Final Post: Personal Reflection

27 Jan

Coming into this class I didn’t really have much of an opinion on the issues we would come to study. Animal protection and environmental protection seemed so out of touch with my own personal interests and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. Throughout this course I have been able to learn about many environmental protection philosophies as well as animal protection philosophies and been exposed to different views on these subjects. As a result, I am now able to formulate my own opinion on these matters and successfully argue my position to other environmental conscious people. This experience considerably reinforced my original (yet passive) position on these issues and today I view myself as an environmental protection advocate. In this essay, I will explain how my views on these issues were reinforced and evolved to some degree by using five of my previous prompts. I will be using my prompt eleven, ten, nine, eight, and one.

I came into this class believing that mankind needed to protect the environment without giving any reasons for my claim. I figured we might as well do it because so many people thought it was important. In my first prompt I had to choose a question I wanted to answer related to the issue of environmental protection. I instinctively chose to answer the question “Should mosquitoes be preserved because they are part of the natural ecosystem?” Without really realizing it I approach this question using my own personal negative experience with mosquitoes. I immediately adopted an anthropocentric view stating that mankind would be better off without mosquitoes as their disappearance would have a more positive then negative effect on our lives. I latter came to realize that my answer to this question was really in contradiction to my belief that we should protect the environment and all of its living creatures in order to protect the ecosystem. In fact, upon reading another student’s critique of my post I came to rethink my answer. Do I only believe in animal and environmental protection as long as it benefits me? This question would become a key part of my quest to find a definite personal opinion on this issue.

I continued writing prompts and learning more about the different views and theories adopted by philosophers. Environmental ethics was a much more complicated subject then I originally thought. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find a philosophy that would be close to what I started to believe in until I read Russow’s article of the “traditional answer”. In fact, my prompt 8 was one of the turning points in my quest to formulate my own opinion. In her article, she explains that animals have inherent value and as such they should be protected from going extinct. I started thinking about the value animals have in my eyes. I had dogs when I was younger and having dogs made me happier; nevertheless even without dogs I was still really happy. I realized animals had a more instrumental value for me. Animals were a mean to achieve happiness and as such it benefited me to protect them. I started to think about cultural relativism and its consequences on my newly expressed statement. Do I only think about this argument because I can afford to? I had the chance to travel around the world and especially in Africa. Most people in poor African countries don’t care at all about animal rights and environmental protection, whereas in rich countries it is the opposite. I immediately thought about my previous question: “Do I only believe in animal and environmental protection as long as it benefits me?” I was eager to continue reading and ultimately finding an answer to my question.

Paul Taylor’s essay was another important factor in my quest to formulating my own opinion. In my prompt 9 I had to critique Taylor’s essay, “Human-Centered and Life-Centered systems of Environmental Ethics”. In his essay, Taylor explains his environmental theory using one main argument: we are all part of earth’s biotic community.  According to him, the solution to the moral dilemma of environmental protection and animal rights is in realizing that mankind is part of bigger entity that includes all of earth’s living creatures (men, animals, and plants). Before this article I never considered myself as being part of a bigger group. We as humans tend to view nothing but ourselves as equals. Before reading this article I was also unsure about which subject I felt strongest about animals protection or environmental protection? The main thing I realized is that by using Taylor’s life-centered philosophy we could advocate for both issues because nature, and animals are part of earth’s biotic community. This holistic view of these issues was also compatible with my personal anthropocentric belief, which was further accentuated after having red the lecture on cost-benefit analysis. I felt as if I was progressively getting closer to my answer.

My prompt 10 was the last step towards finding my answer. In my prompt 10 I discuss Callicott’s “The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic”. In this essay, Callicott tries develop his own theory as to how humans should view nature as being part of their own community in order to better protect it. On one hand he explores a more holistic approach when he talks about Leopold’s Land of Ethics theory, and on the other hand he deals with a more anthropocentric approach, which is more individualistic in the sense that it only considers environmental effects on humans. This essay was the culmination of all that I believed in. Callicott’s philosophy is the only one that regrouped all the different ideas I believed in. I think that we shouldn’t separate the holistic view of the argument from the individualistic view. I believe that viewing ourselves as members of a bigger community such as Native Americans did (in his example) enables us to give a higher moral importance to the issue of protecting our biotic community. However, ultimately we try to do so only because it benefits us in the long run. As humans raised in a capitalistic society we are almost always drawn to making decisions that will positively affect us (cost-benefit analysis). As a result anthropocentrism is innate to us and I believe that environmental protection is just another way we utilize our anthropocentric beliefs.

Having found my own personal opinion on the issues of environmental protection and animal protection, I wanted to know if I was able to critique someone else’s view on these issues. In my opinion, being able to critique another person’s belief with thoughtful arguments is the sign of a strong and clear personal opinion. I decided to critique Andrea’s view on these issues in my prompt 11. As I red her prompt, I was surprised by the fact that she believed in the same ideas I did. She believes that Callicott’s theory is the “most do-able” and thoughtful compared the others we red so far. In her own prompt 10 she not only validates Callicott’s theory but she also advocates the possibility of his philosophy being adopted by the majority of people. I have to say I totally agree with her statements and her opinion on the matter. I think that Callicott’s environmental philosophy is the most complete one as it takes into account both issues of environmental and animal protection using both holistic and anthropocentric views.

After having gone through this class I feel as though I can really defend my newfound opinion against any attack. We live in a capitalistic society and, even though we learn that we should always act according to what benefits us more, I truly believe that viewing ourselves as being part of a bigger community will helps us define this environmental battle as one morally right and worth defending. This idea of “biotic community” is very important because it goes beyond the barrier of cultural relativism. In fact by viewing ourselves, as being part of earth’s biotic community we are able to reach all human beings (at least the majority). As a result, poor countries as well as rich countries will commit themselves to helping protect the earth and all of its living creatures.


