Prompt 14

•January 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

There seems to be one overall theme that I can find between both the wilderness preservation group and the climate change group, and that theme is that if we continue our destructive behaviors, all the species on the planet, including humans, will face dire consequences.  The main source of all the problems with environmental destruction, wilderness loss and even climate change are all a result of human interaction with the environment. Harvesting the Earth for it’s limited natural resources to satisfy our capitalist greed, is an important connection between the two groups. For wilderness preservation, our destruction of the land is detrimental to all areas of nature around the globe for both future and present humanity, and for climate change because big corporations exploit the Earth and it’s natural resources to make a profit. In both of these cases humans are the top dogs, the top predators and the top villain towards the environment. We control every aspect of our world in order to make money or advance the human species that the environment has no chance to recover until the source of the problem, humans, are eliminated.

From my own personal environmental ethic I find that I feel strongly towards both issues of Wilderness preservation and Climate change, and it is interesting how much these topics overlap. I find the results of human interaction to be wrong not only because we should strive to protect all living things, but the bottom line is, if we continue to act this way we will end up like the dinosaurs, except this time we dug our own grave. After reading all of the summaries or articles about wilderness preservation I feel that I can apply these arguments to my own environmental ethic in which I believe that we need to look at preserving the environment as a whole and not just the individual species or areas of nature. This belief was also argued by Calicott, in which he stated that we can’t just preserve small areas of nature like natural parks. Humans need to strive to preserve the whole globe because the environment is everywhere, not just in small areas surrounded by cities. Whether or not we live in a city or in a log cabin, we are a part of nature and we need to see the larger picture of preserving the global environment, and our own local environments. I agreed with this statement because of my knowledge about climate change, which is a global issue and cannot be localized.

Climate change is the result of increasing global carbon emissions and environmental destruction as a result of capitalist greed and discrimination between the wealthy and poor. Exploitation of not only the Earth for its raw materials but the exploitation of less fortunate people by the wealthy are all contributing factors to climate change. Big oil corporations know the effects of carbon emissions on the environment, but they make too much money selling oil that they don’t see a need to invest in alternative sources of energy.  Money is the most important thing in the world, the environment and lower class people are meant to be exploited in order to serve for the betterment of the wealthy. Because of this thinking, minority groups such as African Americans are often housed near chemical waste sites, in areas that offer no environmental protection because businesses have ravaged the land for materials, and are seen as expendable with little worth compared to other people in society. Dawson discussed this topic and the people affected by hurricane Katrina. The real estate companies conned the poor African American citizens to live in a dangerous area because they would be too stupid to realize what would happen if you live below sea level. Oil companies damaged the wetlands around the city in order to search for raw materials, which decreased the effectiveness of the buffer zone to the Gulf. These capitalist corporations did not care that they were putting people in harm’s way or taking advantage of them, they wanted to generate as much profit as possible, even if that meant putting human safety and environmental protection on the back burner.

Our society is so engrained with capitalist greed that if we were stop completely stop our actions all together, instead of trying to fix them, the environment could not fix itself. The damage caused by humans is already done, and we need to be the ones to fix things. This idea of non-intervention was proposed by Matthews, and it opposes the capitalist system of our world in his discussion of wilderness preservation. Our capitalist drive to fill our own needs and desires cannot live up to non-intervention so I believe that we need to find a better way to relate to the environment. We can’t completely eliminate capitalism, but we can start to make changes in order to help preserve the global environment and help to reverse climate change. There are so many arguments as to why we need to preserve wilderness and the author Nelson lists about 30 different, and mainly anthropocentric reasons. Many of these include preserving wilderness for natural resources, animal welfare, medicinal purposes, and intrinsic value.  I agree with many of the reasons Nelson gave because they are all valid arguments to protect the environment other than that it is morally right to protect other living things. I feel that I value everything the environment has to offer as a whole, not just the individual species, so for me I feel that any reason to protect the environment even if it benefits humans, is still okay. It may be extremely anthropocentric because I argue that we shouldn’t protect the environment to suit our own needs, but I feel that the environment is a valuable asset to humans and if we want to continue to exist than we should start taking care of nature, and it will return the favor. There is one final connection between the two topics, and that was the effects of over-population on the environment. Overpopulation leads to the destruction of so much land in order to build homes and attain resources for everyone that the environment can’t keep up. Hardin discusses overpopulation and how we can apply lifeboat ethics to return to a more stable population size. However lifeboat ethics require one to use discrimination in order to save the best of the human population, or use sympathy to kill the entire human population. I believe that over population is a big contributing factor the environmental problems we have today, but I don’t know if comparing over population to saving people in a life boat is the best analogy.

