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Environmental Ethics

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  1. Environmental Ethics William J. Frey College of Business Administration UPRM

  2. Preliminary, Meta-ethical Considerations

  3. What ethics is not • The law • Laws seek to codify standards that a political body considers right and wrong. • Ethics provides principles to criticize this • Ethical also deals with the morally exemplary • Environmental Economics • Economics understands values as things individuals desire and measures the intensity of these preferences by means of real or shadow markets • Willingness to Pay: The instrumental value of a resource is set by the price an individual or group would be willing to pay to acquire the resource • Willingness to Sell: the amount that an individual would accept from a bidder to take the resource out ;of its current natural state and put to an economically beneficial use

  4. What is the (economic) value of El Yunque? • What would you, as a taxpayer, be willing to pay in a bidding war to keep El Yunque a natural preserve? • Willing to pay depends on available income • What would you, as the owner of this resource along with other Puerto Ricans, accept as the selling price for El Yunque • Willing to sell provides a better way of gauging value? Why? • Does El Yunque have a selling price? • Is it a value (symbol) that is so central to Puerto Rican identity that it has no selling price. Selling it would be tantamount to selling out

  5. What ethics is not • A social science • Notbecause ethics is normative and science is empirical • And not because the subject matter of these fields do not overlap because they often do (moral exemplar studies) • There are differences in method • Focus of ethics is more narrow (moral practices) • Compliance Ethics • Establishing standards of minimally acceptable behavior and conduct • Codifying these, i.e., converting them into principles of conduct that specify circumstances of compliance such as who, when, and what conduct • Ensuring compliance by a system of punishments and rewards (mostly punishments) • Ethics, especially virtue ethics, treats the exemplary as well as the minimum

  6. What is ethics? • The systematic and critical study of moral beliefs, rules, and practices • Moral = beliefs, rules, and practices considered good, right, or virtuous (or conversely bad, wrong, and vicious) • Ethics applies principles such as respect for autonomy, justice, and beneficence (= systematic) • Ethics issues in criticism when assessment of moral beliefs, rules, and practices come up short (= critical)

  7. What is Environmental Ethics? • A systematic and critical study of practices, beliefs, and rules that taken in the context of the environment are considered good/bad, right/wrong, and virtuous/vicious.

  8. Some Historically Outstanding Examples Singer—Extending Utilitarianism Regan—Extending Deontology Paul Taylor--Biocentrism Aldo Leopold—Ecocentrism

  9. Singer: Animal Liberation • Singer picks up on a comment by Bentham • Because animals are sentient, they should count in the utilitarian calculus • What counts are the pleasures, not the vessel in which they are contained • But the vessel could be the human person, an animal, or some other sentient being • Doesn’t the vessel count as well as the contents? • All sentient beings have moral worth • Sentiency includes consciousness and the ability to feel pleasure and pain • Utilitarianism involves choosing that action that maximizes good which can be • One good or happiness • Several intrinsic goods such as friendship, happiness, truth, beauty, etc • Individual preferences (=what we desire)

  10. Regan: The Case for Animal Rights • Moral consideration expanded to cover non-human moral patients (vs. agents) • Moral patients have “preference autonomy,” that is, preferences (which can be satisfied or frustrated) and the ability to act on them • Humans have duties to respect preference autonomy of moral patients (=animals) • But animals do not have duties to respect humans • They lack moral autonomy or the ability to transcend the ego-centric perspective into a moral, non-ego-centric perspective

  11. Thought Experiment #1 • Does extended utilitarianism require that we become vegetarians? • Consider, for example, cattle raising and slaughter practices. Are these inhumane? Would utilitarians permit eating meat if we could find a way of eliminating suffering of animals? • Does extending rights to animals (Regan) require that we become vegetarians? • Consider practices raising chickens for eggs and meat in areas that restrict their movement and activity. • Does this violate their preference autonomy? • If you find that either extended utilitarian or deontological approaches outlaw eating meat, then do you think this invalidates the ethical approach? Or its application? • In other words, react to the what these theories may or may not require

