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Environmental Ethics and the Via Verde. What Environmental Ethics has to says about the Via Verde Project. What is Environmental Ethics?. A systematic and critical study of different moral approaches to the environment such as… Extensionism Agrarianism Biocentrism Ecocentrism

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Environmental ethics and the via verde

Environmental Ethics and the Via Verde

What Environmental Ethics has to says about the Via Verde Project

What is environmental ethics
What is Environmental Ethics?

  • A systematic and critical study of different moral approaches to the environment such as…

    • Extensionism

    • Agrarianism

    • Biocentrism

    • Ecocentrism

    • Environmental Virtue Ethics

Today s agenda
Today’s Agenda

  • Use these approaches as lenses through which to examine the Via Verde Project in terms of environmental ethics

  • Give a brief account of each approach

  • Raise questions from each approach to help structure an inquiry into the project’s ethical implications

Classify according to method
Classify according to method



Humans are internally and essentially related to their natural and social environment

Whole cannot be reduced to parts.

Wholes are greater than the sum of their parts

  • Human has complete nature apart from social or natural context

  • Complex wholes (like ecosystems) can be reduced to sum of their parts

  • Reductionistic (Methodological individualism)

Classified according to perspective
Classified according to perspective



Non-anthropocentric: Not centered around humans

Moral community not centered around humans. Animals, plants, small organisms all count in the moral scheme of things. Attempt made to formulate a point of view that is non-human.

  • Anthropocentric: Centered around humans. (Comes from Greek word anthropo which means human)

    • Environmental ethics formulated from a point of view centered around human beings

1a extending the umbrella of utilitarianism to cover animals peter singer

1a. Extending the umbrella of utilitarianism to cover animals (Peter Singer)

Individualistic and Anthropocentric

Singer animal liberation
Singer: Animal Liberation animals (Peter Singer)

  • Utilitarianism

    • Actions and policies derive their moral worth from their consequences

    • Maximize good results and minimize bad results

  • All sentient beings have moral worth

    • Sentiency includes consciousness and ability to feel pleasure and pain

  • The umbrella of moral consideration is extended to animals because they have sentiency

    • Their pleasures and pains count

Via verde questions
Via Verde Questions animals (Peter Singer)

  • How will project effect sentient beings?

  • What are its potential benefits?

  • What are its risks?

  • Is this an optimal balance?

    • Given the status quo (Using petroleum)

    • Compared to other available alternatives

      • Renewable and non renewable resources

      • In the short, middle, and long term

1b extended moral rights to animal tom regan

1b. animals (Peter Singer)Extended moral rights to animal (Tom Regan)

Anthropocentric and Individualistic

Regan the case for animal rights
Regan: The Case for Animal Rights animals (Peter Singer)

  • Animals are moral patients and have “preference autonomy”

    • = preferences along with the ability to act on them

  • Humans have duties to recognize and respect preference autonomy of moral patients including animals

  • Rights would include right to life, right to a livable environment (=environment in which they can pursue their preferences)

Regan quotes
Regan Quotes animals (Peter Singer)

  • “The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us—to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or put in our cross hairs for sport or money.” DesJardins 126

  • “To be the subject –of-a-life…involves more than merely being alive and more than merely being conscious. To be the subject-of-a-life is to…have beliefs and desires; perceptions, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future…their experiential life fares well or ill for them, independently of their utility for others” (DesJardins 128)

Via verde questions for rights
Via Verde Questions for Rights animals (Peter Singer)

  • Identify basic human and animal rights

    • Right to a livable environment (human and animal)

    • Right to exercise (preference) autonomy

    • Includes rights to health and safety

  • Will the project, in any of its phases, violate any of these rights?

  • If so, can it be modified so as not to violate these rights while still keeping its goals intact?

