Category Archives: Economic Development

Damocracy, a film on hydro-power and an ethical dilemma that wasn’t…

Is clean energy worth any price? Certainly, it is worth a high price to lower the human footprint on the earth, both for us living today, and for future generations. But is it worth the destruction and loss of ancient culture, heritage, archeological sites, or the displacement of indigenous people?  Like so many environmental issues, this question is complex and seems to present an ethical dilemma.

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Land Preservation and a Brief Introduction to Environmental Ethics

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan (LCWM) announced in 2011 the successful completion of a project which transferred 173 acres of land on the coast of Lake Michigan from private ownership to the city of Saugatuck. This project will prevent development and ensure the preservation of this land which is home to endangered species of plants and animals, and provide a place in nature for human recreation (naturenearby.org). Along with the obvious environmental benefits of land preservation, there are many philosophical theories about the value of nature which make land preservation a valuable pursuit. Whether concerned with plant and animal life, human life, or with a more ideological perspective on the inherent value of nature, the preservation and conservation of land should be viewed as a good to be sought after.

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Film Reflection: Farming the Seas

Global consumption is a large environmental problem. Everything that is consumed is connected to the environment in some way (Wilk, 2006:418). Providing food for a growing world population is obviously a major concern in terms of human and environmental impact. Natural stocks of fish are being depleted by overfishing, and fish farms are seen by some as a solution to the problem of food shortages (Cowan & Schienberg, 2005). This practice introduces more problems than it solves though. Efforts are being made to improve the practice, but it would be more effective to consider and treat these immediate problems as symptoms, and begin to locate and solve the root problem.

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My Ecological Footprint and a Response to an Irrational Argument

I guess I need to clean up my act. According to the Global Footprint Network’s calculator, my ecological footprint is 4 earths, and 17.7 global acres (Global Footprint Network, 2011). If I follow the suggestions offered by the calculator, my footprint would still be 3.6 earths (Global Footprint Network, 2011). This presents an obvious problem. The minor possible reduction and the fact that even if everyone reduced their footprint there would still be a major issue suggests that the problem is complex and must be thoughtfully and rationally engaged. If technology and the ability it provides to intensify agriculture and justify the use of the earth’s finite resources are to be a solution, as Ridley (2010) suggests, it certainly requires better than the pitiful argumentation that he has provided. I mean, is this guy for real? His total lack of philosophical reasoning would be amusing if it weren’t so dangerous. Even if technology can provide solutions, it does not preclude any benefits to be realized by the lowering of personal footprints.

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Film Reflection: China Revs Up

Since developed countries did not face environmental regulation during their development, the question has been posed if these countries are imposing a double standard on developing countries such as China. Expecting China to meet the same environmental standards as developed countries seems unfair, and could limit its economic growth, as seen in the reduction of steel production after implementation of more stringent policies (Schmidt, 2004). To protect economic growth, it has been proposed that it is acceptable to develop now and clean-up the environment later. This idea is based on the concept of the Kuznet curve, but it seems optimistic to expect the desired results to be found in all times, situations, and historical periods.  With population in China at levels not comparable to those in richer countries at the time of their development, the idea of a double standard is not appropriate. Due to rapid economic growth (and demands for continued growth) and large population, the potential damage to the environment is much greater in China. The gravity of the current problem, both globally and locally in China, makes the question of whether or not China should be held to the same standards as rich countries moot.  Not only should China be held to the same standards, it must be held to the same, if not more stringent, standards.

(watch the film below)

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Affluence and the Environment

The human desire for physical security and satisfaction of needs is self-evident. As the ability to meet these needs advances, the desire for physical security evolves into a quest for affluence. As there is an obvious relationship between affluence and the human ecological footprint, the question of how development should be pursued becomes paramount. White (2006) suggests that cultural development occurs through the harnessing of energy, either through the amount of energy that is harnessed, or through the efficiency with which it is transformed into work and products (p.143). With these points in mind, the question becomes how we can better utilize energy, while also caring for the environment, in a way which will lead to physical security and satisfaction of needs, and perhaps even affluence on a wider, more equitable scale. The ideas on development and environment offered by Beckerman (2006) and Fricker (2006) both have advantages and disadvantages, but the impression that they are diametrically opposed might lead to the assumption that one must be chosen over the other. Development will not cease, nor should it, as it is clear that it brings many advantages. What is needed is a new paradigm for pursuing development and affluence that offers a balanced approach between the self-satisfied mass consumption sanctioned by Ridley (2010), and the condemnation of all development as degradation as asserted by Shiva (2006). This paradigm should offer an efficient framework for harnessing and transforming energy on a broad scale, and lead to development that will benefit the earth and humanity in general.

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Shifting the Conversation: On the Double Standard

Since developed countries did not face environmental regulation during their development, the question has been posed if these countries are imposing a double standard on developing countries such as China, or from the north to the south (Gupta, 2004). The conversation on this double standard presented to the south by the north (Gupta, 2006:302) is an essential one due to what is at stake. If it is true that the north is responsible for 90% of the carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere (Gupta, 2006:305), it does not take huge leaps of mathematical reasoning to imagine what allowing the south to develop unchecked by pollution control will do to the environment. What truly is at stake in this conversation are the planet and her future generations, not only economic development and comfortable lifestyles. In order to move forward, the focus of the conversation must shift to account for both sides of this equation.

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