Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prompt 14

Reading these articles has been an extremely interesting cap to this class.  Throughout this class we have explored different aspects of environmental ethics and animal liberation.  These readings I found to be particularly interesting encompassing both of these themes.

If I had read these presentations a month ago I probably would have found them interesting.  However, with a different lens after having learned about many of the points of view in environment ethics reading through these presentations has had different significance.  I think that one word that has stuck out to me while reading is the concept of holism.  When we break down these issues a lot of them come down to the same problem which is that we have lost connection with the world around us.  From my perspective of pollution we have learned about many of the problems involving resources and pollution.  The solution to the issue of pollution is not so cut and dry.  We have created a society where in order to function properly waste is created and this fact while undesirable is a reality.  However, what I feel we can do is cut down on the amount of waste that is created and develop more just ways in dealing with the waste that is created.  Part of the solution I feel is technological in creating and developing technology that produces less waste and uses resources more effectively.  This part of the solution is engineering by nature, and I will elaborate upon no further.  However, the next part of the solution is simple, it involves consuming less.  Our culture has groomed us to be consumers where the entire economy is focused around the production and sale of goods that for the most part are not crucial to our survival, and are designed to break down and we acknowledge this and have a name for this term (planned obsolescence).  In effect our consumerism has accelerated the creation of pollution and accelerated our consumption of resources.  I think that this is where the relevance of Hardin's text comes into play.  Hardin's 'lifeboat' metaphor operates under the assumption that we are near exhaustion of resources and that there now exist conflict for resources and the problem of pollution is becoming extreme.  The result of using less resources will mean that less strain will be put on each of the 'lifeboats'.  However, even if we reduce our consumption waste is still created.  One of the issues that was brought up by Wenz is the issue of how waste must be dealt with.  Our capitalist society has the consequence of favoring those with wealth because they can afford the luxury of having toxic waste dealt with out of their sight and mind.  This means that those without adequate resources are forced to deal with the responsibility and consequences of dealing with waste.  I believe that instead of all LULU sites existing in poor communities, instead each community should be responsible for dealing with their own waste.  Another fault of capitalist society is that money dictates how waste is distributed, which means that inevitably responsibility for waste will fall upon those of lower economic standing.  Thus, my argument is for straying away from capitalism.

Many of the problems that are a cause of pollution are the result of overdevelopment.  Referring back to the holism argument, we see that part of the problem is that we have lost track of our connection with the wilderness.  We just like any other animal are part of the ecosystem, part of the problem with consumption (other than pollution generated) is that we destroy the land that is around us.  As we destroy and make more land arable and inhabitable we create the ability to accommodate additional population.  As population grows we generate all of the subsequent problems, such as pollution.  For us to better understand the world we live in we must first be able to see ourselves as what we are, which is animals that are part of an ecosystem.  Because all of the walls that we have put up to distinguish us from animals, it takes a near death experience such as the one experienced by Plumwood.  Plumwood was attacked by a crocodile and this caused her to realize that this animal had no malice but was just saw her as a meal just as any other creature.  A realization like this can help us to see that just as towns are locales for us to live, the woods are a habitat for animals.  However, if the previous reasons for preservation have not been sufficient Nelson provides 30 additional examples examples for why wilderness should be preserved.

In conclusion, while pollution and wilderness preservation may not seem related they both are relevant when consider the welfare of our larger ecosystem.  By preserving more land we can limit the population growth and therefore we can limit our production of pollution.  By preserving wilderness we sustain the value of ecosystem.  However, as noted both of these objectives are difficult to achieve in a capitalist society because there is little extrinsic value in preserving wilderness, and even less value in slowing production to reduce pollution.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prompt 13

