Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Willfully Ignoring Speciesism...

Human discrimination against practically every other species on this planet has resulted, is resulting and will continue to result in mass extinctions, extirpations, and diminishment. 

Whereas very important issues such as racism and sexism (which are social issues) are acknowledged, speciesism, that is a biospheric issue with radical consequences, is not even given a moment's thought by most people. It is willfully and arrogantly ignored…

Environmental Ethics (Excerpts)

Excerpts from  Environmental Ethics 
By: John O'Neill, Andrew Light & Alan Holland © 2012 Nature Education Citation: O'Neill, J., Light, A. & Holland, A. (2012) Environmental
Ethics. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):7 

What ethical perspective should inform environmental policymaking in areas such as climate change and biodiversity? Is an economic approach founded on utilitarianism ethically defensible?

The ethical framework that is being invoked here has its roots in utilitarianism. Classical Utilitarianism claims that the right action is the one which brings about the greatest total well‐being of affected agents. We can understand the limitations of this view by breaking it down into its three independent components: 
1. Welfarism: The only thing that is good in itself and not just a means to another good is the well‐ being of individuals. 
2. Consequentialism: Whether an action is right or wrong is determined solely by its consequences. 
3. Maximising of value: One should choose the action that produces the greatest total amount of good. 

All have problematics. e.g., welfarism with its foundation where well-being is understood hedonistically un terms of psychological states, or the absence of virtue ethics in consequentialism, etc.

Now about maximizing values… 
Excerpts about ‘Maximizing Values’:

➵ Environmental problems have a strong distributional dimension. For example, the negative effects of climate change will fall disproportionately on the poor in current generations, and on future generations who are less responsible for greenhouse gas emissions as they accrue. Standard economic approaches to policy-making tend to exacerbate those problems. 

➵ (…) for the utilitarian, the distribution of goods has only instrumental value: we should choose that distribution of goods that maximises the total amount of well‐being. 
It is from this perspective that problems of justice arise. For example, displacing a population in order to build a dam might cause a great deal of misery for the worst off, but if it produces a marginal gain for a larger population who are already well off then, on a utilitarian calculation, the policy is justified provided the population is great enough. 

➵ A second potential problem for the assumption of maximising aggregate value is that of value commensurability (O'Neill et al. 2008). Does there exist a common measure of value through which different options or states of affairs can be ordered? One answer that is assumed in standard cost-benefit analysis is that a person's willingness to pay at the margin for some good provides a measure of the expected improvement in well‐being that she will gain from a good. The proper response to environmental problems on this view is to extend the measuring rod of money to include environmental goods that are currently unpriced. Thus TEEB is attempting to put a price on ecosystem services and biodiversity. 

There are a number of objections to this approach. First, some affected parties — future generations and non‐human animals — cannot express a willingness to pay. Second, what a person prefers as a private consumer of goods can depart from the values they express as a citizen in public deliberations (Sagoff 1988). Finally, many ethical commitments are constituted by a refusal to put a price on them (Raz 1986, O'Neill 1993, Spash 2008). If I care about something, then one way of expressing that care is by refusing to put a price on it. 


Sagoff, M. The Economy of the Earth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988. 

Raz, J. The Morality of Freedom. Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1986. 

O'Neill, J. Ecology, Policy and Politics: Human Well‐Being and the Natural World London, UK: Routledge, 1993. 

O'Neill, J., Holland, A. & Light, A. Environmental Values. London, UK: Routledge, 2008. 

Spash, C. L. How much is that ecosystem in the window? The one with the bio‐diverse trail. Environmental Values 17, 259‐284 (2008). 

TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity). Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB. Malta: Progress Press, 2010. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ecology: An Ethical Perspective (Excerpts)

Excerpts from  Ecology: An Ethical Perspective 
By: J. B. Callicott (Uni. Distinguished Research Prof. Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, Uni. of North Texas) © 2012 Nature Education 

➵ To realize the ethical perspective of ecology requires the universal adoption of the evolutionary‐ecological worldview through science education, followed by a translation of that worldview into policy and practice. 

➵ The sciences and the facts they disclose do inform our values and transform our ethics — and well they should. 