  12. Paul Taylor: Biocentrism • Hursthouse summarizes: • “Environmental Virtue Ethics” in Working Virtue edited by R. Walker and P. Ivanhoe. Oxford: 163. • Every living thing has a telos = a good of its own. (Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly) • Helping the living thing achieve this telos or preventing it from achieving this telos benefits or harms it • All teleological centers of a life have “inherent worth as members of the Earth’s Community of Life.” • Positive duties to promote the telos • Negative duties not to interfere with telos

  13. Applying Taylor • Construct basic non-human interests using the concept of a “teleological center-of-a-life” • What would a non-basic non-human interest look like? • Develop a notion of human basic interests (if possible) • Why would this be difficult? • Why would the line between basic and non-basic human interests be hard to draw • The following slide presents ways of balancing human and non-human interests when choosing among projects that have impacts on the environment

  14. Factors to Consider When Using Table • It’s a heuristic device. • Sacrificing one good for another is always a last resort. • Look hard—really hard—for ways to fully or partially integrate the goods in conflict. (conservation makes it possible to avoid building the destructive irrigation project) • Accept trade offs only as a last resort and then try to offset the good sacrificed in another way or at another time. • AES’s cogeneration, coal based technology adds CO2 to the atmosphere. But they planted trees in Costa Rica reforestation project to erase carbon footprint. • The sacrifice of one good for another may be only necessary in the short term. • Try to develop transition measures that render this unnecessary in long term

  15. Thought Experiment #2 • The Super Aqueduct was proposed to alleviate chronic summer water shortages in the San Juan Metro Area • It proposed to take water from the Rio Grande estuary near Arecibo and pump it via a large aqueduct to the Metro Area • Estuaries depend on a balance between fresh and salt water that fluctuates between a narrow margin • Can you identify basic human and non-human interests at play in this scenario? What are they? • How do these interact in the Super Aqueduct scenario? • Can this be presented as a trade off between basic human and basic non-human interests? (Or, is it more complex?)

  16. Ecocentrism • Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County Almanac. • “There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus’ slave-girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.” • “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” • “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

  17. Is Leopold’s land ethic anthropocentric or non-anthropocentric?

  18. Terms Explained • Anthropocentric: Centered around humans. (Comes from Greek word anthropo which means human) • Humans are the central or sole inhabitants of the moral community • Non-anthropocentric: Not centered around humans • Center could be living individuals (biocentrism) or larger wholes like species, ecosystems, and the biotic community as the organized systems of all living things (ecocentrism).

  19. Central Debate • Can an anthropocentric environmental ethics pay proper attention or assign proper worth/value to non-human living things up to and including the biotic community? • Is anthropocentrism compatible with a long term, sustainable human-natural environment relation? • Deep Ecologists say no • Pragmatists (Norton and Westin) say yes

  20. Different Interpretations of Leopold’s Land Ethic • Non-anthropocentric • This is the most prevalent interpretation. Baird Callicott • Leopold started out with conservation mentality and changed as a result of the experience in American West (failed to think like a mountain) • Anthropocentric • Byran Norton, “The Constancy of Leopold’s Land Ethic” • “Leopold opted in the end for a conservation ethic based on our obligations to future generations of humans—a forward-looking anthropocentrism.” • Environmental Pragmatism, Light and Katz editors, 85

  21. The Convergence Thesis • Byran Norton • Take an environmental problem • How would a well-formulated anthropocentric position respond to it? • How would a well-formulated non-anthropocentric position respond to it? • Norton predicts that most of the time—if not all of the time—these two positions will converge on a solution to the problem

  22. Thought Experiment #3 • What is the impact of the Via Verde on the non-human ecosystems that boarder its planned route? • Is this impact acceptable? That is, from the standpoint of a non-anthropocentric view, is the Via Verde acceptable. (View through the lens of non-anthropocentrism) • What is the impact of the Via Verde on the human communities affected by its construction and operation • Are these impacts acceptable from the human community standpoint? • Is Norton’s prediction correct? Do anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric analyses of this project converge? Why or why not?

  23. Environmental Ethics Rectangle

  24. A Virtue Approach to Environmental Ethics Wensveen, “Cardinal Environmental Virtues: A Neurobiological Perspective,” in Environmental Virtue Ethics, edited by R. Sandler and P. Cafaro. Rowman & Littlefield: 176-177

  25. Virtue Ethics • Contrary to some critics and supporters, virtue ethics does focus on individual actions • But it assesses the moral worth of an individual action by checking on its “fit” within different larger contexts: • Narrative of a morally exemplary career • Practice or community • Beauty, stability, integrity of the biotic community (a non-anthropocentric or trans-anthropocentric context)

  26. Context 1: Moral Exemplar • Would this action fit into the career of a morally exemplary … • Engineer • Business practitioner • Community leader • This action instantiates certain values. Would I want these values to become central parts of my core self identity? • How does this action and the values it instantiates fit into my own self-narrative?

