How we treat the environment is a function of how we view the environment
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Culture – which influences our thinking through: Knowledge Beliefs Values Learned ways of life shared by a group of people. How we treat the environment is a function of How we view the environment. How we view the environment is a function of:.

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Culture – which influences our thinking through:




Learned ways of life shared by a

group of people

How we treat the environment is a function ofHow we view the environment.

How we view the environment is a function of:

Worldview – person’s or group’s beliefs about the meaning, purpose, operation and essence of the world.




Learned ways of life

shared by a group of people

How we treat the environment is a function ofHow we view the environment.

How we view the environment is a function of:

Environmental ethics

Classical economics and the environment

Economic growth and sustainability

Environmental and ecological economics


One’s Worldview is influenced by:

Environmental Ethics

  • Ethics is the study of good and bad, right and wrong.

  • Ethical Standards – criteria that help differentiate right from wrong. Examples?

  • Environmental Ethics - the study of ethical questions regarding human interactions with the environment

Environmental Ethics

Culture and worldview affect perception of the environment and environmental problems.

  • People with different Worldviews and Cultures may have different values and hence, their actions toward the environment may differ.

  • There are two possible types of ethicists:

  • Relativists - Ethics should and do vary with social context.

  • Universalists - Objective notions of right and wrong exist across all cultures and situations.

Some questions in environmental ethics

Should the present generation conserve resources for future generations?

Are humans justified in driving other species to extinction?

Is is OK to destroy a forest to create jobs for people?

Is it OK for some communities to be exposed to more pollution than others?

The answers depend, in part, upon the ethical standard you choose to use.

The History of Environmental EthicsExpansion of ethical consideration over time

Early environmental ethics

  • The roots of environmental ethics are ancient.

  • The modern urge for environmental protection grew with problems spawned by the industrial revolution.

“People have a right to what they produce themselves, but man has another right, declared by the fact of his existence—the right to use of so much of the free gifts of nature as may be necessary to supply all the wants of that existence, and which he may use with interference with the equal rights of anyone else; and to this he has title against all the world.” Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1874

“According to the Public Trust Doctrine, the public owns common or shared environments—air, waters, dunes, tidelands, underwater lands, fisheries, shellfish beds, parks and commons, and migratory species. . . . These things ‘are so particularly the gifts of nature’s bounty that they ought to be reserved for the whole of the populace.’ (Joseph L. Sax, 1970).”

"The people have a right to clean air, pure water and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.” ~ Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution

Three ethical worldviews

  • A human centered view of nature. Anything not providing positive benefit to people is considered of negligible value.

Three ethical worldviews

All life has ethical standing, and any actions taken consider the effects on all living things, or the biotic world in general. .

Three ethical worldviews

  • Considers the integrity of ecological systems – not just individual animals (or species). Recognizes the need to preserve not just entities, but also their relationships with each other.


  • Economics studies how people use resources to provide goods and services in the face of variable supply and demand.

Ethics and economics

  • Both disciplines deal with how we value and perceive our environment.

  • These influence our decisions and actions.

Economics and the environment

  • Most environmental and economic problems are linked. Why?

  • The root “eco” gave rise to both ecology and economics.

Classical economics

  • Adam Smith: Competition between people free to pursue their own economic self-interest will benefit society as a whole (assuming rule of law, private property, competitive markets).

  • This idea is a pillar of free-market thought today.

  • It is blamed by many for economic inequality and the source of environmental degradation.

Neoclassical economics - Focuses on supply and demand.

  • An economic good or service can be defined as anything that is scarce.

  • Scarcity exists when the demand for an economic good exceeds its supply.

  • Supply is the amount of a good or service people are will to sell at a given price.

  • Demand is the amount of a good or service that consumers are willing and able to buy at a given price.

  • The price of a good or service is its monetary value.

  • What determines the price is the relationship between supply and demand.

The market favors equilibrium between supply and demand.

Assigning value to natural resources

  • The value assigned to natural resources is based on perception of scarcity.

  • What are you will to pay for?

  • What are you not willing to pay for?

Conventional view of economic activity

  • Conventional economics focuses on interactions between households and businesses; views the environment only as an external “factor of production.”

Ecosystem goods and services

  • Natural resources are “goods” we get from our environment.

  • “Ecosystem services” that nature performs for free include:

    • Soil formation

    • Water purification

    • Climate regulation

    • Pollination

    • Nutrient cycling

    • Waste treatment

    • etc.

Estimates of various Ecosystem Services(1994)

Value in trillion $

  • Soil Formation17.1

  • Recreation3.0

  • Nutrient cycling2.3

  • Water regulation & Supply2.3

  • Climate regulation1.8

  • Habitat1.4

  • Flood & storm protection1.1

  • Food and raw materials0.8

  • Genetic Resources0.8

  • Atmospheric gas balance0.7

  • Pollination0.4

  • All other services1.6

  • Total value of ecosystem services$33.3 Trillion dollars (average)

  • Global GNP is ~ $18 Trillion/year

Costanza et al. 1997. Nature

Resources are infinite or substitutable.

All of Earth’s resources are limited.

Even unlimitless ones are limiting if we use them at a rate faster than they can renew.

e.g. Topsoil, fossil fuels.

Long-term effects are discounted.

The depletion of resources will happen in the distant future – no worries.

Events in the future are discounted.

Items in the present are worth more than items in the future.

It is better to acquire resources now while they are worth more than to let them sit and use them later.

Precepts of neoclassical economics

Costs and benefits are internal.

The costs of any transaction are experience only by the buyer and the seller.

Other members of society are not affected.

But pollution from a factory can harm people living nearby.

The cost of cleaning up (stream) pollution might be born not by the buyer and seller, but by the taxpayer.

An example of a cost that has not been accounted for

And a cost that is external to the transaction.

In this case, since it costs taxpayers to clean-up pollution (or in the case of G.E., put the fisherman out of business), this is a negative external cost.

Growth is good.

Economic growth is required to keep employment high and maintain social order (keep the working masses happy).

Precepts of neoclassical economics

Each of these can contribute to environmental problems.

The Cost of a gallon of gas

The Cost of a gallon of gas

“The new revenue will directly fund much-needed repairs and improvements to Pennsylvania highways and bridges, and is part of a comprehensive transportation package that will also greatly help mass transit, Kirkpatrick said.”

“Comparisons with other states are somewhat unfair, Fitzpatrick said, since many pass along transportation costs in other ways, such as higher fees, fines and other taxes.”

“Pennsylvania's vehicle registration fees are among the lowest in the nation, with 39 states charging more. Also, 31 states charge more for the cost of a driver's license,” according to a PennDOT news release.

"In Pennsylvania, fuel taxes are used only for highway and bridge-related purposes and state police patrol functions. Income and sales taxes are not used to pay for state-maintained highways and bridges in Pennsylvania," the department said in a press release.

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