whose production is morally justified" (p. 530)
  1. Suppose: I'm doing x, which causes y (hysterectomy for cancer, which causes death of fetus)
  2. Suppose: I foresee y, but don't intend y (I foresee the death of the fetus, but don't intend it)
  3. Suppose: I'm blameless for doing x (blameless for performing hysterectomy)
  4. Then: I'm blameless for y as well (blameless for death of fetus)
(B)  Applying the DDE, garbage distribution is not racist.
  1. Disproportionate effect on poor (x) causes disproportionate effect on minority members (y).
  2. We foresee effect on minority members (y), but don't intend it
  3. We're blameless for the disproportionate effect on the poor (x)
  4. So we're blameless for the disproportionate effect on minority members (y)
VIEW 2 (Wenz):
The "it's not racist" reasoning is bad because in the (A) argument #3 is true.  But in (B), #3 is false.  The disproportionate effect on the poor violates a basic principle--
 The principle of commensurate burdens and benefits: "Other things being equal, those who derive benefits should sustain commensurate burdens." (p. 531)   
"In the absence of countervailing considerations, the burdens of ill health associated with toxic hazards should be related to benefits derived from processes and products that create these hazards." (p. 532)
Let's call this principle: B+B


Wenz's defense of B+B.
Wenz considers and rejects many alternatives.
  1. Utilitarianism.  What would a utilitarian say about actual distribution of garbage?  Wenz's objection:  "Utilitarian support for any particular conclusion is undermined by the inability of anyone actually to perform the kinds of calculations that utilitarians profess to use." (p. 534)  "When I was in school, math teachers suspected that students who could never show their work were copying answers from other students. I suspect similarly that utilitarians, whose 'calculations' often support conclusions that others reach by recourse to principles of gratititude, retributive justice, commensuration between burdens and benefits, and so forth, reach conclusions on grounds of intuitions influenced predominantly by these very principles." (p. 534)
  2. Free market approach--if a fair market leads to a certain distribution of garbage, it's a fair distribution.  Wenz's objection:  some goods should not be distributed by market forces.  Public education, health care, military service. (Footnote:  two interesting new books for summer reading.  Michael Sandel, What Money Can't Buy; Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not be for Sale).
  3. Cost benefit analysis--"CBA will characteristically require placement of toxic wastes near poor people. Such placement usually lowers land values (what people are willing to pay for property). Land that is already cheap, where poor people live, will not lose as much value as land that is currently expensive, where wealthier people live, so a smaller loss of social wealth attends placement of toxic wastes near poor people." (p. 536)  Wenz's objection:  this flat out violates the principle of equal consideration of interests.

How would his approach work in practice?
Every community has to earn LULU points.  They can earn points for--
  • landfills
  • toxic waste dumps
  • prisons
  • half-way houses
  • low-income housing
  • power plants
"Communities could then be required to host LULUs in proportion to their income or wealth...." (p. 537)

"The above approach to environmental injustice should, of course, be applied internationally and intranationally within all countries....This implies that rich countries should not ship their toxic wastes to poor countries.  Since many poorer countries, such as those in Africa, are inhabited primarily by nonwhites, prohibiting shipments of toxic wastes to them would reduce significantly worldwide environmental racism." (p. 537)

  1. "Were the LULU points proposal implemented, environmental racism would be reduced enormously. To the extent that poor people exposed to environmental hazards are members of racial minorities, relieving the poor of disproportionate exposure would also relieve people of color." (p. 537)
  2. System would "benefit life on earth generally by reducing the generation of toxic hazards.  When people of wealth ... are themselves threatened disproportionately with toxic hazards, the culture will evolve quickly to find their production largely unnecessary." (p. 537)
  1.  Do all these items belong on the same list?  Do they all proceed from B+B?
  2. What's the logic of making communities host LULUs in proportion to income/wealth?  Does that proceed from B+B?
Are you convinced?

Ka'ena Point Reserve (Kate)

We’ve spent much of this course discussing the various beliefs people hold, in respect to nature and the wilderness, whether the beliefs question human impact on nature, or if plants and animals matter as much as people. The question of if humans have impacted the wilderness and wildlife, really isn’t a question at all—of course humans have impacted the wilderness. When I came across an article in the New York Times Science section discussing the rehabilitation of birds in Oahu, Hawaii when fenced off from humans, this idea of humans’ impacting nature was really driven home to me. Being such a self absorbed species, humans rarely seriously think about what the world was like prior to our existence, but as this article made clear, there were millions of species that have occupied the world for much longer than we humans have. For example, in this article it is discussed how Hawaii, prior to humans had no mammals, which created an ideal environment for birds, in which more than 120 species of birds flourished. With the arrival of humans came other predators such as dogs, cats, rats and mongooses; the result—Hawaii is the extinction capital of the world.
  So what is one to do about all of this? Humans can’t simply stop being. On Ka’ena Point, scientists have intervened and installed the “first predator-proof fence in the United States,” a fine-mesh fence that runs the entire width of the western most point in Oahu, creating a pristine 64-acre reserve. The installation of this fence has proven quite successful, with many bird species returning to the island. How it works is that the fence has stopped predators such as cats and mongooses from eating chicks, as well as stopping people from driving their cars on the beach, which kill not only birds, but also rare plant species. Dr. Young of the University of Hawaii observed, “Since we’ve had the fence, the number of albatrosses that come here has risen by 25 percent, and I expect it to continue.” This shows the correspondence between species and the introduction of humans rather well, but equally important is that Ka’ena Point is a prime example of what we ought to be doing to preserve the wildlife left on our earth. We have spent the past thousand years inconsiderate of how our actions and lifestyles affect the earth, and now we are seeing great declines in species populations. I understand that it is only realistic that people will take action if it is affordable to do so, but this project exemplifies that it is! We must also take into account the value of enjoying wilderness, as a place to escape to and enjoy the observation of animals at play. Ka’ena Point receives no less than 50,000 people each year to do just that.
Once a favorite spot for many off-roading enthusiasts, the fence has blocked vehicles from roaming the beach, yet the people have adjusted. We need to be able to ‘bite the bullet’ sometimes and make changes in order to achieve a great good of preserving our earth and its natural environments—it may alter our lives some, but we are capable to adjusting. At the end of the day, we take for granted how much we value the wilderness. We can’t wait until we wake up one day and it’s gone because it will be too late then.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CHANGE - Terrorism, Environmental Racism

