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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

ENVR 102What Nature? Whose Nature?

Craig Callender

Naomi Oreskes

Winter 2008




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

i beauty first three weeks
I. Beauty (first three weeks)
  • 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
essential values
“Essential values”
  • Not so much about physical health (although for some, that played a role)
  • Not very much about “ecosystems,” quantifiable measures of value
rather concern about relation between physical environment and character of men
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.
henry david thoreau 1817 1862
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
  • “The deliberate life”
  • Tied to notions of character, honesty, integrity
  • “Civil disobedience”--spirit of independent thinking, justice, fair society
theodore roosevelt 1858 1919
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
  • 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…
t r and national parks
T.R. and National Parks
  • 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)
why national parks
Why national parks?
  • 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
wildness and wilderness continues to this day

Wildness and wilderness continues to this day

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

the wilderness act 1964

The Wilderness Act (1964)

First introduced into Congress by Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey

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

the wilderness act 196414
The Wilderness Act (1964)
  • 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”
endangered species act 1973
Endangered Species Act (1973)
  • 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

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


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…

common theme preservation of nature in its wild form

Common theme: 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.

other concerns emerge from this
Other concerns emerge from this
  • 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)
ii pollution
II. Pollution
  • Prevention of waste and despoilation of natural environment
  • Preserve health (usually physical sense)
  • Preserve nature for efficient use
less heroic idealistic more pragmatic
Less heroic, idealistic more “pragmatic”
  • 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."
organized as part of department of agriculture 1905
Organized as part of Department of Agriculture (1905)
  • Primary focus on “wise use” of forest resource.
  • Clearly anthropocentric: forests seen as resource for humans
  • Should be used intelligently, not squandered
  • Science-based
explicitly utilitarian
Explicitly utilitarian
  • “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
These ideals (avoiding worst harms, preserving resources for next generation) reflected in much later-day environmental regulation
Clean Air Act: first passed 1963.
  • 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.
science as basis for environmental regulation also embodied in nepa

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”

requires federal government

Requires federal government

“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.

two main tools
Two main tools
  • 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
major contrast with earlier approaches

Major contrast with earlier approaches

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

Later era, increasingly, it is.

role of economics
Role of economics
  • 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.
source of much controversy
Source of much controversy
  • 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.