➵ Ecology is not only a science, it is also a worldview. Through the lens of ecology, we now view the components of the natural environment as internally related, whereas before the advent of ecology, we viewed the components of the natural environment as externally related. Ecology grew out of evolutionary biology and so viewing the environment through its lens also brings into focus an evolutionary as well as ecological ethical perspective. Not only does ecology inform our conception of the natural environment it reforms our conception of who we are as human beings. That, in turn, entails a reformed conception of the proper human relationship with the natural environment. Both the religious and philosophical legacies of Western civilization portrayed human beings as set apart from the rest of nature and licensed to treat the environment as a pool of "natural resources," valuable only to the extent that it satisfies vaunted human desires or preferences — whether impulsive desires or considered preferences. In other words, we have inherited a two‐and‐half millennium tradition of narrow anthropocentrism from Western civilization. From an evolutionary point of view, however, Homo sapiens, is, like all others, an evolved species. Certainly, we have evolved some very special and unique abilities, but do they entitle us to consider ourselves as uniquely privileged in comparison with all other species? The evolutionary‐ecological worldview is humbling. 

➵ "If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. . . . To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering." 

➵ An ecological ethic, Leopold (1949) concludes, "changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow members and also respect for the community as such." (Leopold, A. Sand County). 

Monday, September 25, 2017

What Trees Feel, How They Communicate...

Excerpts from a great book...

When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.

Forests are superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies…

Together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.

Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover.

In the symbiotic community of the forest, not only trees but also shrubs and grasses—and possibly all plant species—exchange information this way.

When trees grow together, nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be.

A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Scientists have determined that slow growth when the tree is young is a prerequisite if a tree is to live to a ripe old age.

There are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet. A mere teaspoonful contains many miles of fungal filaments. All these work the soil, transform it, and make it so valuable for the trees.

While we are on the subject of erosion: it is one of the forest’s most dangerous natural enemies. Soil is lost whenever there are extreme weather events, usually following particularly heavy downpours. If the forest soil cannot absorb all the water right away, the excess runs over the soil surface, taking small particles of soil with it.

The forest is really a gigantic carbon dioxide vacuum that constantly filters out and stores this component of the air. It’s true that some of this carbon dioxide does indeed return to the atmosphere after a tree’s death, but most of it remains locked in the ecosystem forever.

The spreadsheets that estimate lumber production need to be adjusted now that one third more biomass is accruing than a few decades ago. But what was that again? If you are a tree, slow growth is the key to growing old. Growth fueled by hefty additions of excess nitrogen from agricultural operations is unhealthy. And so the tried and tested rule holds true: less (carbon dioxide) is more (life-span).

If we want to use forests as a weapon in the fight against climate change, then we must allow them to grow old, which is exactly what large conservation groups are asking us to do.

Coniferous forests in the Northern Hemisphere influence climate and manage water in other ways, too. Conifers give off terpenes, substances originally intended as a defense against illness and pests.

Given this reciprocal relationship between trees and weather, forest ecosystems probably play an important role in slowing down climate change.

For ecosystems in Central Europe, regular rainfall is extremely important because water and forests share an almost unbreakable bond. Streams, ponds—even the forest itself—all these ecosystems depend on providing their inhabitants with as much stability as they can.

The forest floor acts as a huge sponge that diligently collects all the rainfall. The trees make sure that the raindrops don’t land heavily on the ground but drip gently from their branches. The loosely packed soil absorbs all the water, so instead of the raindrops joining together to form small streams that rush away in the blink of an eye, they remain trapped in the soil. Once the soil is saturated and the reservoir for the trees is full, excess moisture is released slowly and over the course of many years, deeper and deeper into the layers below the surface. It can take decades before the moisture once again sees the light of day.

In total, a fifth of all animal and plant species—that’s about six thousand of the species we know about—depend on dead wood.50 As I have explained, dead wood is useful because of its role as a nutrient recycler.

Sometimes dead wood is directly beneficial to trees, for example, when a downed trunk serves as a cradle for its own young. Young spruce sprout particularly well in the dead bodies of their parents. This is known as “nurse-log reproduction” in English and, somewhat gruesomely, as Kadaververjรผngung, or “cadaver rejuvenation,” in German.

How often have we experienced warm spells in January or February without the oaks and beeches greening up? How do they know that it isn’t yet time to start growing again? We’ve begun to solve the puzzle with fruit trees, at least. It seems the trees can count! They wait until a certain number of warm days have passed, and only then do they trust that all is well and classify the warm phase as spring.

