Over the past week, my group looked at the causes, effects, and concerns regarding climate change. Overall, we all felt that humans needed to learn to be more respectful of the environment in order to preserve the earth and our species as a whole. Climate change is a global problem and thus, needs the combined effort of all nations in order to reverse the damage we have done. We need to reinvent our economic system to make capitalism and eco-friendly solutions more compatible, as well as continue to provide education so everyone can understand how dire of a problem climate change really is.
Though I feel like wilderness preservation and pollution are related to climate change, I chose to examine the pollution group project more closely. They speak of the oversimplification of the causes of our problems, such as blaming purely immigration, foreign aid, and capitalism on why the environment is how it is now. In reality there are a vast amount of causes that are interconnected into a complicated mess, which is why we have yet to find a solution to pollution and climate change – it’s nearly impossible to fix a problem that stems from a dozen different causes.
Pollution is a huge problem in the world, especially in developing countries that we exploit. I feel like we send our jobs abroad because of the cheap labor and the loose regulations so companies can save a lot of money by not paying employees well and not updating our machines and factories to be environmentally friendly.
This is the most pronounced similarity between the two projects as they evaluate the environmental exploitation of the poor and developing for the sake of the rich and developed. The pollution group commented on “We All Live in Bhopal” by Bradford and the climate group examined “Climate Justice: The Emerging Movement against Green Capitalism” by Dawson that both saw how those who are poor and/or colored are the ones who are taken advantage of, here and abroad. Bradford speaks of how we endanger the lives of farmers abroad, especially their health since those who live near industrial centers tend to have a higher number of cancers and birth defects. Dawson looks at how in urban areas, those who live in the poor regions deal with factories and plants in their backyards who are also subjecting to health hazards. I feel like this is grossly unfair, we take advantage of those who cannot really say no or voice their opinions to create real change. They tend to be the poor and the less-educated and more likely to not have health insurance so how can they pay for the care to treat their cancers or take care of their children with congenital diseases? How lowly can we make the lives of the poor? How can we do that to members of our own species? Capitalism and industrialization are perfectly linked in this case and lead to similar problems on a global scale. Pollution is one of the things that lead to climate change and capitalism is one of the things that lead to industrialization. Although capitalism and industrialization are big culprits to environmental degradation, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re not entirely negative. They have benefits as well, such as helping us to develop and progress as an interconnected species.
I think that the concept of environmental justice is relevant to both topics since it deals with discrimination and exploitation. We use other developing countries to manufacture and produce goods because often, poorer countries have loose regulations, like in China where companies can buy off police so they won’t be cited for not adhering to their environmental laws. Similarly, we have people in Harlem who deal with bad environmental conditions that lead to health problems like asthma. The pattern follows that we take advantage of those who are poorer and less able to speak against injustices to suit our own needs.
Climate change and pollution are problems that go hand-in-hand. They are global problems that affect people on the big scale of things and while the problem has been slyly creeping up on us, there is no doubt that there will be huge impacts later, if we haven’t noticed them already. We are now very aware of the problems facing the environment , the earth, and our species, and if we don’t start seriously thinking of a solution now, there might be no future to consider later.
From the beginning of the course until there, there has been plenty to learn. Overall, I have built upon and expanded my positions on such issues such as animal ethics and ecological ethics. Originally, in post 1, I began with a firm stance on animal ethics, where I believed that their inherent value made them deserving of rights. But the class went on, I felt that not all animals were deserving of the same rights because each had a varying degree of inherent values. I stand firm against (excessive) anthropocentrism because humans should not be allowed to use animals to satisfy their own means in a way that is grotesque and inhumane, such as those practices found in the slaughterhouses.
I realized that I am very much a deontologist and believe that what matters most is the intent behind your actions, which is a theme behind my posts - human responsibility. I discovered from Singer’s piece (post 5) that many are disconnected from the food they eat; those who live in urban areas don’t encounter animals until they’re cooked on the table. This led me to realize that part of the problem, any problem really, that requires a lot of people in order to make a change is challenged by the fact that there is detachment from the person and the problem. For instance, the urban dwellers don’t realize the cruelty behind the killing of their meat, and those who live in nice, cozy suburbans don’t see the extent of their environmental degradation found in the impoverished regions. I think this is an important gap to connect so we can understand what it is that we have deemed as acceptable, when in fact, it’s wrong. It’s wrong to treat animals the way they do in slaughterhouses and it’s wrong to subject people to environmental injustice.