Prompt 1
Prompt 10

In Prompt 1, I chose to write about whether eating animals is wrong because they feel pain.  I discussed several points in this article including the idea that we have become so removed from the process of slaughtering animals that is has become increasingly easier eat meat without having to think about the process.  I also went into talking about the fact that eating meat is natural because it occurs in nature between other animals and that this allows ecosystems to function.  I also talked about how I wanted to hunt to resolve this problem that I had regarding the disconnect between animal and food.  In Prompt 10 I discussed about how ecological ethic is an evolutionary phenomena that comes about from people realizing that working together as a community helped us to provide easier and that as a result of nature we should expand this inclusiveness.  I also talked about my acceptance of the idea that land ethic is not related to any other morality but that ecological ethics is a paragon of virtue in itself.  Callicott also talks about the good of the ecosystem trumping the good of any specific species.  Promoting the idea that the good of the whole is greater than the good of any individual parts.

I found it really interesting to go back and look at my first post for this assignment.  I think it is because I believed in land ethic already, but did not know yet that such a concept existed.  I realize reading my post back that I never really talked about the pain of the animal.  I think that this is because (as bad as it sounds) the welfare of the individual animals that we eat is not particularly important to me.  I was more concerned with the philosophy surrounding the issue of eating meat.  To reinforce this idea looking back I used the rationalization that if other animals eat meat in nature than why is bad for us to assume that for humans to eat other animals that it is unacceptable.  Through reading texts on animal liberation I became aware of many of the issues, but never fully acknowledged any of the ideas.  I felt that all of them overlooked the simple facts of the world.  In Prompt 10 I was able to connect the dots where my rationalization in Prompt 1 fell short.  I now feel that eating animals is not wrong if it is done in balance, for the act of animals eating other animals is part of the good that makes up a biotic system.  When I feel that eating meat is bad is when our greed causes us to do irreparable damage on the environment.  I feel that this idea is expressed to some extent when I cited in Prompt 1 that meat consumption in the last couple of decades has increased.  I realized that this was wrong but could not put a finger on why, until I realized that for us to consume all of this additional meat, land had to be turned from habitats to pastures destroying some of the good of the ecosystem.  Resources such as water and nutrients in the soil have been lost and as a result the biotic community in that area even if reclaimed by nature will never exist in the same manner.

The growth from the Prompt 1 to Prompt 10 has helped me to include a lot more ideas into my morals regarding the world around us.  Anyone who has been to the top of a large secluded mountain understand the feeling of understanding that we are so small in the grand scheme of things.  I feel that the relation between these texts has made me realize that we are just a part of the whole that makes up the biotic community of earth.  This is not to say that we need to go back to living in teepees, but we do need to consider the impact that we have, and also understand our connection and dependence on the ecosystems we live in.  I feel that the process by which we can do this is simple, it involves getting out doors.  This summer I am starting a garden and environmental stewardship program at a summer camp in Maine.  This class had made me realize how important this project is because the goal of the project is to get kids to understand where food comes from, how energy is returned to the environment, and finally about the amount of waste we produce.  When I decided to become a part of this project I just thought it would be a good opportunity to give back and help children understand the significance of gardening.  I am realizing now the other types of implications that learning about teaching  younger people a respect for the environment so perhaps they will not have to be 21 years old before they realize the connection and responsibility that we have to the world around us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Prompt 12

For this post I have chosen to evaluate posts 5 and 6

Prompt 5 is a reflection on Regan's text: The Radical Egalitarian Case for Animal Rights.  As suggested by the title Regan gives a radical defense of animal rights citing that all animals with inherent value should have equal rights as humans, because inherent value is the same in all creatures that possess it.  I struggled with this concept and even found myself struggling even more with the idea that he draws a line of which creatures should receive these rights and which shouldn't without going into any great detail.  Regan also fails to fully justify his idea of 'inherent value' and does not describe what it is but rather only defines the term negatively in terms of what it is not.  Prompt 6 is a reflection on Warren's text: A Critique of Regan's Animal Rights Theory.  In this post I sided with Warren on her critique of Regan's text.  I cited several examples in Warren's text that troubled me about Regan's, and it helped me to develop more of an understanding on where I stood on the animal liberation issue.

