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. 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!

🐡 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.