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ENVR 102 What Nature? Whose Nature? Craig Callender Naomi Oreskes Winter 2008 Two major understandings of issues at stake in environmental protection… Beauty Pollution Might seem like two sides of same coin… …but they’ve motivated very different approaches to the enviroment

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Envr 102 what nature whose nature l.jpg

ENVR 102What Nature? Whose Nature?

Craig Callender

Naomi Oreskes

Winter 2008



Beauty l.jpg
Beauty protection…

Pollution


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Might seem like two sides of same coin… protection……but they’ve motivated very different approaches to the enviroment


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I. Beauty (first three weeks) protection…

  • Essential importance of existence of places of unique natural beauty, and even ordinary places, not dominated by humans.

  • Ralph Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, John Muir

  • Theodore Roosevelt


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“Essential values” protection…

  • Not so much about physical health (although for some, that played a role)

  • Not very much about “ecosystems,” quantifiable measures of value


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Rather, concern about relation between physical environment and character of men

  • People--men--were different in cities than in the wild.

  • Men lost something important when they lost contact with wild nature.

  • That something was hard to describe--even ineffable--and certainly not quantifiable.


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Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and character of men

  • “The deliberate life”

  • Tied to notions of character, honesty, integrity

  • “Civil disobedience”--spirit of independent thinking, justice, fair society


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Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919 and character of men)

  • 26th President of USA (Republican)

  • Youngest man to become President (42, on assassination of McKinley)

  • Soldier, explorer, adventurer, hunter, naturalist, and politician

  • Wrote 35 books on natural history, geography, outdoor life…


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T.R. and National Parks and character of men

  • Greatly expanded National Park System

  • “Antiquities Act” (1906) protect national cultural heritage through “national monuments”

  • Created 105 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon (later Grand Canyon National Park)


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Why national parks? and character of men

  • About American manhood.

  • US rapidly urbanizing

  • Believed cities were not the place for young to develop character: mental courage, physical stamina, independence

  • Men needed to spend time in wild places


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Wildness and wilderness continues to this day and character of men

“In wildness is the preservation of the world” --Thoreau


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The Wilderness Act (1964) and character of men

First introduced into Congress by Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey

Pass by Senate 73-12, and by the House of Representatives, 373-1.


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The Wilderness Act (1964) and character of men

  • Created National Wilderness Preservation System, to protect wild lands

  • ”Untrammeled by man."

  • Preserved "for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness..."

  • No roads, vehicles, “areas where man himself is a visitor and does not remain”


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Endangered Species Act (1973) and character of men

  • Signed into law by President Richard Nixon

  • Puts needs of other species before human ones…

  • Forbids federal agencies from authorizing, funding or carrying out actions which may "jeopardize the continued existence of" endangered or threatened species

  • Once a species is listed as threatened or endangered, requires that "critical habitat" be designated for that species…and government protect that habitat


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Today: Original Wilderness concept--humans as visitors only--applied to only a small fraction of our public lands….

(about 9 million acres--but still, 7.5 x Rhode Island)

Jennie Lakes Wilderness Area


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Total region with some degree of protection is 623 million acres: about 26 percent of our country.

Completely unmatched by anything in Europe, most other countries except perhaps Canada and Australia…


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Common theme: acres: about 26 percent of our country.Preservation of nature in its wild form

Not parks and gardens

Wilderness is defined as places where man does not dominate. Non-anthropocentric.

And yet… not an abdication, not just people sacrificing on behalf of other species.

Because humans benefit: from beauty, wisdom, we find in nature and the strength of character we develop.


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Other concerns emerge from this acres: about 26 percent of our country.

  • Concern over invasive species (week 5)

  • Idea of reintroducing native species (week 4)

  • Huge debate over what “nature” is, exactly, and whether wilderness even exists, or is a meaningful concept (week 3)


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II. Pollution acres: about 26 percent of our country.

  • Prevention of waste and despoilation of natural environment

  • Preserve health (usually physical sense)

  • Preserve nature for efficient use


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Less heroic, idealistic more “pragmatic” acres: about 26 percent of our country.

  • Doesn’t have as many heroes

  • But, “founding father”…

  • Gifford Pinchot, U.S. Forest Service

  • (1965-1946)

  • Advocate of scientific forestry: "the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man."


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Organized as part of Department of Agriculture (1905) acres: about 26 percent of our country.

  • Primary focus on “wise use” of forest resource.

  • Clearly anthropocentric: forests seen as resource for humans

  • Should be used intelligently, not squandered

  • Science-based



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Efficiency ideal embodied in motto organization “Land of many uses”


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Explicitly utilitarian organization

  • “Greatest good for greatest number”

  • Involved reconciling competing interests

  • Preventing worst harms

  • Making a financial profit through efficient and rational management, while preserving resource for future generations

  • Strong sense of inter-generational equity


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These ideals (avoiding worst harms, preserving resources for next generation) reflected in much later-day environmental regulation


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  • Clean Air Act: first passed 1963. next generation) reflected in much later-day environmental regulation

  • Air Quality Act 1967

  • Clean Air Act Extension 1970, amended 1977, 1990

  • Federal Water Pollutiion Control Act 1972, 1977, aka “Clean Water Act”

  • Creation of Environmental Protection Agency, established 1970, 17,000 people in 10 regional offices and > dozen scientific laboratories.


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Science as basis for environmental regulation also embodied in NEPA

National Environmental Policy Act (1969), signed by President Nixon on January 1, 1970

Established idea of an “environmental policy”


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Requires federal government in NEPA

“To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation.


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Two main tools in NEPA

  • Established Council on Environmental Quality (akin to Council of Economic Advisors)

  • Requires EIS for all projects that potentially impact environment in areas of public lands, or potentially violate other environmental regulation.

  • EIS are science-based: involve use of scientific data to evaluate potential impacts


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Major contrast with earlier approaches in NEPA

Thoreau, Roosevelt science was not basis for their concerns..

Later era, increasingly, it is.


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Role of economics in NEPA

  • Utilitarian roots give rise to idea of cost-benefit analysis.

  • If pollution control costs money, then how do we evaluate those costs in comparison to the benefits we receive?Recent years --> dominant approach in many circles. EPA now required to perform “regulatory impact analysis.


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Source of much controversy in NEPA

  • Pro: rational way to think about use of scarce resources, to plan, to make choices about what’s most important

  • Con: RIA can’t address the central values of nature: the intangible, unquantifiable values of character, integrity, strength, stamina.

  • Con: burden of proof? If potential harms are uncertain, who should bear the burden of proof? Issues --> last three weeks: fisheries, pesticides, climate change.


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