More on If a Tree Falls and terrorism

Two blogs (below)

Environmental Racism
Planet in Peril - 1:12:30 - 1:21
Dallas Landfills
NAACP protest
Homework on Wenz for next time (see tab)
Reading for next time:  Skim Pojman, read Green shopping won't save the planet

Windfall or Wind-fallen: The Future of Wind Energy (Jessica)

Pollution-free. Promising. Problematic. All are words that have been used to describe the future of wind energy, but it may be more aptly described as the fastest growing source of renewable energy in the world, according to wind energy expert Robert W. Righter. During his recent visit to SMU, Righter gave a presentation entitled “Windfall: Wind Energy in America Today,” based on his book of the same name.

Currently, 3% of US energy needs are met with renewable wind energy, but Righter asserts that this number could be increased to up to 25%. Other studies support his claims. The future of wind energy production, especially in the United States, does seem promising; some have gone so far as to nickname North Dakota “the Saudi Arabia of Wind.”

The focus of Righter’s presentation was on the future of wind energy in Texas, which currently leads the nation in production. About 6% of the energy used in Texas comes from wind power. At present, the major concern with wind energy is compromising landscapes. Wind turbines have been said to cause noise and aesthetic problems that often called “ eye pollution.” Just as with many other renewable energy resources, production has been stalled by the need for greater subsidies and incentives for potential investors. Despite these concerns, the future of wind energy in Texas seems promising. Texas courts have a long record of ruling in favor of wind energy in civil cases; judges have typically decided that visual issues are not legitimate complaints against wind energy production.

             An avid supporter of wind energy, Righter continually praised its ability to create jobs and educational opportunities, especially in Texas, as well as the fact that it is a sustainable and pollution-free energy option. Righter was especially passionate about wind energy’s creation of what he called a “cultural compromise,” or a balance between people’s cultivated love of technology and their innate love of nature. According to Righter, wind energy will play an ideal role in the search for renewable energy sources as a simple and elegant solution to a complex problem.
 While visual complaints against wind turbines have not garnered legal support in Texas, the issue regarding placement of transmission lines, the lines that connect wind turbines to power distribution centers, remains. A popular phrase in reference to wind energy, “Not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, is the opinion of many Texans about the future locations of these transmission lines.

Deciding where to build these lines raises ethical questions because it is necessary for a smaller proportion of people to bear the costs of living near these transmission lines for the benefit of the greater population. Which people should bear the costs of close proximity to the power lines? How can this be decided? These questions lead to another central moral dilemma: on what grounds are some people morally obligated to live near transmission lines, while for others, it is merely permissible?

Hardin touches on a similar issue in his “Tragedy of the Commons” article when he explains that attempting to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number of people is mathematically impossible, making a perfect solution to the transmission line problem unlikely (Hardin 273). Hardin would argue that if we are trying to get people to take responsibility for living near the transmission lines, we are engaging in a “verbal counterfeit” (279). He would instead advocate for mutual coercion, or a location agreement put forward by all of the people involved in the decision, including those who would be living near the lines. This proposal sounds solid in theory, but practicality is another issue entirely. Based on these issues, it seems that wind energy’s gridlock lies not only in research and development but with a key ethical dilemma as well.

1. Hardin, Garrett. “The Tragedy of the Commons.”
2. Scientific American.
3. University of Oklahoma Press.

The Svalbard Seed Vault (Blake)

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located in Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago, is a global seed vault dedicated to the preservation of the world’s food crop biodiversity. Because many of the world’s major seed vaults are located in unstable regions and in climates not ideally suited to seed preserve, Norway, which is stable and home to an ideal preservation environment, has volunteered for the task. To achieve this goal, the seed vault’s goal is to take in and store seed samples of all of the world’s food crop varieties. The vault itself consists of three chambers built directly into the side of a mountain, each being equipped to store 1.5 million seed samples, and each sample having on average 500 seeds, for a total of 2.25 billion seeds.