  27. Context 2: Practice • Does this action resonate with the values professed (and actually constitutive of) my practice or profession? • Doctor: Does this resonate with a practice devoted to health? • Lawyer: Does this action resonate with a practice devoted to an adversarial approach to justice and truth? • Engineer: Does this action resonate with a practice devoted to public wellbeing (health and welfare), client fidelity, peer collegiality, and professional integrity • Business practitioner: Does this practice resonate with the prosperity and sustainability (taken in its widest sense) of the community?

  28. Context 3: Biotic Community • To paraphrase Leopold, does this action resonate with the beauty, stability, and integrity of the biotic community (which includes inanimate as well as animate matter). • This involves four virtues (reconfigured from a human context to a trans-human context) • Virtues of position • Virtues of care • Virtues of attunement • Virtues of endurance • Louke Van Wensveen: “Cardinal Environmental Virtues”

  29. Two Environmental Virtues from Wensveen • Virtues of Position: "Constructive habits of seeing ourselves in a particular place in a relational structure and interacting accordingly.” • Designing highways to fit PR geography and landscape • Examples: • Humility, self-acceptance, gratitude, appreciation of good in others, prudence, and practical judgment • Question: • Does the action or project resonate with virtues such as humility? Or does it express corresponding vices such as greed, arrogance, and imprudence?

  30. Two Environmental Virtues from Wensveen • Virtues of Care: "habits of constructive involvement within the relational structure where we have found our place. How widely do we cast our sensors in order to learn what is needed around us?“ • Honing in on weak points in the ecosystem and calibrating action to address these vulnerabilities • (Do we put out fires stemming from natural causes?) • Examples: • Attentiveness, benevolence, loving nature, friendship • Question: • Does the action or project resonate with virtues such as attentiveness and benevolence? Or does it fall into vices such as insensitivity and malevolence (or indifference)?

  31. Two More Environmental Virtues • Virtues of Attunement: "habits of handling temptations by adjusting our positive, outgoing drives and emotions to match our chosen place and degree of constructive, ecosocial engagement." • Can energy conservation be a source of solidarity and also defuse the current energy crisis in PR? (reconfigures temperance) • Examples: • Frugality and simplicity • Question: • Does the action or project resonate with virtues like frugality and simplicity? Or does it result in the construction of systems of manifest and concealed complexity? (Winner)

  32. Two More Environmental Virtues • Virtues of Endurance: "habits of facing dangers and difficulties by handling our negative, protective drives and emotions in such a way that we can sustain our chosen sense of place and degree of constructive ecosocial engagement." • Can Puerto Ricans act resolutely and ethically in the face of environmental and economic crises? (Integration, compromise, and ethical trade-offs • Examples: • Tenacity (mean between apathy and obsession), loyalty, perseverance • Question: • Does the action or project resonate with virtues such as tenacity, loyalty (to what?), and perseverance? Or does it target the corresponding vices?

  33. Thought Experiment #4 • Windmar Project • The private company, Windmar, has proposed building a windmill farm on a piece of land adjacent to the Bosque Seco de Guanica • Examine this project in terms of its resonance with the virtues sets of position, care, attunement, and endurance. Try focusing on the questions. Look to see if the project falls into any of the corresponding vices.