One of the issues the issues that frustrated me about Regan's article was his classification of creatures with 'inherent value'.  Regan pointed out that any creature who is a subject-of-a-life qualifies for inherent value.  I found myself frustrated by this claim while writing Prompt 5 however, I was unable to rebut the argument in any sort of legitimate matter.  I found the answer to my question through Warren's work.  She pointed out that Regan draws a sharp line in this determination, however, in reality we do not know for sure which animals are subjects-of-a-life to which Regan responds that we must extend a benefit of the doubt to any arguments animals which it is unclear.  Warren response to this argument is that we can make arguments for creatures as small as paramecium because we cannot know for sure.  With this being said Warren then references that we could never swat at a mosquito and that we would need to sweep every walkway before we walked on it to make sure that we did not harm any creatures with inherent value.

Another issue that bothered me about Regan's text was his reference to including mentally handicapped and infants in our argument for rational beings.  This bothered me because prior to this article my cutoff between animals and humans had been that we are superior because of our rationale and ability to problem solve in more than one method.  It is then tough to include these two categories of humans into our qualification of rationale.  Warren provides more than adequate responses for both of these cases, arguing for infants that it is a temporary state that all humans go through and for mentally handicapped that we extend to them equality because of the relationship that we have to them created by our ability as humans to feel compassion.  I found that these explanations helped me to build my understanding and foundation for my moral on animal liberation.

Both of these posts were instrumental in my development of my stance on animal liberation.  While I found that I do not agree with most of Regan's points, his article was helpful for me in establishing upper limit on the extremely liberal side of animal liberation.  It helped me to see some of the arguments for animals as well as helped me to see some of the fall backs in my own interpretation of the subject.  Warren's text was equally if not more important in developing my current stance because she helped me to find the flaws in Regan's argument and provide logical answers where his argument fell short.  Overall, both of these texts were instrumental in determining my current stance on animal liberation.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Extra Credit 2

Compared to the first week I enjoyed this past weeks readings much more.  I had a very hard time trying to relate to both Singer and Regan's arguments for animal rights.  I found both of them far too restricting in the sense that I believe in animal rights however, I struggled with the idea that they possess the same worth as us.  I found Warren's reading to coincide more closely with my ideas about animals and how we can exist together with them.  I liked that Warren established that the reason that humans treat each other equally not because 'god said so' but rather because the price we pay for moral equality is treating others equally.  Moreover, those who deserve this moral equality are those who are able 'listen to reason'.  This idea was not new and was rejected as a criteria for moral equality because not all humans have the ability to reason, specifically those who are mentally handicapped and infants.  Warren addresses both arguments adequately, and thus, I think that this reading was crucial in me determining where I stand on animal rights issues (these ideas were presented in Prompt 06).  I believe that we should not inflict unnecessary pain to animals, however, at the same time I do not believe that any animals deserves the same moral standing as a human.

However, the articles that we have read relating to the environment have incited a lot more thought from me.  Starting with the Lecture 5 on policy and economics caused me to think about things in a different light.  It made me realize that being raised in a capitalist society I have adopted an analysis method without having realized it.  Many of the decisions we make reflect what is important to us.  Prompt 07 allowed me to analyze purchasing meat, something that I rarely think about.  What it made me realize was that purchasing standard beef (that is not organic or grass fed) is a cost-benefit analysis where we weigh the cost in dollars versus the suffering of an animal.  While the option exists for a more expensive beef that has been raised in a manner that reduces suffering very few people even contemplate this decision.  This is only one example however, this type of analysis can be used in almost every decision we make in our life.

