Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ethics: Environment & Carson

Reading: Silent Spring and Selections on Environmental concepts

In the earliest cultures, humans and animals were understood to share a world together as very much equals. As humanity began domesticating livestock, humans are increasingly understood to be above all animals, the god-like animal. Adam in the Bible is namer and master of all.
At same time, world as balance with humans (like Leviathan and Behemoth). We have done so well as a species that we have become quite unbalanced with nature. While many cultures have spoken of being in balance (Egyptian Wisdom for instance), it was only with the growth of mechanization and technology that Islamic scholars first wrote consciously of the impact that humans had systematically on the environment. This makes sense, as Europe got its machines and chemistry from Islamic civilization.

As we see in The Corporation, in the 1940s and 1950s, just as US became the wealthiest nation, petroleum products were used to make huge varieties of products. Wood and metal gave way to plastic. Remember that it is not ‘the oil stupid’ as far as just gasoline. All our life is permeated with petroleum products and synthetic chemicals. Monsanto and DuPont are the big giants.
What has happened: we are in a culture that can give us immediate things according to our intentions, but such that we ignore the long and complicated process of nature. Nature can sift things out, but not as fast as we can synthesize just what we want while externalizing the unneeded and then ignoring it until it snowballs up into our face. Cancer rates, birth defect rates, and other problems are evidence of the environmental impact.

Add on top of externalization the competition between corporations in a culture that ignores the consequences and people are racing to screw things up and put money in their own pocket before someone else does. This imbalance creates further imbalances. Modern plantations and corporate farms have created surges in pests, and then we spray tons of pesticide to kill the swarms of pests, and then the pests resurge because all of the other pests were killed, and the cycle grows steadily out of control. As silent spring suggests, we need human rights to not be poisoned. While many thought DDT ban was point of book, actually Carson calls for rights. Consider differences in infant mortality rates and who lives in the inner city.


Environmental Issues (from the Blackwell Environmental Reader):

Wilderness: We have seen that this is an interesting issue for utilitarianism. Does one consider best use in the long term to be using everything, or do we leave things unused for long term?

Sustainability: Nature and economy must both be preserved, or both will collapse.

Environmental Justice: Who gets benefits and who gets harm of processes in the culture? One fifth of world consumes four fifths of resources. Some, like Rev. Chaviz Jr., argue for the concept of Environmental racism, that pollution and cleaning products affect those who are ostracized in the worst areas of town far more than others. The horrifying infant mortality rate among American black people, twice that of white Americans, is evidence of this.