Beeches, for example, don’t start growing until it is light for at least thirteen hours a day. That in itself is astounding because to do this, trees must have some kind of ability to see.

The anticipated trajectory of a tree’s life can change at any time for any number of reasons. Its health depends on the stability of the forest ecosystem. It’s better if temperature, moisture, and light conditions don’t change abruptly because trees react extremely slowly. But even when all the external conditions are optimal, insects, fungi, bacteria, and viruses are always lurking, waiting for the chance to strike. That usually happens only when a tree gets out of balance.

The air in young pine forests is almost germfree, thanks to the phytoncides released by the needles. In essence, then, trees disinfect their surroundings.

Many of the companions that look after trees’ well-being in the forest (such as the microorganisms that make humus) are missing. Mycorrhizal fungi that help collect water and food are present only in low numbers. Urban trees, therefore, have to go it alone under the harshest conditions.

Silver birch bark has another surprise in store. The white color is because of the active ingredient betulin, its primary component. White reflects sunlight and protects the trunk from sunscald. It also guards the trunk against heating up in the warming rays of the winter sun, which could cause unprotected trees to burst. As birches are pioneer trees that often grow all alone in wide-open spaces without any neighbors to shade them, such a feature makes sense. Betulin also has antiviral and antibacterial properties and is an ingredient in medicines and in many skin care products.60 What’s really surprising is how much betulin there is in birch bark. A tree that makes its bark primarily out of defensive compounds is a tree that is constantly on the alert. In such a tree there is no carefully calibrated balance between growth and healing compounds. Instead, defensive armoring is being thrown up at a breakneck pace everywhere. Why doesn’t every species of tree do that? Wouldn’t it make sense to be so thoroughly prepared against attack that potential aggressors would breathe their last the moment they took the first bite?

Species that live in social groups don’t entertain this option because every individual belongs to a community that will look after it in times of need, warn it of impending dangers, and feed it when it is sick or in distress. Cutting back on defense saves energy, which the tree can then invest in producing wood, leaves, and fruit. Not so with the birches, which must be completely self-reliant if they are to survive. But they, too, grow wood—and indeed, they do so a lot faster—and they, too, want to, and do, reproduce. Where does all their energy come from? Can this species somehow photosynthesize more efficiently than others? No. The secret, it turns out, lies in wildly overtaxing their resources. Birches rush through life, live beyond their means, and eventually wear themselves out.

In the past few centuries, hunting has come to European forests as well, which, paradoxically, considerably increased the numbers of deer and wild boar. Thanks to massive feeding programs by hunters, who are mostly interested in increasing the number of antler-bearing stags, the population grew until today it is up to five times its natural level. German-speaking regions have one of the highest concentrations of herbivores in the world, so small beeches are finding it harder than ever to survive. And forestry is restricting their spread, as well.

Slowly but surely, fungi and insects are making their way across the Atlantic or the Pacific in imported lumber and establishing themselves in Europe.

The Asian long-horned beetle >> a threat. It probably traveled to Europe and other parts of the world from China in packing crates.

Habitats are defined by their features (water, terrain, topography) and by the local climate.

Trees act as huge air filters. Their leaves and needles hang in a steady breeze, catching large and small particles as they float by. Per year and square mile this can amount to 20,000 tons of material.

Trees trap so much because their canopy presents such a large surface area. In comparison with a meadow of a similar size, the surface area of the forest is hundreds of times larger, mostly because of the size difference between trees and grass. The filtered particles contain not only pollutants such as soot but also pollen and dust blown up from the ground. It is the filtered particles from human activity, however, that are particularly harmful. Acids, toxic hydrocarbons, and nitrogen compounds accumulate in the trees like fat in the filter of an exhaust fan above a kitchen stove. But not only do trees filter materials out of the air, they also pump substances into it. They exchange scent-mails and, of course, pump out phytoncides, both of which I have already mentioned.

Walkers who visit one of the ancient deciduous preserves in the forest I manage always report that their heart feels lighter and they feel right at home. If they walk instead through coniferous forests, which in Central Europe are mostly planted and are, therefore, more fragile, artificial places, they don’t experience such feelings. Possibly it’s because in ancient beech forests, fewer “alarm calls” go out, and therefore, most messages exchanged between trees are contented ones, and these messages reach our brains as well, via our noses. I am convinced that we intuitively register the forest’s health. Why don’t you give it a try?