To date there have been 740,000 samples, or 370 million seeds “ deposited”.  To see detailed plans of the vault (in Norwegian) click here. The seeds themselves are sealed in special moisture proof packets before being “deposited” in the vault.
The vault is impervious to a wide variety of potential calamities. For instance, if global warming continues unchecked and the polar ice caps melt, the vault would still be safe as it is far enough above sea level that it would be in no danger of going underwater. Further, though the ideal storage temperature for seed samples is minus 18 degrees Celsius, a temperature achieved through special refrigeration equipment, the vault’s environment offers protection in the event of a blackout. Because the vault is surrounded by the naturally freezing permafrost, it would take several weeks without power for the vault to “warm up” to the permafrost’s temperature of minus three degrees Celsius. Also, while global warming would erode some of this layer of protection, the vault is so far north that much of the natural coldness and the protection it affords would remain intact. Effectively, the natural environment of the vault will keep the seeds at optimal storage temperatures for several days, and even if it took weeks to restore power, in a worst case scenario the seed samples would still be preserved at below freezing temperatures. 

The government of Norway, at a cost of nine million dollars, paid for the construction of the vault and shares operating costs with a variety of international groups and organizations, such as the Gates Foundation, while providing free backup storage for any of the world’s 1400 seed banks. The Norwegian government posts news updates about the vault in English and Norwegian at this link.  Whenever one of the vaults makes a “deposit” they are effectively placing their seeds in a safety deposit box, Norway own the vault and the box but the depositors own the contents and only they can control what happens to their seeds. Priority in the vault is given to food crop varieties. Historically humans have eaten about 7000 species of food crop, though today we only typically consume 150 species. Each of these species had hundreds or thousands of varieties, for instance there are 100,000 varieties of rice, one of the 150 species of food crop consumed today. Further, Norwegian law at present prohibits the deposit of seeds from genetically modified plants, meaning that all species stored at Svalbard occur naturally in nature, preventing any of the theoretical drawbacks, for instance mutations, from such GM plants from affecting those species stored in the vault.

The vault itself is further important because it preserves the natural genetic diversity of the world crop supply. This is important in a variety of ways, but especially in terms of ensuring the survival of the human food supply. For instance, while there are thousands of varieties of most cops cultivated today, only a few of those varieties are grown at any time and over time can become genetically weaker or susceptible to plague or illness. In either of those situations the seed vault could be used by scientists to find new varieties of the crop to cross bread with the weakened variety and build up its genetic diversity, or to replace them outright with a stronger variety. Therefore, the vault and its holdings will serve to maintain the strength and viability of the world food supply for many years to come.

Monday, April 23, 2012

CHANGE - Activism

3 kinds of activism
  1. Lifestyle changes--recycle, change lightbulbs, buy hybrid, downsize, etc. (we will discuss more on Friday and Monday)
  2. Legal activism--e.g. try to stop SMU from selling bottled water on campus, join Sierra Club, etc.
  3. Illegal activism
Types of illegal activism (need to define, then discuss permissibility)
  • eco civil disobedience
  • eco-sabotage
  • strategic monkeywrenching
  • ecoterrorism 
If a Tree Falls 

Civil disobedience (Martin's definition) - Person P's act A is an act of (eco) civil disobedience if and only if:
  1. P is doing A to prevent something they considered bad
  2. P's act A is motivated by moral or religious concern
  3. A is illegal
  4. A is a public act
  5. [A is non-violent]
What comes under this definition in If a Tree Falls?
Any problem with Martin's definition?  Is it too broad? Too narrow?

Ecosabotage (Martin's definition) - Person P's act A is an act of ecosabotage if and only if:
  1. P is doing A to prevent harm to environment
  2. P's act A is motivated by religious or moral concern
  3. A is illegal
  4. A is clandestine, i.e. not a public act
  5. [undermining of a project]
  6. no intent to harm people, just things
Examples of ecosabotage in If a Tree Falls

Any problem with Martin's definition? Is it too broad? Too narrow?

Strategic monkeywrenching (Dave Foreman's definition) 
  1. "Monkeywrenching is non-violent resistance to the destruction of natural diversity and wilderness. It is not directed toward harming human beings or other forms of life. It is aimed at inanimate machines and tools."
  2. Targeted, decentralized, timely, fun, etc.
Is this the same thing as ecosabotage? 
Examples from Foreman:  spiking trees and roads
Examples of strategic monkeywrenching in If a Tree Falls

Terrorism  (features)
  1. tries to persuade and create change through fear
  2. trying to stop something perceived as bad
  3. randomness - not 100%
  4. doing something
  5. violence with broad target
  6. must target people?
  • McGowan--thinks he's not a terrorist because terrorists commit acts of violence against people, not just property
  • Government--sends McGowan to anti-terrorism detention facility
Definition  - Person P's act A is an act of terrorism if and only if:
  1. P is doing A with some social or political or environmental goal G
  2. P's act A is motivated by moral or religious concern [from A's point of view]
  3. A is illegal and destructive.
  4. P chooses A partly because P believes A will cause terror in some population and this terror will somehow advance goal G
We'll discuss whether this is a good definition
By this definition, was the Earth Liberation Front involved in terrorism?


