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).