    • Diversifying energy resources; responding to increased energy demand; conserving so as not to increase energy demand

Holistic and anthropocentric

2 animals (Peter Singer). Agrarianism: Living in small farms and practicing traditional agriculture fosters key civic and moral virtues (Paul Thompson, Spirit of the Soil, and Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, A Place on the Earth

Holistic and Anthropocentric

Wendell berry
Wendell Berry animals (Peter Singer)

  • Unsettling of America

    • Adverse consequences of industrialization of agriculture

      • Small farms give way to industrialized agriculture

      • Had small farm in Kentucky; treated it as an ecosystem

  • Accords Jefferson’s view that small farms were essential to democracy

    • Fostered development of moral and civic virtues

    • Dispersed power (Decentralized)

  • A Place on Earth: main character of novel is a farm

    • Personification of the land

Questions from agrarianism
Questions from Agrarianism animals (Peter Singer)

  • What is the impact of the Via Verde project on local, small farms?

  • What is the impact of the Via Verde project on the communities that surround these farms?

  • Does it threaten PR agrarianism?

    • Fosters development of “Jibaro”?

      • Lives close to the land

      • Takes dignity and integrity from the practice of traditional agriculture

      • Caretaker or steward of the land

Non anthropocentric and individualistic

3. Biocentrism: animals (Peter Singer)Each living thing is a “teleological center of a life”.There are moral obligations to recognize and respect these “centers”

Non-anthropocentric and individualistic

Paul taylor biocentrism
Paul Taylor: Biocentrism animals (Peter Singer)

  • 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 swim, birds fly

    • Its nature or being is fulfilled by exercising its proper telos

  • Positive duties to promote the telos

  • Negative duties not to interfere with telos

Questions from biocentrism
Questions from Biocentrism animals (Peter Singer)

  • Identify basic non-human interests using the concept of a “teleological center-of-a-life”

  • How impacts does the Via Verde have on the “teleological centers of life” that live within the sphere of its influence?

  • Do basic non-human interests conflict with basic human interests?

    • Identify potential conflicts

  • Can these conflicts be resolved?

    • By integrating the interests?

    • By modifying the design of the project?

4 ecocentrism aldo leopold s land ethic

4. animals (Peter Singer)Ecocentrism: Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic

Non-anthropocentric (under most interpretations) and Holistic

Ecocentrism animals (Peter Singer)

  • 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.”

Via verde questions1
Via Verde Questions animals (Peter Singer)

  • What is the impact of the Via Verde on the ecosystems that boarder its planned route?

    • Does it preserve their beauty, stability and integrity?

  • What is the impact of the Via Verde on the human communities affected by its construction and operation

    • Does it preserve their beauty, stability, and integrity

  • Do these two converge?

    • Do the impacts on non-human aspects of the biotic community converge with those on the human community?

A virtue approach to environmental ethics

A Virtue Approach to Environmental Ethics animals (Peter Singer)

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

Definitions of virtue and virtue ethics
Definitions of Virtue and Virtue Ethics animals (Peter Singer)

  • “Las virtudes son disposiciones y rasgos del carácter del agente moral a la hora de ejecutar las acciones inherentes al ser persona.

    • se trata de un punto intermedio entre dos extremos, ninguno de los cuales representa un valor moral, sino que más bien puede constituir un vicio o al menos carecer de excelencia

    • no son meros rasgos del carácter que se operan automáticamente, sino respuestas deliberadas ante las situaciones concretas

    • existe un cierto grado de influencia cultural que puede hacer que la manifestación de la virtud varíe según el contexto

    • se puede distinguir la “virtud” de las virtudes, en cuanto que la primera se refiere a la integridad o coherencia de la personalidad ante la vida, mientras que las segundas son reacciones a situaciones especificas”

Lugo,E animals (Peter Singer). (2002) Relación Medico/paciente: encuentro interpersonal ética y espiritualidad. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico: 88

Definition of virtue and virtue ethics
Definition of Virtue and Virtue Ethics animals (Peter Singer)

  • “A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not just a tendency to do what is honest or generous, nor is it to be helpfully specified as a “desirable” or “morally valuable” character trait.

  • It is, indeed a character trait—that is, a disposition which is well entrenched in its possessor, something that, as we say “goes all the way down”, unlike a habit such as being a tea-drinker—but the disposition in question…is multi-track.