Would you defend any of the activism in If a Tree Falls?  Which?  Why?  
What about Whale Wars? What type of activism is that? Is it morally permissible?
The ethics of plea bargain deals - Jacob Ferguson

Sunday, April 22, 2012

If A Tree Falls

I hope everyone will get a chance to see If A Tree Falls by Monday.  More info is at the "make up opportunities" tab.  trailer

Earth Day (Alexis)

Marking the anniversary of the modern environmental movement in 1970, Earth Day is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year on April 22. So, how did it all begin? During an era when war protest raged across the country, saving the environment was the last thing on everyone’s mind. Public awareness and concern for the planet started with the publishing of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring. After witnessing the damage from the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, the U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, decided to capitalize on the vigor from the student anti-war movement and the emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution. In an attempt to force environmental protection onto the national political agenda, Nelson planned a national teach-in on the environment for April 22, 1970. On that day, approximately 20 million American participated as primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and community groups across the nation organized protests against a range of environmental issues. No political or socioeconomical lines were drawn as citizens from all walks of life participated. And, as a result, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were passed.

Earth Day went global in 1990 – lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Maintaining its grassroots upbringing, Earth Day continues to elevate environmental awareness and influence the way the world’s citizens think, live, and work. Through exhibits, entertainment, and education, it strives to inspire us to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Of course, as with any movement there are critics. Proponents of bright green environmentalism, such as writer Alex Steffen, believe that the Earth Day celebration has outlived its usefulness and that we should instead actively search for constructive solutions. While others have questioned the nature of the companies and products involved in Earth Day related promotions – leading to accusations of greenwashing. Is Earth Day still effective as a global environmental movement? Is it focusing on the right issues and solutions?

During the 2012 Earth Day Dallas festivities at Fair Park, visitors listened to a wide variety of exhibitors talk about how to take environmentally responsible actions by better utilizing available resources, switching to eco-friendly products, and joining environmental organizations. In her article for The Daily Beast, Sharon Begley argues that buying green and changing personal behavior will not save the planet. She points out that all environmental progress has come through national- and international-regulation, not by "relying on individuals' green good will or even the power of the marketplace." If we really want to change the environment then celebrating an event, like Earth Day Dallas, which holds individual green good above drastic societal changes is not going to have the desired outcome. Begley would argue that if Earth Day is to remain an effective global environmental movement, its focus needs to shift from changing individual habits to empowering individuals to stand up for widesweeping, environmental legislation changes and to be activist within their communities. We can no longer be complacent with the societal practices that have lead to global warming. As such, we must focus less energy on the individual green acts Earth Day presently supports and more energy on mutually coercing all citizens of the world to change. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Preserving Land and Wildlife, to Restore the Afghan Identity (Aaron)

When I came across this article, I became very interested because in my environmental ethics class we had been discussing conservation of the wilderness. There was a possible debate topic of whether or not it was ethical for the U.S. to demand or tell other countries to conserve land or wilderness. The U.S. seems to make this a big time priority and this is funny to me because I believe that we do not do enough to conserve or preserve land in our own country. Alex Dehgan was born in Iran and moved to U.S. at a very young age, and as stated in this article received a doctorate from the University of Chicago and is known for working on conservation policies and foreign policies that have to do with conservation. Dehgan is known for his most recent work in Afghanistan, where he is continuously working with Afghan citizens and the Afghan government to declare protection of certain lands that are endangered in the country.

This project is supported by the U.S., is to work with the Afghan government to help develop a system of protected lands. Afghanistan previously had no policy to help protect lands. Deghan's goal in Afghanistan is to educate rural Afghan communities with basic knowledge of natural resources, environmental policies, and wildlife populations. Dehgan's main focus is the Hindu Kush range and the Pamir knot range. These areas are very important because they support wildlife that is threatened in most areas of the world, and if proper precautions  are not taken they will be threatened in these regions. The species that are mentioned are "Marco Polo sheep, the worlds largest; Himalayan and Persian Ibex; flying squirrels; and birds like griffon vultures and golden eagles".

In an interview Dehgan discusses what is taking place in Afghanistan currently and the importance of this project. He says "By 2002, 52 percent of the forest cover had been lost. There is soil erosion, overgrazing and disease transmission between livestock". This is a big time problem because people in these regions live off of the livestock and can grow very few crops. Most information and data was lost after the U.S. invasion in Afghanistan, and this is a huge problem. Deghan has already identified over 20 new species in these regions and his work is not done yet.

Deghan discusses the importance of the relationship that the Afghan people have with there land. He feels that they are being extremely cooperative with him and it is important for them to understand the land because it is part of there cultural identity. He said the people are very concerned with restoring traditional practices and ways of life that have been affected by war. He says that people are willing to listen to him, and states that even when the weather in the region is bad, people are still willing to come to his workshops about conservation. This comes as a surprise to him and he feels that he is making progress because the people are willing to do whatever it takes to educate themselves.

Despite his efforts there is still illegal trading going on that threatens endangered species such as the snow leopard. Its hide is worth a considerable amount of money and is traded and sold in Afghanistan. It is illegal to trade endangered animal hides, but the government does very little to enforce that this does not happen. Deghan also mentions that there illegal timber trade that is going on, timber is being cut down in lands who have ecosystems that are being threatened. The people who live this lands, way of life is being threatened all together because of illegal things like this that are taking place.

When Deghan is asked how people are responding to him, he feels that he is having a positive impact and is well respected by the Afghan people that he comes in contact with. He is impressed and feels that the Islamic culture has a reputation for stressing an importance on science. He tries to avoid making promises he cannot keep and tries his best to follow through with any promises that he makes because he feels it is important for him to keep the peoples trust, so they will continually cooperate with him and continue to seek knowledge from him.