Overall, I think that it is important for humans to preserve nature in its entirety to the best of our ability. Wilderness preservation is important because of all the things nature provide for us both material wise, for aesthetic purposes and for scientific knowledge. Preserving only small areas just isn’t enough because the best way to save the biotic community is to preserve environments around the globe. This will also have an affect on climate change, because if we can use alternative sources of energy, prevent discrimination towards those with low socioeconomic status and find a balance between capitalism and environmentalism then the human species, and every other species, can continue to survive for years to come. The Earth is a fragile living thing, and since humans have contributed so much to the destruction of wilderness and the shifting of our climate, than it is our responsibility to find a solution to the problem.


Prompt 13: Post 1 & Post 9

•January 23, 2012 • 3 Comments

When comparing my first and last posts chosen I feel that there is one underlying theme between them, although the topics are different, and that is the responsibility of humans to prevent animal suffering. In my first post I talk about the immoral practice of factory farms and how the animals in these farms are tortured and kept in unsanitary conditions. In my last post I discuss biocentric egalitarianism, or the responsibility of humans to be less anthropocentric and more respectful towards nature. By this I mean that humans need to focus on the value of other species rather than just our own value, and since humans are considered moral beings, we need to be responsible for our actions against the environment.  The main idea of these posts is that as humans we must take responsibility for our actions against living things that cannot help themselves, because we have the ability to judge right and wrong and how our actions affect the environment.

The first post I wrote discusses my opposition to factory farms, which I mentioned in the previous post, but I shall repeat my argument again. I am an avid meat eater, and I would not remove meat from my diet simply because someone told me that animals were hurt to give me my dinner. When I first learned about factory farms I didn’t realize what actually went on behind the scenes.  The animals that are taken and raised in the factory farms are merely the products of a corporation. And as a product they are treated at the discretion of the owner, in whatever way they feel is suitable in order to acquire the most profit. In order to maximize profit the owners of factory farms overpopulate their farms, have few regulations about how to care for the livestock, and inflict pain on the animals before they are even killed. Livestock stand in inches of mud and waste, with no clean water amongst hundreds of other animals in cramped conditions. I see this way of producing meat to be morally wrong because the workers have little respect for these animals and are subjected to years of neglect and abuse. Because of this I argued that humans needed to stop buying mass produced meats and instead buy meat that was grown on a free range and organic farm were the living conditions and quality of life are much better.

In post 9 I talked about the role of biocentric egalitarianism in the environmental ethics debate. Biocentric egalitarianism means to have a more environmental focus on ethics, and also show equal respect to all species of an environmental community. I argued that as humans with moral values we have the responsibility to show respect towards other living things that are not human, even if we have no affectionate feelings towards these species. So this means that even though you may not be in love with the woods behind your house, you should still treat it with respect because you have the responsibility to show nature respect as a moral beings. The author Taylor argues that humans need to place nature on equal ground with humans because the environment has moral value.

The occurring theme I see here is the responsibility of humans to show respect towards living creatures whether it be in nature or in a cage. I believe that every living thing has it’s own value and deserves respect from humans, whether it be by appreciation or by protection. However I do not think that there should be complete equality between nature and humans I do think that humans need to own up to their actions and pay some respect to the world we live in. The idea of respect towards living things by humans translates between each of these posts, but I do not feel that they are both in a position of animal liberation or ecological ethics.  I believe that my first post falls into the animal liberation category because my first post focuses mainly on the rights and value of the individual animals in the factory farms, while my last post falls into the environmentalist category because my last post focuses on the value of the environment and all the living things that inhabit it. I think that the development between these posts shows that now I stand more for the values of the environment  as a whole, and side with the environmentalist position. But I still feel that we should show respect towards the animals we use for profit since we do take advantage of their value. Overall I do see a general shifting towards being focused on environmental ethics, I do still have some morals values remaining in some animal rights.