Tree roots can breathe as well. If they didn’t, deciduous trees would die in winter when they discard their aboveground lungs. But the trees keep ticking over and their roots even grow a little, so energy must be produced with the help of the trees’ reserves, and for this the trees need oxygen. And that is why it is so awful for a tree if the soil around its trunk has been so compacted that the small air pockets in the soil have been crushed. The tree’s roots suffocate, or at least have difficulty breathing, with the result that the tree gets sick.

In 1981, the German journal Gartenamt reported that 4 percent of oak deaths in one American city happened because the trees were subjected to light every night.

Therefore, the color of organisms and objects is dictated by the color of the reflected light. And in the case of leaves on trees, this color is green.

What we are really seeing is waste light, the rejected part that trees cannot use. Beautiful for us; useless for the trees. Nature that we find pleasing because it reflects trash?

The color is the result of a metabolic disorder. Young developing leaves on normal trees are often tinged red thanks to a kind of sun block in their delicate tissue. This is anthocyanin, which blocks ultraviolet rays to protect the little leaves. As the leaves grow, the anthocyanin is broken down with the help of an enzyme. A few beeches or maples deviate from the norm because they lack this enzyme. They cannot get rid of the red color, and they retain it even in their mature leaves. Therefore, their leaves strongly reflect red light and waste a considerable portion of the light’s energy. Of course, they still have the blue tones in the spectrum for photosynthesis, but they are not achieving the same levels of photosynthesis as their green-leaved relatives. These red trees keep appearing in Nature, but they never get established and always disappear again. Humans, however, love anything that is different, and so we seek out red varieties and propagate them. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is one way to describe this behavior, which might stop if people knew more about the trees’ circumstances.

The main reason we misunderstand trees, however, is that they are so incredibly slow. Their childhood and youth last ten times as long as ours. Their complete life-span is at least five times as long as ours.

It takes five hundred years from the time a national park is established to get to this point. Had large areas of an old deciduous forest that had seen only modest commercial use been put under protection, it would take only two hundred years to reach this stage.

There’s a common misconception about the appearance of old-growth forests in Europe, should they come to pass. Laypeople often assume that shrubby growth will take over the landscape and forests will become impenetrable. Where today the forests that predominate are at least partially accessible, tomorrow chaos will rule. Forest preserves untouched by foresters for more than a hundred years prove the opposite. Because of the deep shade, wild flowers and shrubs don’t have a chance, so the color brown (from old leaves) predominates on the natural forest floor. The small trees grow extremely slowly and very straight, and their side branches are short and narrow. The old mother trees dominate, and their flawless trunks stretch to the sky like the columns in a cathedral. In contrast to this, there is much more light in managed forests, because trees are constantly being removed. Grass and bushes grow in the gaps, and tangles of brambles prevent detours off the beaten path. When trees are felled and their crowns are left lying on the ground, the debris creates further obstacles. The whole forest presents a troubled and downright messy picture. Old-growth forests, however, are basically very accessible. There are just a few thick dead trunks lying on the ground here and there, which offer natural resting spots. Because the trees grow to be so old, few dead trees fall. Other than that, nothing much happens. Few changes are noticeable in a person’s lifetime. Preserves where managed forests are allowed to develop into old-growth forests have a calming effect on Nature and offer better experiences for people seeking rest and relaxation.

We are now discovering that animals share many human emotions. And not just mammals, which are closely related to us, but even insects such as fruit flies. Researchers in California have discovered that even these tiny creatures might dream. Sympathy for flies?

Not to put too fine a point on it, we use living things killed for our purposes. Does that make our behavior reprehensible? Not necessarily. After all, we are also part of Nature, and we are made in such a way that we can survive only with the help of organic substances from other species. We share this necessity with all other animals. The real question is whether we help ourselves only to what we need from the forest ecosystem, and—analogous to our treatment of animals—whether we spare the trees unnecessary suffering when we do this.

That means it is okay to use wood as long as trees are allowed to live in a way that is appropriate to their species. And that means that they should be allowed to fulfill their social needs, to grow in a true forest environment on undisturbed ground, and to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. And at least some of them should be allowed to grow old with dignity and finally die a natural death.