Deghan feels that it important for the people to be able to develop good relations with tourists who want to visit the area and see animals that are extremely rare in the world. He believes that this will give the Afghan population in this area and big time incentive to preserve and conserve there lands and animals in this region. Tourism has obviously dropped because of war conflicts, but it important because it was the number 2 source of income when Afghanistan was at peace with the rest of the world. He hopes eventually tourism will pick back up again and wants the people to be welcoming to tourist in the region.

Deghan hopes in the future for the Afghan people to take over what he is doing and enforce important laws on conservation. He believes that if they can preserve there wildlife and understand how to take advantage of there natural resources, they will be on there way to an independent future and stable economy.

I feel that this is an extremely important article, because he discusses important things that are taking place behind the scenes in Afghanistan that seem to be payed very little attention to. Alex Deghan is aiming to make the Afghan people more independent and make them aware of how there native land can be used to support there way of life and does a great job stressing the importance of conservation to its people. It also gave me a special appreciation for the Afghan people, it seems to me most of them are peaceful people who just want to be left alone and live happy flourishing lives. There way of life has obviously been affected by war and the Taliban, especially because the environment has previously been paid no attention to whatsoever. Conservation is more important than just having places that are pretty to look at, it is crucial for peoples existence and survival.

CHANGE - Rights for Natural Objects?

For Monday -- see "If a Tree Falls" -- see "make up opportunities" tab

Philosophy Talks


Christopher Stone, "Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects"
Law review article originally published in 1972. Became a book (1996). Last section of excerpt is from book.
What would it take for a stream to have legal rights? Suppose a factory is polluting the stream and there are people being harmed downstream.  The people have rights and can sue.  The stream has rights provided that --

  1. Suit can be brought against factory owner in the name of the stream (through a guardian or trustee); i.e. stream has "standing" to sue.
  2. Factory owner is liable for damage to the stream, independent of impact on humans.
  3. Judgment will benefit stream, making it "whole" again.
Do streams have rights now?

"Unthinkable" for streams to have rights?
(1) Once they had no rights, and then they gained rights:  blacks, women, children, corporations.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010): Supreme Court ruled (5-4) that the free speech clause of the first amendment* protects the free speech rights of corporations, not just individual persons, so McCain-Feingold Act could not stop corporations from airing political ads within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election.
* "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
(2) Rights for the speechless, through guardians: children, people who are incapacitated

Influence of article. Cited by Supreme Court Justice Douglas in the case of Sierra Club v. Hickel (1971)

 Has anyone successfully sued on behalf of a stream, tree, or other natural object?

Are rights for natural objects really needed?

 Environmental Protection Regulations
With all of those regulations, why would any environmentalist want rights for natural objects?  Can anyone suggest a good example?  Article

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Homework ...

Due Friday 4/20, at the homework tab.

Wilderness Preservation Debate (pictures)

Sao Francisco River in the Catinga (Brazil)

Sao Franciso River in the Catinga (Brazil)

CAMPFIRE (Zimbabwe)
Project Tiger
Schmidtz-- (1) Conflicts of value, (2) Conflicts of priorities, (3) Conflicts of use

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wilderness Preservation

Schmidtz, Natural Enemies

Guha, "Radical Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation" (1989)

The tenets of "deep ecology" (see text, chapters 13 & 14)
(1)  Reject anthropocentrism (e.g. Baxter), accept biocentrism (e.g. Taylor)
(2) Focus on preservation of pristine wilderness and if that's impossible, restoration
(3)  Invocation of non-western spiritual traditions (e.g. Buddhist and Native American), to "consolidate the claim that deep ecology is a philosophy of universal significance"
(4) Deep ecologists see themselves as the "spiritual, philosophical, and political vanguard of American and world environmentalism"

Guha's critique of each tenet

Re (1): dichotomy not useful
Re (2):   

Wilderness preservation unjust: "the setting aside of wilderness areas has resulted in a direct transfer of resources from the poor to the rich.  Thus, Project Tiger, a network of parks hailed by the international conservation community as an outstanding success, sharply posits the interests of the tiger against those of poor peasants living in and around the reserve" (p. 179) 

Wilderness preservation the wrong goal for now: there are much more pressing environmental problems in developing countries--clean water, sanitation, air pollution, etc.

Re (3):  self-serving distortions

Re (4): "the enjoyment of nature is an integral part of the consumer society" (p. 181)

(1) Is Guha right that the concern with wilderness preservation a byproduct of western affluence, and not fair to impose on developing countries? (Note: affluent countries eliminated much of their wilderness centuries ago!)

(2)  Is there a way to create an alignment between wilderness preservation and development?  Schmidtz says yes, but only if developing countries create hunting preserves for the wealthy

Debate will focus on (1), but question (2) will probably come up too.



What's left to preserve?

Wilderness areas
More info about those areas

Poaching Problem

Western concern (Nicholas Kristof editorial)
We humans are suckers for certain kinds of wildlife, from lions to elephants. I hadn’t known I was a zebra fan until I drove my rented car into a traffic jam of zebras here. My heart fluttered.

As for rhinos, they’re so magnificent that they attract foreign aid. Women here in rural Zimbabwe routinely die in childbirth for lack of ambulances or other transport to hospitals, and they get no help. But rhinos in this park get a helicopter to track their movements. (continue reading)

The Hunting Question

Safari Hunting

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Wilderness Preservation


New required reading for next Wednesday--Natural Enemies, by David Schmidtz
There's information about debate #4 at the debate tab.
I'll need to meet with the debaters after class today and also set up an appointment for next Tuesday.