Another issue that was reviewed this week was about endangered species.  We read Russow's text 'Why Do Species Matter?' which presented a variety of reasons about why we should preserve species. I found this text interesting because I think just about everybody acknowledges that endangered species need to be preserved, but the why is a little bit more complicated.  Russow presents three different reasons about why we should preserve these animals and goes on to describe the flaws in each argument making me question the why as well.  However, my anthopocentric side eventually was able for me to make sense of the issue for myself by instead of arguing for the lofty steward responsibility or intrinsic value I found that probably the most reasonable reason we can justify allocating resources to preserve a species is the assumption that these species possess some sort of extrinsic value which may some day be needed by humans.

Prompt 9 I feel I made a breakthrough because I was able to finally culminate prior knowledge from the course into Taylor's text.  The final section in Taylor's text about rejecting the superiority of humans was intriguing.  It made me realize how humans have developed this idea of superiority from Greek society, built upon by Judeo-Christian philosophy and then solidified in my opinion by Cartesian dualism.  When we think about all of these concepts as moral relativism it is an almost earth shattering revelation.  That this concept of human superiority that is held by most for the reasons listed above is nothing but something fabricated by humans we may better be able to understand our place in the world.  With this mind set we can better understand and internalize texts like those written by Calicott.  Calicott's text helped me to realize how ecological ethic can fit into our lives.  Both Calicott and Taylor's texts together have helped me to develop my current feeling on ecological ethic and how it is not based upon anything higher but that it is something higher similarly to our morals regarding our community and that it can be achieved by having a greater respect for the land.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prompt 11

I have chosen to use Sean's post 10.  I chose to use Shawn's argument because I really liked his interpretation of the text.  I think that Shawn presented some ideas that also have added complexity to some of the issues that I thought were good arguments made by Callicott Shawn is able to show in the real world how their application is limited.  He refutes the Algonkian population analogy by stating that today there are many different cultures from different landscapes and a simple relationship with nature as the Algonkians had is no longer possible in our highly complex society.  I think that Shawn has denied the concept of animal liberation and has periodically throughout his posts because he believes in the superiority of our culture.  I think that Shawn is trying to accept an environmentalist perspective but is having a good degree of trouble because he is able to understand the complexities of the issue.  Moreover, I think that not only is his questioning healthy but crucial for developing a solid grounding for his philosophy.

One point that Sean and I disagreed upon was the real world application of Calicott's Ideas.  I found myself appreciating Calicott's acknowledgement for the fact that our nuclear families welfare will always come before the welfare of the community.  I think that this concept while perhaps contradictory to the overall message is more of a reflection of humanity as a species.  We all have special connections with our family and to suggest that everyone would one day put this aside for the greater community is irrational.  Our commitment to family is instinctual and I feel that Callicott acknowledges this and tries not to make the concept of land ethic contradict this so that it has more practicality in the real world.  Moreover, I believe Callicott's goal in mentioning this argument is to say that we can still foster a land ethic without compromising the welfare of that which is important to us, but rather add it to our consciousness and way we go about life.  He then puts into perspective how we can place different levels of value on our beliefs in a way that is not too radical.  I found this idea to be really appealing myself because I want to adopt an environmental ethic that I can implement into my life that is logical and does not impede my ability to live my life, but rather encourages me to live a life that considers the obligation to the environment in my decisions the same way that I would think about my obligations to my community.

Sean also pokes holes in some of the holes of the argument showing how having such a loose definition of what is positive in a biotic community can allow us to justify things that are not positive for animals.  He argues that if predators in nature are allowed to eat other animals then on what grounds can we reject humans using what means it has regardless of the impact if the overall impact is positive for us.  While I like that Sean is questioning the limits of what we can regard as acceptable within a biotic community.  And I think that this is definitely a gray area.  On one hand we have the animal liberation movement which dictates that all animals have inherent worth and are individually important, while on the environmentalist side we see that the interests of the community as a whole are what is important.  To establish whether it is ok or not for us to use other animals for our betterment we need to look at the larger picture.  If the impact that we are making from using this animal is having an overall negative impact on our biotic community then it is negative.  Perhaps the argument for environmentalism allows some leniency for animal testing because we are not damaging any ecosystem but rather raising animals as test subjects (which Singer would obviously have a problem with), to increase our overall good.  Thus,  I think that Sean leans more towards the ecologist point of view, but rightly sees some of the inherent problems because he understands some of its flaws.  I like that Sean has pointed it out because they have made me evaluate my own morals on the subject.