I, for one, welcome breaking down the moral barriers between animals and plants. When the capabilities of vegetative beings become known, and their emotional lives and needs are recognized, then the way we treat plants will gradually change, as well.

This is what this ecosystem achieves: the fullness of life with tens of thousands of species interwoven and interdependent.

Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at the Hokkaido University, discovered that leaves falling into streams and rivers leach acids into the ocean that stimulate the growth of plankton, the first and most important building block in the food chain. More fish because of the forest? The researcher encouraged the planting of more trees in coastal areas, which did, in fact, lead to higher yields for fisheries and oyster growers.

Ref: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Truth & Hate

“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” 

Whoever stated this (Orwell or Duke) must have had a prescience of what was to become our quotidian...

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lost in the "American Dream"...

“We risk being the first people in history to have been
able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive,
so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”

‘Risk’? Is that really the right choice of word here to describe what’s going on in our country? 
Aren’t we rather “totally living” the American dream? The American frame of mind is that we can believe anything we want and be entitled to those beliefs - facts and reality be damned.

“Treating real life as fantasy and vice versa, and taking preposterous ideas seriously, is not unique to Americans. But we are the global crucible and epicenter. We invented the fantasy-industrial complex; almost nowhere outside poor or otherwise miserable countries are flamboyant supernatural beliefs so central to the identities of so many people. This is American exceptionalism in the 21st century. The country has always been a one-of-a-kind place. But our singularity is different now. We’re still rich and free, still more influential and powerful than any other nation, practically a synonym for developed country. But our drift toward credulity, toward doing our own thing, toward denying facts and having an altogether uncertain grip on reality, has overwhelmed our other exceptional national traits and turned us into a less developed country.

People see our shocking Trump moment—this post-truth, “alternative facts” moment—as some inexplicable and crazy new American phenomenon. But what’s happening is just the ultimate extrapolation and expression of mindsets that have made America exceptional for its entire history.

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.” — Kurt Andersen

How the U.S. Lost Its Mind

The nation's current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history. "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Beauty of Having a Top Wildlife Regulator Back into the Picture...

When posting about the importance of top predators, and the benefit for instance of having the wolves back in Yellowstone, one of Earthwise Aware's followers mentioned that bison culls do more than having wolves back.

Let’s dig this a little on the topic... 

About Wolf vs. Bison cull? 

The point of this video is rather likely to focus on the wolf and not really the park. And rather to use the park as an illustration of how wolves are beneficial to large ecosystems. The truth is that the vast majority of people still demonize the wolf and big predators in general. 

The bison cull is a tough issue, and its purpose is at least 2 folds: containing the brucellosis disease, and alleviating a very human made problem > the fact that bisons are not allowed to migrate as their ancestors did. There is intolerance from the human population regarding these massive animals. So we surround and enclose them in the limit of a geographic area (the park), that is radically smaller than what their migration territory was. At 7.5 billion of individuals from our species, that’s barely a surprise that the confinement of the other species to small areas leads to an unbalance that we would try to fix ourselves. Now if we tried to bring more wolves and other top predators to regulate those bison populations, then how many predators would you need to get those populations down? And then what would happen to the surplus of wolves? (most likely a cull)…  

Cristina Eisenberg (EarthWatch’s chief scientist) says on the bison cull topic: “There are people who think that we should just protect everything and we can’t ever have too many”… “But nature had its own balance, and we’ve removed the ability of systems to function within that equilibrium. Now we have to play god.” Though we’re lousy gods —with Science, history, and ethics concurring…

Indeed we are poor substitutes for the Nature system functions as in the case of culling. The impact of a cull on an ecosystem is different than the result of natural predation, diseases and various functions (biomass recycling, etc.), we scientifically know that. Culling is one result of increasing interaction between humans and wild animals, not because there is more wildlife (totally the opposite) but because there is more and more of us.

Culling is a human solution to a human problem, and of course it’s going to be tough to come to term with it. Actually we should never come to term with it and accept the opposition as part of a healthy process. Its opponents play important role: anything that has to do with artificial death should be questioned. Opponents are the check and balance of this practice.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What should every citizen know about ecology?

