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Environmental Ethics and the Via Verde What Environmental Ethics has to says about the Via Verde Project.

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Presentation on theme: "Environmental Ethics and the Via Verde What Environmental Ethics has to says about the Via Verde Project."— Presentation transcript:

1 Environmental Ethics and the Via Verde What Environmental Ethics has to says about the Via Verde Project

2 What is Environmental Ethics? A systematic and critical study of different moral approaches to the environment such as… – Extensionism – Agrarianism – Biocentrism – Ecocentrism – Environmental Virtue Ethics

3 Today’s Agenda Use these approaches as lenses through which to examine three cases in environmental ethics Give a brief account of each approach Raise questions from each approach to help structure an inquiry into the project’s ethical implications

4 Environmental Ethics Rectangle AnthropocentricNon- anthropocentric Holistic Agrarianism : Humans transform nature by agriculture but understand the farm as ecosystem (Berry, Jefferson, Jackson) Ecocentrism : “A thing is good if it promotes the integrity, beauty, and stability of the biotic community.” Focus on biotic community conceived holistically Individualistic Extensionism : Individualistic ethical approaches such as Utilitarianism and Deontology are extended to cover non-humans. (Singer for Utilitarianism and Regan for Deontology) Biocentrism : obligations not to interfere with teleological centers of a life. Basic, non-human telos can trump non-basic and even basic human interests.

5 Classify according to method Individualistic Humans are atomic individuals (See Hobbes, Locke, and economic theories of rational self interest) Complex wholes (like ecosystems) can be reduced to sum of their parts Reductionistic (Methodological individualism) Holisitic Humans are social (See communitarians like Taylor, J. Dewey or go back to Aristotle) Whole cannot be reduced to parts. Wholes are greater than the sum of their parts

6 Classified according to perspective Anthropocentric Anthropocentric: Centered around humans. (Comes from Greek word anthropo which means human) – Environmental ethics formulated from a point of view centered around human beings Non-anthropocentric Non-anthropocentric: Not centered around humans – Moral community not centered around humans. Animals, plants, small organisms all count in the moral scheme of things. Attempt made to formulate a point of view that is non- human.

7 Polar Bear Gate Gore uses study to reinforce argument for global warming. Oil interests push to discredit via charge of research misconduct Spotted four dead polar bears More distance between ice floes Waves increase when ice disappears Evidence that PBs should be treated as endangered species Used by others as evidence of GW Conflict of Interest— Diverting research funds to sympathetic proposals Environmental Ethics Frameworks What human and non-human rights are at stake in this project? What are the harms and benefits this technology will bring about? How are these harms and benefits distributed among human and non-human stakeholders? How does this technology stand with Environmental Virtues? Position Care Attunement Endurance

8 Solyndra Gore and Obama argue that environmental protection is also good business. (It is a way of keeping appropriate technology in the US) Solyndra asks for government guaranteed loan to start-up business making solar panels Secures ½ billion loan Goes bankrupt in 2011 Investigation ensues to discredit government support of environmentally appropriate technology and business Critics claim that government should not “play venture capitalist.” Conflict of interest: Obama administration fast-tracked project & ignored cash-flow problems because of Solyndra campaign contributions Globalism—Obama administration urge US businesses to hold on to green technology Environmental Ethics Frameworks What human and non- human rights are at stake in this project? What are the harms and benefits this technology will bring about? How are these harms and benefits distributed among human and non-human stakeholders? How does this technology stand with Environmental Virtues? Position Care Attunement Endurance

9 Keystone XL Pipeline Trans Canade wants to build an oil pipeline across central US to ship crude oil from Canada to Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River oil refineries Oil or Tar Sands technology (Controversial because production of oil using this technology is energy intensive and has strong impact on environment) Strong impact on wetlands and peat lands Technology appears bad until compared with existing method of oil production and transport Two methods of extraction (open pit mines versus steam assisted gravity drainage Produces jobs in Central Indiana (BP jobs with pipeline parts manufacture) 41/2 barrels of water for one barrel of oil Oil pipeline to pass through Ogallala Aquifer Environmental Ethics Frameworks What human and non-human rights are at stake in this project? What are the harms and benefits this technology will bring about? How are these harms and benefits distributed among human and non-human stakeholders? How does this technology stand with Environmental Virtues? Position Care Attunement Endurance

10 1a. Extending the umbrella of utilitarianism to cover animals (Peter Singer) Individualistic and Anthropocentric