  34. Appendix How Pragmatism has sought to break through the impasse on environmental ethics

  35. Anti-Theory: 5 key attitudes • Anti-foundationalism: Rejects attempt to base environmental ethics on a definitive account of the inherent value of nature taken in its totality or in terms of its individual inhabitants • Fallibility: Conclusions (goals, means, measures) are fallible and require constant testing in laboratory and real world conditions. (Experimental Method with ethics of experimenting) • Contingency: For Pragmatists this entails that all problems arise from a context and all solutions must address this context specifically. This makes it difficult—if not impossible—to generalize and transfer them from one context to another

  36. Anti-Theory • Social Nature of Self: • Negative Thesis—Destroying nature leads to an identity crisis (identity comes partially from place). • Positive Thesis—Place/context (cultural and natural) can be an opportunity to build identity and solidarity. • Pluralism: No no single, uniquely correct approach to environmental ethics. • Rights—human communities, • Utilities—extending moral consideration to animals. • Holism—extending moral consideration to ecosystems • Biocentrism—teleological centers of a life • Sometimes one must “think like a mountain”; but other times it suffices to think like a human

  37. Recognizing Environmental Problems as Wicked Problems Problem-solving in Ill-Structured Situations

  38. Wicked Problems • Norton, following Webber and Rittel, characterizes environmental problems as "wicked." • Require an interdisciplinary approach. • But disciplines, themselves, need to establish intermediate “trading zones” built out of a common, shared, vocabulary • Difficult to formulate because they emerge from "ill-structured" situations. • Specifying requires creativity and imagination. • No uniquely correct way of specifying a problem.

  39. Wicked Problem Continued • WPs are not numerical problems. • Non-computability • Have components that admit of quantification and others that resist it. • Economics can help • Shadow markets measure environmental value • Willingness to pay the instrumental value of a resource set by the price an individual or group would pay to acquire the resource; limited because tied to disposable income • Willingness to sell: WTP undervalues resources; a more accurate measure of value—the amount an individual would accept from a bidder to put a resource to a different use

  40. Other Components of WPs • Non-repeatable. • Solutions must resonate with context • Solutions cannot be wholly transferred between contexts • Learning from the past just gets us started. • Open-ended • There are good and bad specifications but none of these are uniquely good. • There are good and bad solutions but no one solution is uniquely good or right. • Pragmatists ground this in fallibility and contingency. • Collective • These decisions require a group getting together, holding a constructive dialogue, developing common ground, and developing trials to test resonance with commonality

  41. Developing Community Consensus Discourse Ethics: Reciprocity, Publicity, Accountability

  42. Starting Dialogue: Virtue of ReasonablenessPritchard, Reasonable Children, 11 Reasonable Not Reasonable Defect Feel a need always to agree with other committee members Lack deeply held beliefs and convictions that may differ fundamentally with those of others Be willing to change virtually any belief or conviction , however deeply held Excess Insist that they are necessarily right and other wrong Insist on having their own way • Seek relevant information • Listen and respond thoughtfully to others • Be open to new ideas • Give reasons for one’s views • Acknowledge mistakes and misunderstandings • Compromise (without compromising personal integrity

  43. Identifying Values: Norton’s Suggestions • Establish the basis for a unifying dialogue that issues in community environmental action • Community Procedural Values: These are values (reciprocity, publicity, and accountability) that, when adopted by a community, help it to structure a fair and open community deliberative process. • Economic Values: • (1) Willingness-to-Pay • (2) Willingness -to-Sell

  44. Sustainability Values • Risk Avoidance Values: Precautionary Principle--"in situations of high risk and high uncertainty, always choose the lowest-risk option." 238 • Risk Avoidance Values: Safe Minimum Standard of Conservation--"save the resource, provided the costs of doing so are bearable."348. • Values Sensitive to Context: • Signal Events • Environmental and social justice • Health and Safety • Autonomy • Identification with Land, History, Tradition. These values, in their thick sense, depend on the quality of the discourse generated within the community.

  45. Sustainability Values • Values Sensitive to Context: • Values Expressed by Signal Events (Cogentrix, Copper Mining, CAPECO explosion, Zoe Colocotroni Oil Spill) • Environmental and social justice • Health and Safety • Autonomy • Identification with Land, History, Tradition. These values, in their thick sense, depend on the quality of the discourse generated within the community.

  46. Conclusion • Meta-ethical excursion into defining, provisionally, environmental ethics • A look at four important approaches to environmental ethics: extensionism, biocentrism, ecocentrism, and virtue environmental ethics • Exploring a different thought experiment designed to test and probe each approach • Suggestions in the appendix for exploring community values to serve as anchors for environmental virtues in Puerto Rico

  47. William J. Frey • College of Business Administration • UPRM • freyuprm@yahoo.com • williamjoseph.frey@upr.edu • http://cnx.org/content/m32584/latest/