Fewer than 20% of Americans are sufficiently literate to read a science article in a major newspaper, understand a science-based television program, or comprehend a popular science book (Miller 2002). That leaves about four- fifths of the population insufficiently knowledgeable about issues that may affect their lives. Literacy in certain areas of science – the environment, for example (Glenn 2001; Coyle 2005), or evolution (Miller et al. 2006) – lags substantially behind expectations for an informed citizenry.

Ecological literacy is necessary for understanding the natural world and human interaction with it (eg Slobodkin 2003; Speth 2004) and for making informed decisions about the conservation and management of resources (Berkowitz et al. 2005). An ecologically literate person exhibits awareness about local habitats, can link local issues to global concerns, and has an under- standing of spatially independent concepts and issues.

A framework for ecological literacy includes three components:
(1) possession of scientific habits of mind in ecology (ie those that promote the ability to reason about ecological science and issues);
(2) understanding of ecological connectivity and key concepts; and
(3) appreciation of the links between human actions and the environment.

People need a level of literacy sufficient to enable them to evaluate scientific claims in ecology. This requires a general comprehension of the process of science. It also necessitates an understanding of the nature of uncertainty in science, because issues related to uncertainty influence people’s view of environmental and ecological issues (Bradshaw and Borchers 2000; Robertson and Hull 2003).

An understanding of ecological connectivity (interactions and relationships) is essential to ecological literacy. This entails a realistic understanding of evolution across scales, an appreciation of feedbacks and constraints, and an ability to explain and predict basic patterns of population dynamics.

Ecological literacy allows people to understand connections between themselves and ecological processes and can help them to make informed decisions about environmental issues. Ecological literacy must include an understanding of the links between human actions and their subsequent effects on ecosystems. Participants in societal decision making must be able to consider the influence and interactions of economic, social, and ethical values in that process. Ecological literacy also requires the ability to distinguish between scientific evidence and values-based appraisal and to recognize the different roles of these perspectives.


Berkowitz AR, Ford ME, and Brewer CA. 2005. A framework for integrating ecological literacy, civics literacy and environmental citizenship in environmental education. In: Johnson EA and Mappin MJ (Eds). Environmental education or advocacy: perspectives of ecology and education in environmental education. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Bradshaw GA and Borchers JG. 2000. Uncertainty as information: narrowing the science–policy gap. Conserv Ecol 4: article 7. www.consecol.org/vol4/iss1/art7. Viewed 17 Mar 2008.

Miller JD. 2002. Civic scientific literacy: a necessity in the 21st century. FAS Public Interest Report J Fed Am Sci 55: 3–6.

Miller JD, Scott EC, and Okamoto S. 2006. Public acceptance of evolution. Science 313: 765–66.

Glenn JL. 2001. Using environment-based education to advance learning skills and character development. Washington, DC: North American Association of Environmental Education.

Coyle K. 2005. Environmental literacy in the US: what ten years of NEETF/Roper research and related studies say about environ- mental literacy in the U.S. Washington, DC: National Environmental Education and Training Foundation (NEETF).

Robertson DP and Hull RB. 2003. Public ecology: an environmental science and policy for global society. Environ Sci Policy 6: 399–410.

Slobodkin LB. 2003. A citizen’s guide to ecology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Speth JG. 2004. Red sky at morning: America and the crisis of the global environment. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


What should every citizen know about ecology? Rebecca Jordan, Frederick Singer, John Vaughan, and Alan Berkowitz Front Ecol Environ 2009; 7, doi:10.1890/070113

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Just Stop Gossiping –Actually It Might Make You Feel Better

"People use gossip to hurt people, in order to feel good about themselves and to feel like they have power over others."

Oh... Weird: that seems to be 'the theme du moment' in my life. I stumbled upon that quote today while looking for a paper on something radically different (for the record, I was looking for a socio-ecology-economic reference)...

Back to that quote. Yep, I agree. Actually, in French, the 'gossip' word-equivalent has a very negative connotation (at least it was so in my time). 

Is a human thing to do? Maybe but that does not make it right. Myself, I usually try to not talk negatively about people's lives, causes or work. It should not be really too hard to do: because what should be hard is to talk about something that you don't know about, right? And the truth is that I have no freaking clue about how people live their lives; I have no freaking clue of how they work and their value at work, and I don't pretend to be an expert for the cause they fight. I am actually grateful that they are willing to take on that fight for me, for us. I also don't like to gossip because what I would say only amounts to things that most likely would harm the person, and at the end, it makes feel "dirty"/"unworthy". Besides when you gossip about someone, well that person will know about it sooner rather than later (sorry it to break to you if you did not know about it but that's how gossips work).