  • It is concerned with many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests expectations and sensibilities.

  • To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset.”

Hursthouse r 2007 virtue ethics stanford encyclopedia of philosophy

Hursthouse animals (Peter Singer), R. (2007) “Virtue Ethics” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Accessed 11/11/2008

Virtue ethics
Virtue Ethics animals (Peter Singer)

  • Virtue ethics does focus on individual actions but in a different way than other theories

  • It assesses the moral worth of an action by “fitting” into different contexts:

    • Narrative of a morally exemplary career

    • Practice or community

  • So, an environmental virtue = that which, together with other actions, sustains the “beauty, stability, and integrity of the biotic community”

Context 1 moral exemplar
Context 1: Moral Exemplar animals (Peter Singer)

  • 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?

Context 2 practice
Context 2: Practice animals (Peter Singer)

  • Does this action resonates 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?

Context 3 biotic community
Context 3: Biotic Community animals (Peter Singer)

  • 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”

Environmental virtues from wensveen
Environmental Virtues from animals (Peter Singer)Wensveen

  • Virtues of Position: "Constructive habits of seeing ourselves in a particular place in a relational structure and interacting accordingly.”

    • Can we integrate the gas pipeline with the surrounding natural environment?

  • Examples:

    • Humility, self-acceptance, gratitude, appreciation of good in others, prudence, and practical judgment

  • Question:

    • Does the Via Verde resonate with virtues such as humility? Or does it express corresponding vices such as greed, arrogance, and imprudence?

Environmental virtues from wensveen1
Environmental Virtues from animals (Peter Singer)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

  • Examples:

    • Attentiveness, benevolence, loving nature, friendship

  • Question:

    • Does the Via Verde in design and execution resonate with attentiveness and benevolence? Does fall into vices such as insensitivity and malevolence (or indifference)?

More environmental virtues
More Environmental Virtues animals (Peter Singer)

  • 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 Via Verde express virtues or values like frugality and simplicity? Does it express the vices of manifest and concealed complexity? (Winner)

More environmental virtues1
More Environmental Virtues animals (Peter Singer)

  • 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 Via Verde express tenacity, loyalty, and perseverance especially in relation to the natural environment? Does it target the corresponding vices?

Framing solutions
Framing Solutions animals (Peter Singer)

  • Two Paradigms

    • Follow the current paradigm

      • Energy growth

      • Reduce immediate costs

      • Diversify sources (using non-renewable resources)

      • Keep energy production centralized and technologically sophisticated (complicated)

    • New paradigm (new goal)

      • Energy Independence

      • Reduce usage through conservation and technology (smart grids and IPRs)

      • Decentralization and simplification of energy production

      • Diversify sources

      • Make use of renewable resources

    • Use of “paradigm” is appropriate here—represent two different ways of approaching the PR energy “crises”

Virtue perspective on paradigm choice
Virtue Perspective on Paradigm Choice animals (Peter Singer)

  • These paradigms also represent two fundamentally different paths for PR

  • Choice not only expresses who we are (our collective identity or character) but will, partially, constitute who we will become

  • So, seeing these two paradigms and their associated virtues and vices, virtue ethics has us ask what kind of people we wish to become

    • Each choice expresses fundamental dispositions

Values expressed by participants
Values Expressed by Participants animals (Peter Singer)

  • Values Sensitive to Context:

    • Values Expressed by Signal Events (Cogentrix, Copper Mining, CAPECO explosion, Zoe Colocotroni Oil Spill)

    • Values telescoped into the image of Jibaro

    • 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.

Conclusion animals (Peter Singer)

  • Examined four approaches to environmental ethics

  • Interpreted approaches as lenses that highlighted certain aspects and de-emphasized others

  • Each approach generated questions pertinent to the ethics of the Via Verde Project

  • Choice between energy paradigms expresses our character as a community, as a nation, as a society

    • Choice and action reflect existing character

    • But they also inaugurate a future that constitutes who we are to become