I think that my views are different because I have already decided that I like the ecological ethicist point of view, especially with some of the caveats that Callicott makes for these to exist in a world where we do have a nuclear value that is of the most value to us.  I think that today's reading has helped me to solidify my position because it has pointed out how the animal liberationist view is flawed and can never be fully recognized especially if we wish to lead productive lives.  The ecological point of view is not only productive in guiding our decisions I believe that ultimately it will help us in making decisions about the environment that will ultimately be of benefit to the human race.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Prompt 10

This essay by Callicott I found to reaffirm a lot of the ideas that I have been building through this course with regards to Environmental ethics.  I liked that Callicott used many scientific arguments i.e. the use of Darwinian evolution to rationalize some of the ideas that have been presented without very much scientific background.  I like the idea that out of evolution we have come to respect the idea of ethics was purely evolutionary in that we "assumed limitations on freedom of action in the struggle for existence"(234).  This quote suggests that even before humans were able to develop rationality we had to develop the underlying philosophy that we exist as part of something greater and that limiting our actions we are able to better exist in the environment.  Furthermore, Darwin references that as the community becomes more successful in defending and providing for itself it will inevitably become more inclusive.  This argument is rounded out by declaring that ethics in society and community are correlated and that as moral development increases so will our ability to develop a land ethic.  I see the validity in this argument because as we analyze how we have interacted with our environment to get to the point where we are at we realize that it was through cooperation with our environment.

The next presentation is the idea of community.  Darwin points out the idea of a tribes people who present the idea of 'paragons of virtue' in that they will be willing to give their life to save a member of the same tribe but would be completely indifferent about a complete stranger.  And in that same vein he recognizes within the limits of the tribe people respect each other however, outside of the tribe unspeakable acts are justified.  A barbaric concept yes, but does it not reflect how we interact with the world, to some degree we do not care about people outside of our community wherever you choose to draw that line.  What Calicott argues is that land ethics is merely just expanding our idea of "community to include soils, water, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land" (236).  I like the final culminating idea that is when the idea of 'biotic communities' become popularly accepted the concept of a 'land ethic' will inevitably follow.  Calicott also goes even further to acknowledge that the next step to realizing this ideal is to establish a universal idea of ecological understanding.

I like that Calicott's ideas have real implementation acknowledging the concept of an ecosystem.  I feel that past arguments that we have read enforce a concept of equality of species rather than the importance of the whole community.  When we focus too much on the equality of species we get caught up in arguments about making meat eating unethical because it involves the taking of another life.  However, land ethic dictates that the concern of individuals is secondary to the concern of the biotic community as a whole, allowing for the complex ideas that creatures need to eat other creatures to survive and so thus, promotes the health of the community as a whole and is thus, beneficial for the biotic community.  Calicott is even able to point out why it is difficult for us to adopt these concepts because previously our moral theory has been 'psychocentric' that is concerned with the ideals of things that have conscience and that this philosophy is outdated.  I was also intrigued by the fact that Calicott does not merely toss up this idea and leave it as some unattainable moral idea, he points out that our ability to understand the holism of land ethic our moral sensibilities must be shaped by ecological understanding.  However, it is clear why it is hard for us to think in terms of this idea because as William Aiken points out,"massive human diebacks would be good.  It is our duty to cause them.  It is 90 percent of our numbers", thus pointing out Regan's idea of 'environmental fascism'.