So yes, indeed again... I always have considered gossipers as bullies (and that applies to everybody - I included when it happens that I gossip because we're all idiots at some point in our life). Sad to report that I've known many bullies, and sad to report that they keep piling up.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Unifying Anthropocentrism and Ecocentrism

The debate opposing Anthropocentrism and Ecocentrism involves a false dilemma: the anthropocentric approach, when properly understood, leads us to the same conclusions as an ecocentric approach, because human interests and ecological interests ultimately converge. More than merely converging, in fact, they are inseparable throughout; an anthropocentrism that does not encompass ecocentrism is an anthropocentrism that fundamentally misrecognizes its own commitments

Our choices matter. "We do not have a choice not to alter the world. This is not unique to humans. All life affects other life." 

If survival is a plausibly universal human interest (at the level of humanity considered holistically, at least), then such interests include a healthy, stable, and sustainable ecological context. Given our dependence on global ecology, if human and ecological interests were to be opposed, the ecological consequences of pursuing supposed human interests (to the exclusion of ecological interests) will eventually rebound against human interests—a contradiction. My argument, then, is that any apparent conflict is best understood as being symptomatic of an incorrect understanding of human interests. A purportedly anthropocentric argument justifying actions that are contrary to ecological interests is not, in fact, anthropocentrism rightly understood

 Ref: Unifying Anthropocentrism and Ecocentrism Emmelhainz, R. (2016)

The Modern Conservative Moral System & 'Environmentalism'

The conservative moral system includes a number of ideas that work against environmentalism and against dealing with global warming. 

  • First, there is the idea that man is above nature in a moral hierarchy, that nature is there (put there by God) purely for human use and exploitation. There are other interpretations of the Judeo-Christian Bible (such as the stewardship metaphor promoted by former Vice President Al Gore); however, the resilience of the former inhibits changes in practices and beliefs about global warming. 
  • Second, there is the Let-the-Market-Decide ideology, in which the market is both natural and moral*it’s the Decider, who rewards market discipline and punishes lack of it; there should be no authority higher than that of the market. Hence no regulations, low or no taxes, no workers’ protections or unions, no tort cases. Thus, environmental regulation and government subsidies for sustainable energy, green technology, and green jobs are seen as government interference in the market, and hence immoral. But as the recent world economic collapse has clearly shown, markets require regulation to function effectively and in the public interest. The anti-tax crusade in California has similarly led to the bankruptcy of the state and widespread disasters for the public good. 
  • Third, conservatives tend to think more in terms of direct rather than systemic causation. But phenomena like global warming work by systemic, not direct causation. 
  • Fourth, present-day market fundamentalism assumes that greed is good. It supports the view that market principles should govern our conflicts between environmentalism and economics. One such principle is cost benefit analysis (CBA). The basic math of CBA uses subtraction: the benefits minus the costs summed over time indefinitely. Now those ‘‘benefits’’ and ‘‘costs’’ are seen in monetary terms, as if all values involving the future of the earth were monetary. CBA is just the wrong paradigm for thinking about global warming, however. For example, as any economist knows, future money is worth less than present money. How much less? The equation has a factor that tells you how much: e (2.781828 . . .) to the power minus-d times t, where t is time and d is the discount rate. Now e to a negative power gets very small very fast. Just how fast depends on the exact discount rate (that is, interest rate), but any reasonable one is a disaster. The equation says that, in a fairly short time, any monetary benefits compared to costs will tend to zero. That says there are no long-term benefits to saving the earth!
  • Fifth, aligned with CBA is the Equivalent Value Metaphor. To find out the monetary value of the environment in a particular case, think in terms of the ‘‘services’’ that the environment in this case provides to human beings. Then compute what it would cost private enterprise to provide the equivalent services. That is the value of the ‘‘environmental service.’’ If a developer is willing to pay that amount or more, development should proceed. In cases of development versus conservation, compute the profits from development that would be ‘‘lost’’ to the developer under conservation, and consider that the value of the conservation. That is the money to be paid to the developer if conservation is chosen. In both, the natural environment, which lasts indefinitely, is destroyed and sacrificed to short-term profit.
  • Sixth, conservative populism views liberalism negatively, especially through the frame of the Liberal Elite: the tax-and-spend, sushi-eating, latte-drinking, Birkenstock-wearing, do-gooder, know-it-all liberals! This view tends to make conservative populists doubt and reject the science behind reports that establish the existence of and impact of global warming. 
Together, these six points lead to much of the moral outrage expressed by conservatives in the face of progressive environmental and global warming legislation. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

And just to be complete (on this last set of posts)... Our latest EwA Etiquette!