From Wilderness and the American Mind, by Roderick Nash

"...the root seems to have been 'will' with a descriptive meaning of self-willed, willful, or uncontrollable. From 'willed' came the adjective 'wild' use to convey the idea of being lost, unruly disordered or confused." (p. 1)

Little Red Riding Hood
"The idea of a habitat of wild beasts implied the absence of men, and the wilderness was conceived as a region where a person was likely to get into a disordered, confused, or 'wild' condition....The image is that of a man in an alien environment where the civilization that normally orders and controls his life is absent." (p. 2)

"Thus a wilderness is also that part of a formal garden which is deliberately planted with hedges in the form of a labyrinth."  (p. 3)

"If paradise was early man's greatest good, wilderness, as its antipode, was his greatest evil. In one condition the environment, garden-like, ministered to his every desire. In the other it was at best indifferent, frequently dangerous, and always beyond control... Safety, happiness, and progress all seemed dependent on rising out of a wilderness situation. It became essential to gain control over nature." (p. 9)

"For centuries the wild predominated over the precarious defenses thrown up up against its influence.  Men dreamed of life without wilderness." (p. 9)

"The wilds continued to be repugnant even in as relatively advanced civilizations as those of the Greeks and Romans. The celebrations of nature, which abound in classical literature, are restricted to the cultivated, pastoral variety." (p. 9)

"The Old Testament reveals that the ancient Hebrews regarded the wilderness as a cursed land..." (p. 14)

"In early and medieval Christianity, wilderness kept its significance as the earthly realm of the powers of evil that the Church had to overcome. " (p. 18)

"Yet Christianity also retained the idea that wild country could be a place of refuge and religious purity. A succession of Christian hermits and monks (literally, one who lives alone) found the solitude of the wilderness conducive to meditation, spiritual insight, and moral perfection." (p. 18) (3rd century desert saints)

Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains (1863)
"Appreciation of wilderness began in the cities. The literary gentleman wielding a pen, not the pioneer with his axe, made the first gestures of resistance against the strong currents of antipathy....In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Europeans laid the intellectual foundations for a favorable attitude. The concept of the sublime and picturesque led the way by enlisting aesthetics in wild country's behalf while deism associated nature and religion." (p. 44)

"With the flowering of Romanticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, wild country lost much of its repulsiveness. It was not that wilderness was any less solitary, mysterious, and chaotic, but rather in the new intellectual context these qualities were coveted." (p. 44)

"To signify this new feeling about wild places the concept of sublimity gained widespread usage in the eighteenth century." (p. 46)

"Sublimity suggested the association of God and wild nature... By the mid-eighteenth century wilderness was associated with the beauty and godliness that previously had defined it by their absence. Men found it increasingly possible to praise, even to worship, what they had formerly detested." (p. 46)

"Appreciation of wilderness led easily to sadness at its disappearance from the American scene." (p. 96)


Robert Eliot, "Faking Nature" -- examples of faking nature--

  • Mine under sand dunes, then restore dunes
  • Remove mountain tops for mining, then restore plants and animals
Restoration Thesis:  "...the destruction of what has value is compensated for by the later creation (recreation) of something of equal value." (p. 381)

Does restoration fully restore?  Eliot argues that it doesn't -- he's AGAINST the Restoration Thesis. 


EXAMPLE--Dallas Arboretum--cut down bamboo forest to create new "forest" for Children's Garden. They are recreating a forest. Will it have the same value?



Suppose some natural area is a perfect fake.  You can't tell the difference. Is it just as good as the original?

(1) If you think it's just as good, that "discounts the possibility that the manner of the landscape's genesis, for example, has a legitimate role in determining its value." (p. 383)

(2)  Example 1: sculpture in my garden. Sewage engineer needs to remove to fix pipes.  Will pulverize sculpture and replace by exact duplicate.  Suppose it's by a famous artist.

(3)  Example 2: I get a Vermeer for my birthday, and then it turns out to be a forgery.

(4)  Example 3:  My piano keys turn out to be made of human bone.

(5)  What do the examples show? (see quote on left, below, p. 384)  Origins affect value

(6)   Does genuine, unadulterated wilderness simply give us extra happiness or preference satisfaction?  "While appeal to utilitarian considerations might be strategically useful in certain cases they do not reflect the underlying motivation of the conservationists." (p. 382)

(7) The motivation  of conservationists is to preserve the full value of natural areas, which is based partly on the way they came about, like an art conservationist tries to preserve the value of art objects, which is also based on the way they came about.  The goal is not to satisfy people or make them happy, but to preserve the value that's associated with specific origins.

(8)  Another argument--surely this gets better and better (pp. 385-6):
  1. Nature in Nozick's "experience machine" -- like The Matrix, the "feelies" in Brave New World, the movies in Soylent Green.
  2. Synthetic nature -- "artificially generated breeze" etc.
  3. Restored nature
  4. Wild, pristine nature, not shaped and managed by humans
(9)  Aesthetic analogies should not make us think nature is exactly like art (see quote on right, p. 386)

(10)  Elliott's view could easily be combined with others. We could say wilderness has value partly because of its genesis but also because of the value of component parts like plants, animals, species, and ecosystems.   So you could combine Elliot PLUS biocentrism, or Elliot PLUS animalism, or Elliot PLUS ecological holism, etc.


