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.

Science and Ethics

13 01 2011

Based upon your understanding of the role ethics in relation to science and technology as presented in Chapter 1, select one aspect of the issue of pesticide usage and tease out the important considerations that are scientific and those that are ethical.  For example, you might choose to address “justification of pesticide usage”, or “risk”, or “damage”, or “natural versus non-natural (e.g. pesticide).”