Another important point was that humans are rational beings who have all these capabilities of innovation and advancement, and quite frankly, we’re using our powers for evil. We’re exploiting the environment and all that it can provide for us to satisfy our own desires and “needs.” I think that because we are creatures that can listen and cooperate, that it’s our duty to treat the land and the animals with respect because we are so dependent on them. I like the idea of life-centered ethics because it’s far more inclusive than just animal ethics. In this way, we can respect the plants and micro-organisms as well because they have life, and they have an important place in our ecosystems, even if we don’t realize it.
I never considered animal ethics or environmental ethics to be conflicting, but they are. In that respect, we should care more about the environment than individual rights (of humans and animal). The good of the whole outweighs the added sum of the individuals. Capitalism is a huge problem for us. It makes us exploit the land, leading to environmental degradation and has also led to this global economic problem. How can humans believe they’re so righteous and brilliant when we’re faced with these problems of pollution, recession, and war continuously. We caused these problems and it’s our duty to fix them. Education could be the key to our success and continued existence on this earth.
For today, I chose to examine my posts from prompt 7 and prompt 9 where I noticed that a reoccurring idea is human accountability for their actions, especially where the environment is concerned. I reject the specieist and anthropocentric idea of human beings as the center of the universe and superior to other living beings. I’m actually quite critical of humans. I think that overall, we have been very disrespectful of the environment. We don’t appreciate the air, water, or resources that it provides, but rather pollute and destroy them all for our own means. I think these posts also show my preference for environmental ethics over animal ethics; I care more about the whole than individual rights.
One of the biggest concerns I raised was how to get people to care? I think that so many of us live in a fast-paced world where if you want to get ahead, then you have to get into a daily rhythm. But how green is our daily cycle? Do we take time to walk to school, bike to work, or commute to events? Do we buy organic goods, farm-fresh meats, or locally grown greens? The reality is, our cycle is actually quite polluting, and even when we’re not aware, we’re contributing to the problem and no one will find the solution for us. This is a collective action problem that we, as the human race, must figure out a way to override.
In Prompt 9, it overviews Sagoff’s essay that questions the rights and obligations of the consumer. What I realized is that humans are limited in their ability to change, not because they’re unwilling to do so, but because they have limited financial means to make the big changes that would make big impacts. Humans like to see the results of their efforts immediately. We tend to be reluctant to wait for several years, maybe even decades to see if our recycled bottles make a difference. Also, many tend to think that their contribution will make no difference. Just because I change does not mean anyone else will so what will my efforts result to if only to serve as an inconvenience to me? Consumers contradict their wants – we want healthy, fresh meats without the added cost, we want fuel efficient cars without the expense. This post drives me to believe that when it comes to change, we’re really only willing to make the effort if it doesn’t kill our budget.
Life-centered ethics was my focus for prompt 9 that reaffirms my belief that humans need to be more conscientious of how we use the environment whether it be for our capitalist pursuits or our personal enjoyment. The environment has a good and therefore a right that we should adhere to and help promote in every way possible. We pride ourselves on being logical, rational beings which means we should be able to exercise our “superiority” by showing mercy to those who cannot actively fight against us, like animals and plants.
What makes these posts connected is that it provides an explanation for why we should try to change. Humans are rational beings who have unlimited abilities to harm or benefit the environment. We need the environment to stay stable for our own survival so we should implement green practices to give the land a break from our exhausting exploitation. There are no easy solutions though. We can’t rely on our politicians to make us change. We can’t rely on our neighbors making a change. The change has to come from our own initiative, wherever that may come from. The best way would be educate the people first, at home and abroad. Education is the root of every great change.
Extra Credit: Reflection II
One of the greatest things that I’ve learned this past week was that there are no easily solutions and no way to solve a problem unless we can agree on an issue and how to resolve it. There are so many opinions and perspectives that it’s hard for us to agree amongst ourselves, let alone on the global scale, but it does not mean we can’t try.