(1)  Elliot says restoration is second best, but why is it good at all, considering that restored nature is no longer wild?  Restoration of wolves to Yellowstone National Park

(2)  What would Elliot think of "rewilding"? Is it an oxymoron?  Can you really REwild--or "create wildness" through human intervention?

(3)  Wild, pristine nature is not accessible to people with physical disabilities. Is that unjust? Are modifications only fair?
cafeteria at the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns, accessible by elevator
(3)  If people in developing countries don't value wilderness areas, are western environmental organizations entitled to try to preserve them anyway?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Food Ethics (loose ends)

Are GE foods less nutritious?
Harvest of Fear 3 6:30 - end  Harvest of Fear 4 (complete)
Monsanto link 
substantial equivalence (wikipedia)
Friday we'll talk about Drew's post on lab meat.  I received an email about it, some of which (slightly edited) is below.  The author didn't want to be identified, but is a knowledgeable expert.
I found your posting through a Google alert I've set up.  I particularly like that the climatic impact of meat is assessed at the top of your posting.  Most postings critical of meat bury the climatic impact below less important ones.  But I also thought you might find a few other comments useful.  

According to your posting, the best way to address meat's climatic impact is through in vitro meat.  But even its promoters say that with unlimited funding, commercializing in vitro meat will take 10-20 years, while at the current pace it will take forever;  see  

Similar views are at and

Meanwhile, the next 5 years may be the world's last chance to combat climate change -- according to the International Energy Agency, not a radical group, at   Similarly, according to a new IPCC report, climatic impacts may soon make cities such as Mumbai "uninhabitable," according to an article at

Moreover, your posting states that the FAO "observed that greenhouse gas emissions due to the livestock industry contribute to between 14 and 22 percent of the total of greenhouse gases the world produces every year. This study includes all of the processes involved in filling our stores with buyable meat."  

But the authors of that study are livestock specialists working for the FAO, just one of 19 UN specialized agencies.  Those agencies are all autonomous;  none is governed by any of the 6 main UN bodies.  Yet there's a much higher livestock-greenhouse gas estimate by environmental specialists employed by two UN specialized agencies.See

Also see and  
Another source is Paul McCartney's meat-free campaign at Here's a relevant video:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Food Ethics

Issues about genetically engineering new plants and animal foods - background for Wednesday's debate
  • GE = genetically engineered/engineering
  • GMO = genetically modified organism
It's worth watching all of Harvest of Fear -- here -- and all of Food Inc. (a Netflix free instant view)


(1)  How is  GE different from traditional plant and animal breeding?  Harvest of Fear 5 (watch in class)


(2)  Risks to human health - See Harvest of Fear 3-4 (are there really any risks?)
(3)  Environmental risks - Harvest of Fear 10 (6:05 salmon), Harvest of Fear 6 (butterflies)
(4)  Gene patenting and seed ownership - Harvest of Fear 5 and Food Inc 8 + beginning of 9 (watch in class)
(5)  Are we playing God?  What does that mean?  (see Coady's definition)

(6)  Environmental benefits of GE animals - see enviro-pig and cow-roo from last week
(7)  Environmental benefits of GE plants (see Rauch)
  • Round-Up ready soybeans (transgenic)
  • they tolerate the herbicide Round-Up
  • so farmers don't have to plow to remove weeds
  • less soil erosion, less run-off
  • Transgenic tomato plants that grow in salty water
  • overcomes problem with saline soil 
  • Bt cotton (transgenic)
  • needs less pesticide
  • less run-off
(8)  GE will feed the word.  See Rauch and  Harvest of Fear 7 (start at 6:05) and 8 (watch in class)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Food Ethics (preview)

Next week:  is there anything wrong with "GE" or "GMO" solutions to environmental problems?  What about GMO crops?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Problem with CAFO Scale of Production (Rachel)

A children’s book, Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi summarizes basic biological facts in a fun way that explains to toddlers bathroom habits of humans.  For those unfamiliar with the story, it explains that different animals (e.g. elephants, mice, birds, fish, people) poop in different ways according to their size and diet.  I think this story is also useful in explaining the problem with factory farming animals.  For example, it points out that most animals do their business without ever thinking about it, or cleaning up after themselves.  In factory farming, animals are controlled by humans, therefore humans have to clean up after the animals.  The excess amount of excrement is damaging the environment and contributing to climate change- talk about a stinky situation! 
When I first heard about the environmental impact of raising animals caused from mass consumption of meat, I was skimming over an Oprah magazine that discussed Lynn Henning.  She is spreading awareness about the negative environmental consequences produced from factory farming.  Mass-produced meat seems to be the culprit of water, air, and soil pollution comes from a by-product of raising animals in feeding operations, which is that in order for the farm to make a profit the animals must be pumped up with fat.  This means the animals need a lot of food, and of course there is a lot of leftover excrement that the CAFOs are responsible for disposing of, but they do a poor job.  