The Great Apes Rules

This includes explicitly: Chimps - No grunting, hooting, panting, lip-smacking, whimpering, laughing, barking, screaming. They have a strict communication protocol (and some are aggressive communication mechanisms). Human smiling teeth has very good connotations signifying happiness. However, in chimps, showing teeth can have very bad connotations such as fear or aggression (...)

We do really do cool (and important) work!

๐Ÿต The Wild Entertainers of Bukit – Orangutan Tourism Ethics Insights

This is their stories: the stories of the first orangutans that we encountered in the wild... A jungle trek in the forest of Sumatra ended up providing us with the perfect venue to understand better what are the positives and negatives of red apes tourism. Can it ever qualify as ecotourism? sustainable tourism? or is it rather plain 'wild' tourism.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Because I Care...

Pretty happy with our first promotional video... Amazing what we can do those days at low cost - which for any non-profit is a blessing!

I can't say it enough... But check us out: we do real cool work! Earthwise Aware rocks!

Vicodin & Cinnamon Buns

"America has opted for what the political equivalent of a diet of vicodin and cinnamon buns" 

Just stumbled upon that comment from whom I would call a renegade philosopher. I don't know why but I love the image...

Or maybe it's because I feel like I am living in a psychedelic country where not much makes sense anymore. The only thing that helps is disconnecting on a regular basis from the news - the gigantic drug supply of our world over here. You have to or you'd OD'd in a few days. 

Yep Vicodin and high sugar content stuff that is...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tracking & Studying Wild Sumatran Orangutans

There we are! ✔️  Album completed, embedded, shared, cross-linked, promoted... Next? Write the related articles: One about conservation volunteering project ethics, one about wildlife great apes tourism ethics. Pfuuu! busy!!!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Etho Fact: Is 2nd Degree Knowledge Human Specific?

According to some, one of the human specificities is that we can access a 2nd degree type of knowledge -a belief about a belief. Only us have the ability to question the truthfulness of our beliefs.

Well, not really...

In our feverish quest to hold (and prove) the human exception, we dismiss once again the obvious: for instance an animal might be scared of a stuffed animal, then upon closer inspection changes its perception, and concludes that it is no danger. 2nd degree knowledge, or more generally meta-knowledge, can be observed (and is documented) in dogs, cats, apes, cetaceans, birds, fish... You name it. 

The truth is that the field of ethology is on track with dismantling every single bit of our own belief that we are better then the estimated 8.7 millions other species, when we are only -and not uniquely- different. 

Each day, it's becoming harder to justify the way humans view and treat the rest of the web of life. 

Actively resisting the evidence and denying intentionally the right to live to other species for purposes that are non necessary to our survival might be uniquely human though...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Eco Fact: The Environmental Cost of War

Little fact of the day: The total carbon emissions of the world’s combined military forces is probably on the order of 140 million tons, nearly equal to the annual emissions of the United Kingdom. 

Actually, the world’s armed forces, according to environmental analyst Ruth Leger Sivard, “are the single largest polluter on Earth.” A Canadian Peace Report study found that today’s armed forces are responsible for 10 to 30 per cent of global environmental damage, 6 to 10 per cent of worldwide air pollution, and 20 per cent of all ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbon use. 

Now considering the size of our own huuuge army -biggly bigger than any other army in the world- and considering the budget this 'American carnage' leadership has vowed to dedicate to it, then... 

Monday, May 15, 2017

785 (birds) and Counting...

Just back from Belize where I got to refine & practice good species and habitat specific wildlife ethics.

๐Ÿฆ During those few days, we sighted some 98 species of birds, 34 of which being new sightings for us: very gratifying! ๐Ÿ˜‡