11 Singer: Animal Liberation Utilitarianism – Actions and policies derive their moral worth from their consequences – Maximize good results and minimize bad results All sentient beings have moral worth – Sentiency includes consciousness and ability to feel pleasure and pain The umbrella of moral consideration is extended to animals because they have sentiency – Their pleasures and pains count

12 1b. Extended moral rights to animal (Tom Regan) Anthropocentric and Individualistic

13 Regan: The Case for Animal Rights Animals are moral patients and have “preference autonomy” – = preferences along with the ability to act on them Humans have duties to recognize and respect preference autonomy of moral patients including animals Rights would include right to life, right to a livable environment (=environment in which they can pursue their preferences)

14 Regan Quotes “The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us—to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or put in our cross hairs for sport or money.” Joseph R. Des Jardins. (1993). Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy. Wadsworth, 126 “To be the subject –of-a-life…involves more than merely being alive and more than merely being conscious. To be the subject-of-a-life is to…have beliefs and desires; perceptions, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future…their experiential life fares well or ill for them, independently of their utility for others” (Des Jardins 128)

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

16 Wendell Berry Unsettling of America – Adverse consequences of industrialization of agriculture Small farms give way to industrialized agriculture Had small farm in Kentucky; treated it as an ecosystem Accords Jefferson’s view that small farms were essential to democracy – Fostered development of moral and civic virtues – Dispersed power (Decentralized) A Place on Earth: main character of novel is a farm – Personification of the land

17 3. Biocentrism: Each living thing is a “teleological center of a life”. There are moral obligations to recognize and respect these “centers” Non-anthropocentric and individualistic

18 Paul Taylor: Biocentrism Hursthouse summarizes: – “Environmental Virtue Ethics” in Working Virtue edited by R. Walker and P. Ivanhoe. Oxford: 163. Every living thing has a telos = a good of its own. – Fish swim, birds fly – Its nature or being is fulfilled by exercising its proper telos Positive duties to promote the telos Negative duties not to interfere with telos

19 Human Goods / Non-Human Goods Basic Non-Human Good Non-Basic, Non- Human Good Basic Human Good Basic human good has priority (Right of Self- Defense) Do humans have a basic need for energy? Do the cases under consideration violate basic non-human needs? Are there alternatives? Basic human good has priority because a basic good trumps a non-basic good. Humans need for energy would trump if project did not violate basic, non- human needs Non-Basic Human Good The basic, non-human good has priority because a basic good trumps a non-basic good. Humans need energy for recreational activities. Do these interfere with basic, non-human needs? Toss up. Some non- basic goods have priority over others. If non-basic human needs conflict with non-basic non-human needs in the cases under consideration, this is a toss up.

20 4. Ecocentrism: Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic Non-anthropocentric (under most interpretations) and Holistic

21 Ecocentrism Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County Almanac. “There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus’ slave-girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.” “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

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

23 Definitions of Virtue and Virtue Ethics “Las virtudes son disposiciones y rasgos del carácter del agente moral a la hora de ejecutar las acciones inherentes al ser persona. – se trata de un punto intermedio entre dos extremos, ninguno de los cuales representa un valor moral, sino que más bien puede constituir un vicio o al menos carecer de excelencia – no son meros rasgos del carácter que se operan automáticamente, sino respuestas deliberadas ante las situaciones concretas – existe un cierto grado de influencia cultural que puede hacer que la manifestación de la virtud varíe según el contexto – se puede distinguir la “virtud” de las virtudes, en cuanto que la primera se refiere a la integridad o coherencia de la personalidad ante la vida, mientras que las segundas son reacciones a situaciones especificas”

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

25 Definition of Virtue and Virtue Ethics “A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not just a tendency to do what is honest or generous, nor is it to be helpfully specified as a “desirable” or “morally valuable” character trait. It is, indeed a character trait—that is, a disposition which is well entrenched in its possessor, something that, as we say “goes all the way down”, unlike a habit such as being a tea- drinker—but the disposition in question…is multi-track. It is concerned with many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests expectations and sensibilities. To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset.”

26 Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Virtue Ethics” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Accessed 11/11/2008

27 Virtue Ethics Virtue ethics does focus on individual actions but in a different way than other theories It assesses the moral worth of an action by “fitting” into different contexts: – Narrative of a morally exemplary career – Practice or community So, an environmental virtue = that which, together with other actions, sustains the “beauty, stability, and integrity of the biotic community”

28 Context 1: Moral Exemplar Would this action fit into the career of a morally exemplary … – Engineer – Business practitioner – Community leader This action instantiates certain values. Would I want these values to become central parts of my core self identity? – How does this action and the values it instantiates fit into my own self-narrative?