I have always considered myself to be strongly for animal rights and environmental rights but I had never considered them to be contradictory until this week. Ultimately, I have realized that I care more about the world at large than the individual rights of animals. In my mind, it’s because environmental rights encompasses the nature of animals as a whole and approaches the issue of climate change whereas animal rights doesn’t confront the grim future that is before us and focuses on the individual.
While doing the group project, there were several pieces that we had to read which the issue of climate change multidimensional. It is more than just the temperature, rising sea levels, and changing ecosystems, but also the injustice, the politics and the economics behind the problem. There are the poor and the illiterate who are continuously exploited, here and abroad in ways that violate their rights. We subject the impoverished without clean water or air by the highly polluting factories and plants. We bend the law to allow home-developers to con the colored into renting dangerous homes, like those that were destroyed because of Hurricane Katrina. Oil companies lobby the government to let them ruin our land, and we let our capitalist system fuel the fire. I have come to be convinced that it is this economic structure that has paved the way for environmental destruction. Capitalism has permitted us to become industrialized and develop without much regard for how it affects the soil, water, air, or animals. We let this happen in America where we are now the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases, and now capitalism has captured China, who is not too far behind. They too are adopting a capitalist economy and their environment is in great danger as well. I believe that when we make going green more afford, then more people will adopt the concept and start changing their ways, but it begins with education, here and abroad.
The readings for the general class have pointed me in the direction of being a non-specieist by not seeing humans as the center of the universe but rather the root of many evils. Yes, we can use logic, listen to reason, and advance at an alarming rate, but we are no better than the animals. Human could use a lesson in humility and gain some respect for the animals and environment that we have invaded. We need them more for our survival than they will ever need us; in fact, they may be better off with our species eliminated. Humans can only advance as long as the earth exists, and at the rate we have affected the earth, it’s hard to say how much longer the earth can be our tool for our means.
I’ve also realized that humans are just filled with contradictions and conflicting interests which will not be changed unless we give them incentive to change. People want to be healthy, but they can’t afford the price of farm-fresh meats or vegetables, so we eat out. We want more jobs, but we’re not willing to work in the low-end jobs like farming or housekeeping. Ultimately, I believe people will be inspired to change if they see that cost of change is less than the benefits obtained, and if they can see it immediately. Humans like instant gratification. We want change and we want it now dammit or you’re not doing your job correctly (isn’t that how we view politicians?). Well I think that we can instill change if we make things more relatable. If your energy bill is high, then why not change your light bulbs to florescent? It saves you some green while helping you be green. You notice bottled water is dipping into your food budget so you buy a Nalgene and a Brita instead of Dasani. Little changes can go a great distance if we embrace the fact that we can make a change. Overcoming the collective action problem will be one of our greatest tasks, but once we do, the benefits of going green will far outweigh the costs.
Looking back on some of my posts, I wouldn’t say that I was very consistent on where I stood between animal liberation and environmental ethics. How can I believe in two things that ultimately conflict? I had never really thought of it that way though; I had never made the connection that the two concepts do not actually connect. In Sagoff’s piece, he makes the distinction between the two and clarifies why they conflict.
Animal liberation pertains to ensuring that we do no harm to animals, while also satisfying their rights in a positive way. This means we do not inflict harm upon them nor use them for our own means. It is in our human power to prevent such acts. We must see animals as our equals and worthy of rights if we are to believe in animal liberation. Sagoff questions the extent that animal rights go. Do we have an obligation to protect mice by preventing cats from killing them? Should we protect flies by breaking up a spider’s web so they don’t get trapped? How I decided to take this is that we should not induce unnecessary harm upon animals in the sense that humans should not use them in excess for their means. We shouldn’t be injecting farm animals with hormones and antibiotics so they grow so large so fast that their legs break, nor should we send thousands to the slaughter each day. Rationally, I know that not everyone on the globe will cut our meat from their diet, so I suggest we cut down our consumption; it helps not only the animals but us too. We shouldn’t mess with nature and the natural cycle of the ecosystem. It’s not our place nor do we know enough of the consequences to tinker with that that is vital to our survival – earth.
Environmental ethics and animal liberation are conflicting because the former would advocate for animals to be left in the wild to fend for themselves as nature intended, whereas the latter would try to save these animals from extinction and prevent the cruelty of Mother Nature. Environmentalists see the food chain where the big eat the small. Animal liberationists would try to interfere with the chain.