Lynn’s home, a family-run farm in Michigan, is now surrounded by CAFOs.  She is fighting against big agricultural industry to protect the local water being polluted from manure run-offs in streams.  This contaminated water runs into rivers, and underground poisoning wells.  She is trying to encourage the EPA to regulate CAFOs on a more stringent basis.  Facing attacks from CAFO’s employees (e.g. being run off the road and framed for reckless driving), Lynn has been fighting a long battle.  Not all the attention towards Lynn is bad; she also received positive support from environmentalists when she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.

CAFOs, also known as Concentrated Feeding Animal Operations, create ethical dilemmas and have generated a lot of buzz in the media.  This practice of raising livestock is often referred to as factory farming because of the large amount of animals moved through these facilities annually.  While many debate the ethics of eating animals due to the inherent value of the animals themselves, I assert the environmental impact of factory farming animals is the bigger issue.  Much like the article published in Washington, the pollutants produced from factory farming have dramatic impact on the people who live near the CAFOs and also an environmental impact for other humans around the globe.  The ethical implications due to the environmental impact of CAFOs should be evaluated by two ethical theories; first, an anthropocentric argument, followed by a consequentialist approach to see if there is ethical support for behavior modification of humans consuming meat.  


An anthropocentric argument aims to show that if it benefits humans, then it is ethically permissible to pursue.  With this view there is little value in objects that are not humans, like plants or animals. In this case, the question to ask is, “Is eating meat essential to being human?” No, it is not.  If anything it provides instrumental happiness, because eating meat is a luxury not a necessity. Even from an anthropocentric view, I do not think eating meat can be justified.

If you think meat is good (because it makes people happy), perhaps you should ask yourself if meat makes people happier than breathing?  Breathing adequate levels of oxygen is essential to humans; however, with millions of cows breathing oxygen [as they grow into delicious steaks], they are taking away precious oxygen molecules which benefit humans! This brings me to another point about cows wasting resources humans could use: we feed cows grains that we could be feeding to other humans.  Cows use a lot of resources which would benefit humans more.  So from an anthropocentric stance, we ought to decrease the amount of animals in factory farms in order to make people happier.


The consequences of eating meat is overwhelming negative for Earth, including humans, plants, animals, bacteria, etc.  Not only does the practice of CFAOs remove edible grains from the mouths of hungry humans, as Fox points out in his paper, Vegetarianism and Treading Lightly on the Earth, the harms of factory farming extend further than injustice of food distribution.  I was excited to see Bill Nye, (the Science Guy) last spring at the University of Texas in Arlington, when he spoke of climate change due to the Western lifestyle (e.g. driving large vehicles, eating meat).  He pointed out how counter-intuitive our ideal lifestyle has become. Obviously, it takes far more resources to grow a cow into a hamburger, than it does to grow a head a of lettuce for a salad, but for some reason you can purchase a cheeseburger for a dollar while a salad at the same fast-food joint is almost six dollars.

I agree with Bill Nye, and Michael Allen Fox; we ought to reform our eating habits and no longer be dependent of CFAOs. If capitalism responds to demands, then we must demand ethical reform. We should set new market standards by demanding better access to vegetables and fruits, reduce government subsidies and educate the public about the health-risks of consuming animals.  If all prospects point to a population growth in the future, we need to preserve the earth by reducing greenhouse gases (which can be achieved if we reduce meat consumption) and adapt our diets to a healthy option (i.e. environmentally and medically).      

Perhaps, in a desperate attempt to hold onto your hamburger, you opt for replacing factory farming practices with organic, free-range animals on family owned farms.  Would reverting back to this ideal state of farming be ethically viable?  The consequences appear to not support this option either.  In order to maintain the average American's consumption of meat, we have to grow as much as possible.  If we needed more space for the animals to graze, then we would have less space to grow vegetables and other plants that help absorb CO2.  Animals produce more carbon dioxide, and plants use carbon dioxide to produce energy during photosynthesis that produces oxygen as a by-product.  If we need less carbon dioxide and more oxygen in our environment, then there must be more plants and fewer animals.

As Monbiot points out in his article in the 
Guardian, if we reformed the way we raised pigs, and switched their food to scraps of waste then we could redirect the grains that were supposed to feed the pigs to humans.  However, switching food sources to more human friendly options will not address the final problem: waste.  It is estimated in Fox's paper for every 2.2 lbs of beef generates 88 lbs of manure, and pigs generate 33 lbs of fecal material.  The average American consumes on average 271 pounds of meat annually, as illustrated in this map of meat consumption on a global scale; it shows that the United States is [not surprisingly] in the highest category of consumption. The next time you are biting into a hamburger, just imagine all the feces it took to make that meat, and remember that the poop used to be grass, grains, and water.       
Still not convinced?
Here is a link to the Environmental Protection Agency that lists the potential harms of CAFOs.  Water is being contaminated with waste.  Rain-forests are disappearing in Central America in order to create more grazing fields.  Stanford estimated that animals occupy one-fourth of the Earth’s land.  If we did not raise animals on such a large scale, we could re-plant forests, and other plants, to boost oxygen production.  This would also help decrease the temperatures because the plants absorb energy from the sun.  Also, we could feed more people because we would have access to grains that were previously fed to livestock.  Finally, if there were fewer animals excreting hazardous bacteria in the soil, water, and air, then we could avoid many health issues.  Contrary to what Taro Gomi says in “ Everyone Poops”, “all living things eat, so everyone poops” does not mean we are right for promoting it to such excess- because the harms clearly outweigh the benefits.