Prompt 12

•January 23, 2012 • 4 Comments

One of the reoccurring themes in my postings thus far is the benefits and costs of factory farms. In my first post, I talked about being morally opposed to buying meat from factory farms because of the horrible conditions the animals endured.  Farms have been known to genetically modify and selectively breed animals in order to produce livestock with more desirable qualities, while at the same time these qualities are harmful to the animals. Chickens that are bread to produce larger breast meat grow so fast that their tiny legs cannot support their own body weight. Cows and pigs grow faster and larger they have a difficult time maneuvering themselves. Animals are kept in small cages and filled to overcapacity in order to maximize space. Animals never see the light of day as they are grown in cramped conditions in warehouses and cages. For all of these reasons, I said that eating meat was wrong because of the pain animals endured in order to become a meal for humans. I am an avid meat eater so this was difficult for me to write about, but I did have a solution to the factory farm dilemma. To stop supporting factory farms means to stop buying any meat that isn’t organic or free range, which becomes expensive. For many families today they don’t realize that they are buying meat made in factory farms, where animals are raised in terrible conditions, they simply buy meat that they can afford. The whole point of a factory farm is to mass produce meat in order to get the same “quality” of food, for a much cheaper manufacturing and consumer price.

The idea that factory farm meat is beneficial because it provides cheaper meat products was in post 7 when I discussed the economic viewpoint of factory farms. In this post I talked about how factory farms are driven by the consumer, and their willingness to pay for a good or service. The more we are willing to pay for something, the more value it seems to have. This can apply directly to factory farms. To elaborate, factory farms provide cheap meat, and humans like things that are cheap. Cheap means that people get what they want, for less money, and it doesn’t matter why the product is cheaper. This desire for cheap meat essentially created and expanded the business of factory farms. In addition to our increasing desire for meat, our increasing population size has driven the success of factory farms. How can small local farms produce enough meat to feed the billions of people on the planet? It is not possible. I talked about how the idea behind a factory farm is to maximize efficiency (the basis behind our capitalist economy), which means that mass producing meats in large populations maximizes the efficiency of meat production and lowers costs. Looking from an economic standpoint factory farms do make sense because this allows us to produce enough food for everyone and make it affordable for more people.

In both of these posts I seem to argue both sides of the factory farm debate. I argue against the immoral practices of factory farms that torture animals raised in horrible conditions. Then I argued that factory farms are beneficial because they allow meat to be sold at cheaper prices to consumers in our growing population size. By playing Devil’s advocate for this argument I now see that in my own mind I will find something morally wrong, but then try and justify the claim with objective facts. Does this make me a hypocrite? I am opposed to the idea of factory farms because I think they are morally wrong, but when I go to the store, I place importance on my savings and buy the cheap factory farm meat. In prompt 7, I gave the argument that “if we change and regulate how factory farms are run so that we can still maintain efficiency but decrease the environmental impact, that people would feel better about their decision to buy mass produced meat”. What this means is that I do hold the importance of making affordable food, I also hold the importance of treating animals the right way. This solution seems attainable because many people have the same inner dilemma about factory farms. Connecting these posts is interesting because I can see how my thoughts changed when looking at the idea of factory farms from a different perspective.  I think that in order to develop your own moral values you need to be able to make the connections between different perspectives, which is what I did. I still kept my belief that factory farms are wrong, but I also allowed them to exist in order to benefit the greater good of the population. However, unless the practices in factory farms are not changed or I continue to become poor, my viewpoint on this subject may change.