The position I’m closest to would be the environmental ethics stance, and if I had to choose only one position, I guess it would be the same. I am not very anthropocentric. I don’t see humans as the center of the universe to use the earth for whatever purposes we might find. Because I think this, I don’t think animals should be the forefront either, but rather an equal alongside humans. I don’t think that we should sacrifice the condition of the earth and the environment just because we want to save animals from nature. Nature is how we evolve and adapt to become more suitable in the environment. If we take away the capabilities of the animals and plants to do so in the name of “protecting their rights” then we risk their safety as well as our own by disrupting the ecosystem.
Looking back on some of the positions of other students, there is a wide variety. Some believe that there is no harm in eating animals; after all it is how we have evolved. Others believe that humans are far too anthropocentric and should be considerate of animal right because we’re highly dependent on them. I understand and respect each of their opinions, but that makes philosophy so difficult. How will we ever instill change if no one can agree on one solution? I believe there can be a balance in the world. We cut down on the consumption of animals and promote farm-fresh meats, thereby reducing the amount of methane in the atmosphere as well as reduce emissions from packaging and transportation. We can recycle more to prevent wastes from being deposited into the ocean and harming sea animals, while also reducing carbon emissions and reducing the need to find more resources. Thought the idea behind each of the concepts have different goals attached, it doesn’t mean they can’t help each other in one manner or another. I think once groups can learn to compromise and see earth (including the environment and animals) as the most important thing, then we can start to make real change.
Callicott’s piece explains the depth behind the theory of land ethics and how it applies to us as human. He sees that “land ethics not only provides moral considerability for the biotic community, but ethical consideration of its individual members… by concern for the preservation of the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.” We are becoming a more open-minded society generation by generation, which could mean that eventually we will see the earth and its living beings as equal, not just as a means to our end.
He believes that land ethics are dependent upon “three scientific cornerstones: (1) evolutionary and (2) ecological biology set in a background of (3) Copernican astronomy.” I agree with his first and second points, but not the third however.
How we evolve - as a species, society, and ecosystem - are all important to our perception of what should be. Evolution teaches us of what our capabilities may be and the capabilities of others, physically and mentally. We have adapted to have canine teeth to support our carnivorous ways, some amphibians have adapted to live life in both water and land, and dessert plants have adapted to have deep root systems. Humans, animals, and plants alike have all made some adjustment to the changing earth in order to ensure our preservation through the ages. Because of this, we have developed a sense of ethics as a means of sustaining the species as well. If we lived in a world of continuous extreme violence or reckless warfare, then our species surely would not have progress, hence why as we evolved, we developed a conceptual link between ethics and social organization and development. We learned to respect each other and nonhuman nature as a way to help ourselves
Callicott also believes that we create a link between humans and nonhumans in order to form a community that is interdependent. We all cooperate and compete in order to advance (I would argue) solely ourselves. We deal with the forces of nature because we believe that once we understand how the world works, we can make ourselves inevitable to the changes that are underway or even control what changes occur. However, we rarely take the time to realize the consequences of being the controller of the world. I think evolution and ecological biology/communities are correlated and dependent on one another.
What I have to disagree with is Callicott’s idea of a Copernican astronomy which suggests the perception of earth being “a small planet” where earth is scaled down to a cozy size. I don’t believe that land ethics is dependent on this because I think that we have to keep in mind the size of the earth to keep in mind all the beings that inhabit such a large space. If we condense down the earth to just the size of a single state, let’s say California, there is no way that every living being could even set foot in that space. If we remember how big the earth is, we remember that there is a lot of unexplored area with billions of different organisms, each deserving and reliant on its own climate and community. Copernican astronomy is not realistic because we deal with other beings and occurrences all over the globe that affect us, like the economic crisis in Europe to the earthquake in Japan. All these things affect us in some way and land ethics itself takes into account the vastness of the earth.
I agree with the author that we do have moral obligations to the community and humans should be respectful of the environment. There is a deontology behind land ethics which is all about how we intend on using the environment, which should not be for our economic endeavors. Although Callicott has makes valid points, I feel like his piece was a compilation of thoughts already said.