29 Context 2: Practice Does this action resonates with the values professed (and actually constitutive of) my practice or profession? – Doctor: Does this resonate with a practice devoted to health? – Lawyer: Does this action resonate with a practice devoted to an adversarial approach to justice and truth? – Engineer: Does this action resonate with a practice devoted to public wellbeing (health and welfare), client fidelity, peer collegiality, and professional integrity – Business practitioner: Does this practice resonate with the prosperity and sustainability (taken in its widest sense) of the community?

30 Context 3: Biotic Community To paraphrase Leopold, does this action resonate with the beauty, stability, and integrity of the biotic community (which includes inanimate as well as animate matter). This involves four virtues (reconfigured from a human context to a trans-human context) – Virtues of position – Virtues of care – Virtues of attunement – Virtues of endurance Louke Van Wensveen: “Cardinal Environmental Virtues”

31 Environmental Virtues from Wensveen Virtues of Position: "Constructive habits of seeing ourselves in a particular place in a relational structure and interacting accordingly.” – Can we integrate energy production technologies with the surrounding natural environment? Examples: – Humility, self-acceptance, gratitude, appreciation of good in others, prudence, and practical judgment Question: – Do the technologies in our cases resonate with virtues such as humility? Or do they express corresponding vices such as greed, arrogance, and imprudence?

32 Environmental Virtues from Wensveen Virtues of Care: "habits of constructive involvement within the relational structure where we have found our place. How widely do we cast our sensors in order to learn what is needed around us?“ – Honing in on weak points in the ecosystem and calibrating action to address these vulnerabilities Examples: – Attentiveness, benevolence, loving nature, friendship Question: – Do the technologies under consideration in design and execution resonate with attentiveness and benevolence? Do they fall into vices such as insensitivity and malevolence (or indifference)?

33 More Environmental Virtues Virtues of Attunement: "habits of handling temptations by adjusting our positive, outgoing drives and emotions to match our chosen place and degree of constructive, ecosocial engagement." – Can energy conservation be a source of solidarity and also defuse the current energy crisis in PR? (reconfigures temperance) Examples: – Frugality and simplicity Question: – Do the technologies under consideration express virtues or values like frugality and simplicity? Do they express the vices of manifest and concealed complexity? (Winner)

34 More Environmental Virtues Virtues of Endurance: "habits of facing dangers and difficulties by handling our negative, protective drives and emotions in such a way that we can sustain our chosen sense of place and degree of constructive ecosocial engagement." – Can Puerto Ricans act resolutely and ethically in the face of environmental and economic crises? (Integration, compromise, and ethical trade-offs Examples : – Tenacity (mean between apathy and obsession), loyalty, perseverance Question: – Does the Via Verde express tenacity, loyalty, and perseverance especially in relation to the natural environment? Does it target the corresponding vices?

35 Framing Solutions Two Paradigms – Follow the current paradigm Energy growth Reduce immediate costs Diversify sources (using non-renewable resources) Keep energy production centralized and technologically sophisticated (complicated) – New paradigm (new goal) Energy Independence Reduce usage through conservation and technology (smart grids and IPRs) Decentralization and simplification of energy production Diversify sources Make use of renewable resources – Use of “paradigm” is appropriate here—represent two different ways of approaching the PR energy “crises”

36 Virtue Perspective on Paradigm Choice These paradigms also represent two fundamentally different paths for PR Choice not only expresses who we are (our collective identity or character) but will, partially, constitute who we will become So, seeing these two paradigms and their associated virtues and vices, virtue ethics has us ask what kind of people we wish to become – Each choice expresses fundamental dispositions

37 Values Expressed by Participants Values Sensitive to Context: – Values Expressed by Signal Events (Cogentrix, Copper Mining, CAPECO explosion, Zoe Colocotroni Oil Spill) – Values telescoped into the image of Jibaro – Environmental and social justice – Health and Safety – Autonomy – Identification with Land, History, Tradition. These values, in their thick sense, depend on the quality of the discourse generated within the community.

38 Conclusion Examined four approaches to environmental ethics Interpreted approaches as lenses that highlighted certain aspects and de-emphasized others Each approach generated questions pertinent to the ethics of the Via Verde Project Choice between energy paradigms expresses our character as a community, as a nation, as a society – Choice and action reflect existing character – But they also inaugurate a future that constitutes who we are to become

39 William J. Frey College of Business Administration UPRM


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