Extra Credit week 2

•January 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This week has forced me to have many arguments with myself. The focus of this week dealt with the question of whether I side more with an environmentalist or an animal liberationist perspective.  An environmentalist position would side with the idea that the biotic community is more important than the individual animals that inhabit it, while an animal liberationist would side with the idea that the safety and happiness of every animal species is more important than the overall good of the environment. Looking at both of the arguments I feel that I side more with the environmentalist’s than with the animal liberationists because they are too broad for me. It’s just not practical or feasible to protect every single animal from pain because we are not responsible for the interactions of animals in the wild. We cannot protect plants from being eaten by herbivores like deer, or protect mice from being eaten by birds. That is the way animals survive and it is not our place to intervene to such an extreme level. Although I do feel humans have an obligation to give some right to animals when we remove them from their natural environment.

When I first thought about animal rights, I felt that since we were in an environmentalist class, we would need to advocate for every living being. Now I think that it is impractical to think this way because of the reality of the world we live in today. The animals that really need our help are the animals in factory farms, or the animals that are abused and neglected by humans. I have felt this way since the beginning of class and I will continue to feel this way. I now have a better understanding of the way factory farms came to be because of rising population sizes, and capitalist greed.  I don’t believe that the owners of factory farms intentionally try and torture animals, they do what they think it the best way to make money—as wrong as this way of thinking is. Capitalist greed also has a huge impact on other areas of the environment including climate change as I learned for my group project.

In the reading by Gardiner, the author discusses how corporate greed by Oil and Real estate companies had an impact on the destruction of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I believed what I was told in the news about how the structure of the city being built below sea level, and the power of the hurricane were the biggest reasons the city was destroyed. But In the reading Gardiner said that a petroleum company had cut canals into the area around the city weakening the soil in increasing erosion, and the real estate companies had drained the buffer zone of wetlands around the city that protect it from the Gulf Waters.  I was shocked at how these corporations affected the land so much that it caused thousands of people to die at the hand of corporate greed. Even the strength of the storm itself was not natural because of the effect of global warming. This storm could have been prevented if we had taken more precautions and actions to ensure the environment remained intact.

I feel that I side more with the environmentalist side after reading that because we negatively affect the environment to such a huge extent that I believe climate change and the loss of species is the fault of humans. If we don’t do our part to reverse not only our actions, but our way of thinking regarding the environment then we can make the environment a better place for animals, plants and humans to all live.

Prompt 11

•January 21, 2012 • 3 Comments

For this prompt I decided to use Thomas’s post because I believe that he made some good points about his views on protecting the environment. Right off the bat it seemed that Thomas had a very strong argument for the environmentalist perspective. According to today’s reading, Sagoff says that environmentalists “make no pretense of acting for the sake of individual animals; rather, they attempt to maintain the diversity, integrity, beauty and authenticity of the natural environment”.  Environmentalists feel more concerned about the land and the biotic community as whole Is more important, rather than the individual animals who may be suffering at the hands of humans. I think that Thomas falls under this category of an environmentalist is a sense, but he is certainly not an extreme environmental radical. Some of the language Thomas uses also makes me believe that he cares about the destruction of the environment like an environmentalist would. He makes a lot of comments that humans take advantage and exploit the Earth, that generally people don’t care about the environment unless they are directly affected by what is happening, and that we need to give back to the environment. Thomas makes his opinion known towards the end of the piece when he says that he agrees with Calicott’s solution to the problem in that we need to establish a relationship between humans and the environment like the Native Americans used to do. He says that the Native Americans would pray and give offerings to the species populations that they were hurting in order to show their gratitude and understanding for what they were doing.

When I look back on my previous prompt, I feel that I also took an environmentalist position because I generally advocate for the protection of the environment as a whole rather than just the protection of one species or animal. I talked mainly about our role as humans to protect and respect the natural biotic community as a whole because I believe that we do the most significant damage to the environment, which in turn affects animals. I do feel that humans should protect animals that are in danger at the hands on humans or natural disasters, but there shouldn’t be a complete liberation for animals. Sagoff states that we could save wild animals from suffering by creating large farms for animals to live comfortably on or to adopt wild animals as pets. My problem with this is that if we take all the wild animals out of their natural habitat what good are we doing. Yes we could be saving animals from the hardships of being eaten, or freezing during the winter time, or dying of starvation. But this completely goes against the idea of nature. Nature is what things are naturally without human intervention. Nature is the world that existed before humans were even close to evolving for thousands and millions of years. Why do we have the right to essentially destroy nature? That is how the environment works. Animals were meant to be eaten, and they are meant to eat other animals. We can’t say that every species and creature should be protected from harm because it is physically impossible to do so. I believe that I do value the importance of animals because of their roles in the environment, and I do believe that animals have certain rights once we invade their space and exploit them. So overall I believe that I am both an environmentalist and an animal rights advocate, but I tend to side more with the environmentalist perspective.