What I found most interesting about this article was how Calicott allows a way for us to integrate land ethic into our lives.  He presents that the idea while human morality and land ethic are not contradictions, alterations in our ideas of morality must be in order for the idea of land ethic to be accepted.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Prompt 09

I found this text to connect a lot of ideas that I had floating around in my head about the environment and ethics and merge them together.  The class to this point has discussed at length this idea of inherent worth, and while I understand it as an idea.  I don't have the same fundamental understanding of it as I do physical laws such as Newton's Laws of Motion.  Despite seeing the merits of the idea of inherent worth all of the previous text have done very little to contextualize the idea for me.  I feared after the first section that this article would also only present more questions about this idea by presenting more abstract concepts such the idea of well being of creatures to be an end itself.  However, this text began to dig deeper into this concept by acknowledging that creatures do not necessarily understand any of these ideas but that this is not necessary for a creature to possess this worth.  I also liked that Taylor was able to stray from this need to attach sentience to the idea of worth and rather that these two ideas are unrelated.  It goes on further to ascribe inherent worth to not only individuals but their connection to populations and biotic communities.  This value is not related to anything else but rather that this value is an end of itself.

What made me like Taylor's idea is that he did not abandon his ideas here.  He goes on to start connecting this idea to nature as a whole, connecting the idea of respecting and acknowledging all organisms inherent worth collectively is the idea of 'Respect for Nature' and equates this idea to being an ultimate like human ethics and is not derived from any higher idea.  This was a connection that I had failed to make yet.  I have kept trying to attach respect for nature to human ethics which when we are able to understand that they are unrelated we can understand the importance.  At which point Taylor goes on to explain how that this idea cannot be proven deductively and that rather this idea that respect for nature is a belief system.  While some are displeased by this justification I am able to relate it because I also possess spiritual beliefs that I cannot go out defend using fact but rather I know their significance to myself.

I think that the next issue that I have seen a lot of my peers also struggle with is where humans stand among all of these ideas.  A lot of posts that I have read (my own included), reflect that we all feel superior in some regards and have a perception of anthropocentricity.  The biological example I find to be a little bit tough, because we have shown that we have the ability to alter interconnected elements for our own liking.  I was also not satisfied by the idea of saying that humans have only been here for a short period of time and that the earth would exist (perhaps better) with out us.  I don't think any logical person will refute those claims but it doesn't stop me from thinking and feeling some sort of entitlement.

However, Taylor went on to dismantle the anthropocentric argument entirely by attacking it from many angles.  Taylor explains that just as we have the ability to create these characteristics that make us superior by the enrichment of civilization and goes to point out that nonhumans have equally as important characteristics that are inconsequential to us, as our characteristics are to them, that have helped their species prosper.  Also just asserting that we have more inherent worth is inadequate as well and does this by presenting the ideas of upper and lower classes in classic times were clearly defined however, we now possess the ability to see that these were nothing but distinctions created by humans as well.  Finally, and perhaps my favorite argument was that pertaining to religion and how is affects our perceptions.  Taylor is able to break down how we our ideas of personal value have been fostered by classical ideas that have come to be taken as more or less objective which are; Greek humanism, Cartesian dualism and the Judeo-Christian concept of the Great Chain of Being.  These cultural relativist ideas as result of time and acceptance I feel have become seen as an almost objective idea (extreme realist), until we really start to break down how we have endowed all of these ideas upon ourselves.  Whether it ben the idea of man being a rational creature and that being our superiority, or the idea that we possess a soul, or even that god created us in his image and that we are part of a chain of being.  Regardless all of the defenses that we can come up with seem to have been fabricated by us to help us understand our position on the Earth.  Now that we have the ability to see this and have started to noticeably alter the world around us, we must shed this superiority and acknowledge that we are just one element in the world and that we must respect all other elements that make up our ecological community.  I apologize for the long post but I enjoyed this reading and felt that it covered alot of material.