The concept I chose to reference to in Taylor’s essay is inherent worth in which he says that “living things possess inherent worth when it’s good is deserving of the concern and consideration of all moral agents, and that the realization of its good has intrinsic value, to be pursued as an end in itself and for the sake of the entity whose good it is.” Though this is a length definition, Taylor spends great length explaining what he means by this and how it relates to life-centered ethics.
Life-centered ethics counters anthropocentrism because of humans being the center focus, it is the existence of any living organism that matters including humans, animals, and vegetation. He rejects a human-centered world because he believes that the lives of non-humans count as an end in itself, not as an end for humans even if the organism is unaware of pain. The good of a living organism is what we should aim for which is basically ensuring that they/we are not harmed and can continue to thrive. Inherent value is important for life-centered ethics because it stresses that every being has a “good of its own” which we as moral agents should take into consideration when we go about our daily lives. For instance, if we want to water our flowers, that is good for its well-being versus cutting the flowers for décor, which would be the opposite. Though humans don’t always have to do the “good” thing for the being, the good and bad should still be considered. I feel like Taylor developed this theory because he sees the interconnectedness of the world and how humans can’t be the only thing that matters because they are so dependent on other things like ecosystems including other living beings that they must also be important. Because they are so vital, we should care about how we treat the environment because our actions can eventually circulate around to affect us as well.
Taylor made a lot of precise and interesting points that contributed to his theory of life-centered ethics which I agreed with. We are pretty similar to animals and living beings when it comes to how we adapted, adhered to the forces of natural selection, and met the conditions needed for existence, thus making us all worthy of inherent value. He brings up an interesting point that humans are relatively late arrivers on Earth and yet we just barged in and interrupted the flow of the ecosystems with our development and industrialization without much consideration for much else. But importantly, can we survive as long as the ones before us? In a way I feel like Taylor makes the argument for life-centered ethics to save us from our own humility later down the road when/if our great developments and innovations lead to our demise; we made ourselves the centered of the universe only to fall off the earth.
I think that life-centered ethics is very important to environmental ethics because it examines how we are more independent on other beings than they will ever be on us, therefore making them extremely valuable for our survival and existence. I was actually very taken aback when Taylor said that animals and living organisms would actually be bettered by the destruction of the human race because finally they could live in a habitat not inhibited or their environment endangered with our trash and capitalist pursuits. It makes humans sound so… sad. Like we’re the kid on the playground that no one wants to share toys with and everyone prefer would go away. I think that Taylor definitely ties in inherent value into his argument, because the more you analyze his work, the more you realize that everything in the world is so valuable for without it, without one small piece, the system falls apart and the human race may cease to exist. It reminds me of the game Jenga where if you remove a piece at the bottom, the entire tower could collapse. That’s what could happen if we continue to behave as we do without careful regard as to how it’ll affect other living organisms or the environment as a whole. By point VIII, I really understood his idea of respecting nature and letting living beings simply be. We shouldn’t decide how they should live their lives and where (as our end as food or zoo entertainment). If they have been living and functioning in their own way for millions of years then who are we to interfere in the system?
While reading through Russow’s piece, I found her argument to be convincing as she speaks of how animal equality and animal rights should be equal across the board. She begins with speaking of endangered animals and whether is it right to protect them and not the equal counterpart (such as protecting polar bears but not brown bears). Our duties should not be to discriminate between those who are endangered and those who are overpopulated, but work to care about them equally. It seems like Russow does not agree with the idea of zoos because they “bring… many individuals of that species as possible [and] protect them from natural predators.” The interesting part lies in the distinction between what duties we have towards a species at large and our obligation to them as individuals. I agree with Russow that it is wrong for us to cage two or a dozen animals like the timber wolf and raise them in confined areas. They bear all the responsibility of repopulating their species. While I do understand that it would be rather difficult to round up every individual in order to force them to mate, it seems wrong to subject individuals to the lifestyle found in zoos. And even if we did have an obligation towards and individual, we shouldn’t mean that individual represents the wishes of the whole.
I feel like we, as humans, are rather counterproductive. We destroy rainforest, greatly contribute to the melting of polar icecaps, and we poach. We do all these things that damage the natural habitat and livelihood of animals, making them endangered and then we have to go back to try to repopulate them? Who are we to play God to animals? To decide their birth, their death, and the course of their lives? I feel like if we would stop ruining the habitat of so many of these animals, then we wouldn’t have to worry about repopulating them later.