Thomas and I both have similar views on how we view the environment. I also agree that humans need to show their appreciated for nature more, like the Native Americans did, because of how much we take advantage of something that doesn’t belong to anyone. Nature has no owner and it is not obligated to serve one person over another. Nature is for everyone and we have the responsibility to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience nature the way that it should be. As of now humans are the only species that has the ability to discern right from wrong and understand the perspectives of other beings. Because of this I think that we need to take a step back and realize that our actions do have consequences, not in the future, but in the present. I also agree with Thomas when he said that “The community needs to learn that there are many species out there, not all of which we can immediately reap benefits from, but which keep the earth’s environment in constant balance”. This idea is very similar to my own opinion because I know how fragile and complex the environment is. Every animal has its own niche along with every plant, bacteria or fungus. If humans exploit one of these species, the entire ecosystem will suffer as a result, with the loss of balance between species.  I think that both animal liberation and environmental ethics do have some similar ideas, and can apply to many different scenarios, but I feel that I am more of an environmentalist, but I also value the importance of exploited animals.

Prompt 10- Land Ethics

•January 20, 2012 • 2 Comments

Callicot’s concept for land ethic is quite interesting. The idea of a biotic community- comprised of plants, animals and everything else functions as complex, yet simple, exchange and redistribution of energy.  The initial energy of the sun is absorbed by every living creature on the planet as it moves its way through plants, primary consumers, secondary consumers, predators, to decomposers and eventually back to plants. This cycling of energy may seem unfair because in order for the energy to move from one being to another, someone or something has to be eaten or die. As unfair as it may be, this is how the ecosystem works and how it was designed to work. The land ethic point of view sees this system as the main structure of the biotic community, and is important for keeping the environment alive.  Opponents to land ethic disagree mostly with the idea that the good of the individual organisms is lost because land ethic focuses on the good of the biotic community, which comes from the predation and death of species. In addition, not only are plants and animals subject to the integrity of the stabilization of the community through predation and loss of species, humans are also members of the biotic community and have the same purpose as other animals in the community. Calicott argues that the land ethic says that humans are just as morally responsible to contribute to the overall good of the biotic community, so why do we find ourselves exempt from this role?

I find this idea that because humans are aware of the fate of the animals providing for the overall good of the biotic community, that we can exclude ourselves from this duty so to speak because we don’t want to die like animals. Humans are more valuable than animals, they are meant to die and we are not. This way of thinking is very anthropocentric, but the idea of land ethic also has its own valid points. The land ethic isn’t meant to say that humans should be giving themselves to the biotic community just like everything else. It simply means that since we are members of the biotic community then we should be more conscious of how our actions affect the environment and we need to respect the natural order of things, we are not excluded from this simply because we are humans. I also found it interesting that Calicott said that Regan would find this idea of land ethic to be environmental fascism. The betterment of the biotic community through the loss of individuals definitely goes against Regan’s beliefs, because he believes that the individual is more valuable than the whole community.

It seems unfair that humans are exempt from this natural role in the biotic community, and yet some believe that all members of the biotic community have equal moral value. Calicott states that If this were true than humans should be subject to the “same subordination of individual welfare and rights in respect to the good of the community as a whole”. I agree with what he is saying because if everything has the same value, than humans can’t put ourselves on a different level than other creatures. As much as I agree with this statement, and yet being a selfish human, I am not ready to die for the betterment of the biotic community. I feel I have a better purpose to protect the community from destruction and loss of life than to bet eaten by a bear and have my energy returned to the community.

