Deep Ecology

19 03 2011

Deep Ecology represents our first encounter with a completely nonanthropocentric approach to justify equal moral standing to the whole of nature.  According to biocentric equality, intrinsic value resides among both humans and nonhuman species alike.  Individuals are challenged to find true reality and significance through self-awareness of ones proper place in the interrelated whole of nature.  The Deep Ecology ecophilosophy serves as a foundation for implementation of the “Platform” which envisions a harmonious world, or “ecotopia.”

For this blog, you will be assigned by name alphabetically (check e-mail) to the sequence of the  first five “Discussion Questions” in DesJardins’ Chapter 9.   After reading the chapter, your task is to consider how the Deep Ecology ethics applies to the particular issue to which you have been assigned; and then comment on the implications in today’s world confronted with environmental problems.  Please entitle your comment using a representative key word or phrase.


Applying Leopold’s Land Ethic

16 03 2011

You are part of a fifth-generation family who have lived on the same land in Wisconsin since the 1800’s.  Because you most closely shared your father’s values toward this land, he had made you the fifth holder of the land trust to maintain this 100 acres of land.  The land includes a perimeter of about 40 acres of secondary forest that was selectively timbered in the 1940’s interspersed with some prairie and savanna communities; and, an inner core of old-growth forest, never timbered.  Your land is surrounded by a combination of agricultural and expanding residential land.  Your father had allowed neighbors limited hunting and cutting of firewood from fallen trees, but with increasing population moving in you are contemplating how best to manage your inheritance.  Based on completion of DesJardins’ Ch. 8, contribute your response to one of the following of your choice while avoiding redundancy if someone has already commented on it:

1.  Ecological considerations pertinent to deciding how to ethically care for your inheritance.
2.  Your reaction to an ethical holism in which moral standing is based upon the “natural state” and “stability, complexity, health” of the land.
3.  Present the logic used by a neighbor who believes that you are an “environmental fascist.”
4.  Defend  your “Leopold land ethic” and the land trust concept when the neighbor in #3. above applies a spray paint message: “fascist.”
5.   Explain how Callicott’s ethics might aid your use of the “land ethic” but also is vulnerable to criticism

Thinking Like a Mountain

4 03 2011

In his powerful essay contained in A Sand County Almanac (Oxford, 1949) entitled “Thinking Like a Mountain”, Aldo Leopold described his conversion from one view of nature to an entirely different view. Devote a few minutes to read Leopold’s account recorded on pages 129-133 of A Sand County Almanac. Reflect on what he is saying. Then, respond with two or three sentences that address one of the following to add an additional insight not already included in any comments already posted:
a) Leopold’s view of nature before and after his “conversion”
b) What it means to “think like a mountain” in contrast to thinking otherwise.
c) How does/doesn’t the imagery of “a mountain” convey Leopold’s intent in the essay?
d) What environmental ethic (if any) is supported by this essay?
Remember, two or three sentences max!

Origins of the Environmental Crisis

18 02 2011

In Chapter 2 of his book, The Environment and Christian Ethics, Michael Northcott states that “just as the environmental crisis is complex in its nature, so its causation is also complex and multifactorial.”   However, he proposes that “the roots of the crisis lie in a range of changes and social processes which together” foreshadow the emergence of “a form of human society known as modernity, in which the human relation to nature is radically transformed.”

The comments for this blog represent efforts by class members to express discussion points related to some of the factors contributing to modernity; namely the agricultural revolution, the commodification of nature, influence of science and technology, the climate of modernity, and how modernity and ecology are in conflict.

Justifying Moral Standing for Animals

10 02 2011

The record of human history is dominated by the view that nonhuman life exists to serve human needs.   Even today, there are many “uses” of animals that are ethically questionable.  But, is this the way it is ought to be?  Your comments for this topic should help us in our progression from “what is” to “what ought to be” with as much objectivity as your reading of DesJardins’ Chapter 5 can offer.

Responsibilities to Future Generations

1 02 2011

Many environmentalists point to issues such as rapid population growth, excessive consumption, climate change, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity as evidence that humans are destroying Earth’s biosphere and placing both current human life and the lives of future generations at risk.  In your response to your “Discussion Question,” identify the central issue of the question and then present your response based on your understanding of the ethical considerations presented in Chapter 4.

Ethics and Economics – II

26 01 2011

So far in our discussion of the utilitarian approach to environmental decision making, we have identified some of the competing values that arise when one group proposes the use of a natural resource such as a wilderness area.   It is not hard for one group to “define the good” but their definition may be quite different from another group who sees the natural resource as a “good in and of itself” worth preserving.  Is it possible for a utilitarian ethic as expressed through “environmental economics” to provide acceptable utilization of natural resources?   Your blog comments for this post should demonstrate that you have read the remainder of DesJardins’ Chapter 3 and seriously grappled with the issues inherent in the assigned “Discussion Questions.”

Ethics and Economics – I

24 01 2011

In earlier discussions, we have begun to address the question, “How can the value of land or water resources be properly defined and then managed so that  human actions toward these resources is what it ought to be?

A utilitarian-based ethic frequently calls for the use of free marked economics as a means of determining value and allocating resources so as to produce “the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time.”  This approach is the subject of DesJardins’ Chapter 3 and it is applied to particular cases in the “Discussion Questions.”   We will divide the reading and “Questions” over two assignments.   For each assignment, you will be assigned one of these questions as the  focus for your next blog comment.  The assigned questions are given in an e-mail message sent out today.  See specific instructions for your blog comment in the assignment web page for Lecture #7.


Ethical Theory and Environment

22 01 2011

Efforts to protect plant and animal species led to legislation in the 1970’s to protect the air, water, and endangered species.  Below are listed summaries of the typical arguments for  protective actions, each based upon one of the major ethical theories.   You will be assigned to one of the arguments and asked to link it to the ethical theory upon which it rests.  Please indicate your assigned argument number (e.g. “Argument #1:”) at the beginning of your essay.  Then, explain how each claim of the ethical theory is expressed in the argument.  Finally,  note briefly one possible objection to this ethical approach to the problem.  If necessary, please review the criteria for a quality blog entry on the “Student” page.

Argument #1:   We need to conserve other species because they will be necessary for food, fiber, medicinal benefits in the future

Argument #2:   The consequences of species loss (e.g. in the Gulf via hypoxia) may simply have to be borne in order that economic conditions of the Mississippi River communities can continue to support the residents via farming, etc. during these hard economic times.

Argument #3:   According to Genesis, it is part of human responsibility to care for the Earth and the creatures and therefore we must not destroy their habitats which provide the life support for them.

Argument #4:   Living organisms may be viewed as part of an ordered system, or biotic community, and the predictable interdependence within the community demands that we value and manage them in such a way that the organisms and the whole can function as it was intended to function.

Argument #5:   Biotic communities should be the focus of conservation efforts because it is within these communities that each species has evolved and will continue to evolve by random mutation and natural selection.


13 01 2011

Welcome to the Environmental Ethics blog, a place where students of Environmental Science are invited to step back from what we are learning about how the world works and to consider how we ought to act toward other creatures and the environment. As a professor, I am looking forward to using this blog to facilitate learning. Students enrolled in the course will receive information regarding login and guidelines for posting comments.