Perhaps it is our obligations to control our growing population so we can start to live in harmony with the animals. The human population is increasing at a rapid rate, and now we’re over the 7 billion mark. How many more humans will it take before the carrying capacity is truly maxed out and everyone suffers? The tying back to capitalism, this idea of people having better standards of living has led to people feeling more comfortable bringing children into the world. Similarly, as the extremely poor reproduce, they continuously reproduce from lack of knowledge and lack of resources. All these ways contribute to our vesting growing species, and it could only take one disease or one virus, to knock us all down. In the meantime, it would be wise to start educating people on population control as a means to protect ourselves, the environment, and the animals. The earth is a small space and we need to learn to share a bit.
Russow also points out several incidents and dilemmas that raise questions as to what it means to preserve a species and when it’s wrong or right to. Should red wolves live on preserves to protect the “pure” species? Is it moral to wipe out an entire species of malaria carrying mosquitos? While I understand that a lot of these scenarios challenged my idea of morality, the case I had the strongest feelings towards was the one about the mosquitos. I hate getting bites from them. And for a while, I hated worrying if I just got West Nile from one, but I wouldn’t consider killing the species. Relating to my earlier point, I believe that with a population grown so quickly, it doesn’t hurt to have some factors that control our population, including disease. Because if we don’t, the only thing that will kill us is old age and each other.
I wish I was a ridiculously rich person with money to burn; in fact, I believe that’s what a lot of other people wish as well. But for the 99%, that’s not the case and so we have to actually make rational decisions when it comes to what we spend our incomes on. The reason we do so is simple – either we spend our money fairly wisely or risk financial ruin and the inability to afford necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothes. This shows the cost-benefit analysis where we, as rational beings, look at the cost vs. benefit of our purchases. Should we invest in education? How about a hybrid car? If we put our money into education or hybrids, we expect to see a return in the ability to have a better paying job and more money saved by spending less on fuel. We all unconsciously make such decisions because we are consumers that are interested in how OUR decisions affect US.
Sagoff suggests an interesting idea that “we have only our private conceptions of the good, if no way exists to arrive at a public on,” which led me to thinking – should environmental quality and supply be a public right to all people? By this I mean does the government owe it to us to provide mountain un-mined, forests uncut, and water unpolluted? Or is this a private matter where if we want to take a walk through the woods, we would need to venture to parks and privately owned forests open to the public? (I do recognize that the government does have national parks but they also sell some of the land.) What rights do we have as consumers and citizens when it comes to the environment? I definitely believe that we have a right to clean water, undisturbed land, and fresh air because it’s vital to our existence and contributes to our experience as people. But this will come at a heavy cost.
I had to agree with Sagoff’s piece that we are consumers filled with contradictions – we want police officers to enforce the law, but not catch us when we’re speeding; we want to recycle more but we still buy bottled water. We approach things in a consumerism way where even as citizens, when looking at the agenda on the ballots, decide whether a new law or act will affect our income or spending money. Look at the health care plan. Many of us want health care and we don’t want to be afraid of going to the hospital because of the highly expensive price. And we certainly do not want our neighbors or friends to become ill and unable to see medical attention. Yet, few of us are willing to pay the price of what it would take to make health care a reality. It’s just far too expensive. That is exactly the problem with environmental care and animal ethics. Buying solar panels and farm-fresh meats are costly and that is not something our budgets can bear.
I thought of my other prompts and decided that like Sagoff, I believe that efficiency (the product of capitalism) should be sacrificed for ethical decisions. The reality is that efficiency is much cheaper and more engrained in our habits. It’s cheaper for me to drive my Accord than it is for me to go out and buy a new Volt, even though I know the hybrid is way more environmentally friendly (something I advocate for). And it’s easier to just grab a Dasani water than it is to grab a Nalgene, wash it, purify my water then fill the bottle; in this quick-pace world, we don’t slow down for much. I believe that when manufacturers make environmentally friendly goods cheaper and more efficient for us as consumers and citizens, it is then that we will make real efforts to take care of the environment because going green will then be easy.