As Calicott states, land ethic has deontological qualities because every living thing has a duty to play their equal and fair part for the betterment of the biotic community. If humans have a duty to protect the environment as moral beings, than we also have a duty to respect our moral obligations to the biotic community as being equals to other living creatures. Humans have given themselves an excuse note from the community and we live our own lives separate from the biotic community. However separate we may be, our actions have direct consequences on the community so we are always a part of the environment.

Prompt 9 Biocentric egalitarianism

•January 19, 2012 • 3 Comments

In Paul Taylor’s article Bicentric Egalitairianism, Taylor argues why humans should have more respect for nature and why we should take a less anthropocentric view of environmental ethics. One of the concepts he uses to back up his argument is to have respect for nature. To have a respect for nature means an attitude we believe that all moral agents (humans) ought to have simply as moral agents, regardless of whether or not they love nature. What this means that, as humans we are the ones who have moral values, and because of this, we have the responsibility to show respect towards other living things that are non human, even if we do not have affectionate feelings for those other creatures. As moral agents who have a binding responsibility to show respect for nature Taylor says that we make a commitment to live by certain normative principles that constitute the rules of conduct and standards of character that are to govern our treatment of the natural world. This means that respect for nature influences how we interact and treat nature, and how we make rules about how to do so. I think that this could be a valid argument towards how humans view environmental ethics, but I do see some flaws in the argument that humans should respect nature simply because they are moral beings.

One of the main problems I have with Taylors argument is that even though everyone has the responsibility to respect nature simply because we are human isn’t a very strong argument in itself because not everyone will feel the same about nature as someone else. Respecting nature could mean different things to different people, but the overall term of respect is universal. Respect means to show admiration or a sense of importance to something else. Everyone is taught to respect your elders, to respect your peers, and to respect yourself. But often the idea of showing respect towards nature is lost or misguided. What does it mean to be respectful towards nature?

Respecting nature could mean anything, and differs from every individual. I believe that having respect towards nature means to admire it’s greatness and complexity and fragility. Nature is made up a huge network of organisms that all work together in order to survive. From the forests and mountains surrounding Binghamton, to the beaches of Long Island and even the Rainforests of South America, each of these biomes has a special part or niche in how the world works. So when I venture out into nature I make sure to not disturb anything, I don’t leave garbage behind, I don’t destroy or harm anything, and I take time to appreciate where I am. To me it’s important to show respect for nature because I understand how my actions affect nature, whether they be positive or negative actions. If I treat the environment the right way, then the environment will do the same to me, even though this isn’t a conscious action, I rely a lot on what nature has to offer. The oxygen I breathe, the water I drink, the food I eat all comes from nature and if nature isn’t appreciated for this and taken care of then everything needed for not only me to survive, but for thousands of other animals, will be gone.

Unfortunately not everyone thinks this way. People who litter the ground with garbage, cut down forests without replanting the trees they cut down, dumping waste into the oceans without realizing the effects that has on the animals that live there to me are all signs of disrespecting nature. If hypothetically nature were a conscious being like humans, how would we feel if trees started dumping their waste into our backyards, or if the oceans dumped all the dead organisms into our pools. This “treat others how you want to be treated” attitude seems very elementary, but it’s a good way to live by. I think showing respect towards nature is an important ethical code to have because we can see the negative human impact on the environment in the accelerated climate change we are experiencing. We disregard the moral value of then environment to suit our own needs and we don’t appreciate the consequences of those actions.

Taylor’s concept of respect towards nature is important in his concept of biocentric egalitarianism because we can put the value of the environment on equal ground, or at least more ground than we do now. The environment does have moral value, and just because it doesn’t fit exactly into what we define as having moral value (such as having human qualities), doesn’t mean the value should be ignored. All living things whether they are plants, animals, or even the smallest bacteria all have some sort of importance to humans. These species should be respected for their own individual and unique qualities, and not disrespected simply because they are not human, and therefore not as important. Having respect for nature is important for all humans to have because if we don’t respect nature, something humans and other animals rely on every day, how can we call ourselves moral beings?