Prompt 14:

27 Jan

In this prompt I will compare two group projects that deal with environmental issues using my own personal environmental ethics. The two projects I will talk about are the “Climate Control” project and my own “Pollution” project. I chose to contrast my project with the one on climate control not only because of the similarities in the themes but also for the reason that they are subjects that I particularly enjoy discussing.

When considering the problem of human pollution we are confronted with numerous issues. For some people such as Bradford, industrialization is the main cause of the problem. In his essay “We All Live in Bhopal”, Bradford depicts a really negative view of industrialization listing all the negative results it generates. In fact he argues that industrialization hurts third world countries more then it helps them and that it is the main cause of the increases in cancers and other birth defects in developed countries. I understand his stance towards industrialization and I agree with his view of capitalistic industrialization; nevertheless I think that industrialization also has positive results. Without it we would not have phones, cars, planes, and all the other tools we possess today and that we use on a daily basis to make our lives easier. Industrialization also enables us to provide food to billions of people. If we take the example of agricultural industrialization, thanks to the progresses made in that field we are able to produce crops that resist better to harsh weather conditions. Industrialization first and foremost breed’s progress and it is a necessary step towards development that all countries must take.

Some people view human pollution as a necessary thing. For William F. Baxter, we have the right to pollute the environment because we have an obligation to promote the good of mankind. In his essay, Baxter promotes the concept of “limited environmentalism”. He believes that the environment and all living creatures have an instrumental value and as such should be protected only according to the benefits they provide to humans. I have to say that I share Baxter’s view of the issue in some points, even though I think that we have a moral obligation to protect the environment because we are part of earth’s biotic community. In my opinion, we only feel obligated to protect the environment because it ultimately benefits mankind (we do it out some sense of anthropocentrism).

Human pollution is also the cause of climate change. Climate change is the biggest challenge our society has to face in the years to come. In his article Ethics and Global Climate Change, Gardiner explains humans are responsible for climate change and that to fully understand climate change we need to analyze all of the aspects related to it. In fact, he argues that climate change is not only a scientific issue but also a moral and economic issue. I think that Gardiner’s analysis of climate change is spot on.  Climate change is scientific issue because our industrial plants and energy resources play a major role in the pollution of our atmosphere. Climate change is a moral issue because we owe it to the future generations to leave a habitable planet. It is an economic issue because we have to find a way to produce the same quantity of goods all the while reducing our ozone pollution (we also have to figure out an efficient, cheaper and less polluting source of energy).

When thinking about the issue of overpopulation we are confronted with several views. One really interesting approach to this subject is the one used by Hardin in his article on Lifeboat Ethics. For Hardin, we can summarize the problem using the metaphor of a lifeboat. His lifeboats metaphor underlines the issues of an unfair society. The rich are on the boat and the poor people at sea. If everyone is on the boat the sinks and everyone dies. If some people are added it poses the risk of resource consumption and other problems in the near future. According to him the whole issue of overpopulation rests in a simple question: How do we balance the populations within the rich and the poor? To further argue his lifeboat ethics he uses the example of the free food aid given by rich countries in poor regions. According to him it only increases the burden on the planet and worsens the situation because poor nations will not have any incentive to save in times of prosperity for times of famine. Hardin’s view on overpopulation and food banks is really interesting. I believe that the solution to overpopulation is the reduction of inequalities between the rich and poor. We live in a capitalistic society and as such there will always be rich people and poor people; nevertheless if we have a strong enough middle class we will not have as many issues. I Personally disagree with Hardin’s view of food banks. I think that food banks impact positively poor countries. Even though there is a risk of continued dependency like the one Hardin talks about I still believe it is our moral obligation to help the less fortunate especially in times of famine.

Both topics of pollution and climate change have many similarities. In fact, climate change is the result of pollution. Mankind is responsible for most environmental issues even though nature also plays some part in it. Ultimately I think that we should find ways to better protect the environment. We are morally obligated to and it benefits us to do so.

Prompt 13

24 Jan

Prompt 1:

Prompt 10:


In this essay I will talk about the relationship between my prompt 1 and 10. I chose prompt 1 because it truly represents my state of mind when starting this class, and prompt 10 because it symbolizes the end result of this process. Through out this post I will explain how my view of the issue concerning environmental protection evolved.

In prompt 1 we were asked to choose one sentence out of several and decide whether we agreed or rejected the idea expressed in the sentence. To further argue our point we would have to give examples and personal experiences that led to our response on the issue. I chose to answer the statement “mosquitoes should be preserved because they are part of the natural ecosystem”. I approached this issue using the individualistic method. Even though I believed in the protection of all living creatures because they are important members of our ecosystem I could not let myself express that same ideology for the protection of mosquitoes. When I was righting this essay, my personal negative experience of mosquitoes resulted in this anthropocentric essay. In fact, I arrived to the conclusion that for humanity as a whole, mosquitoes were only a hindrance and that we should just eradicate them because it would be more positive then negative in the long run.

In prompt 10 we were asked to critique Callicott’s theory of the land of ethics. In his essay “The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic”, Callicott analyses and compares different approaches to environmental ethics in order to further argument his own solution to the issue of environmental protection. He rejects the idea of either individualistic or holistic approach being definitive answers. In his opinion both theories combined are the solution to this problem. I approached this issue by agreeing with Callicott’s environmental protection theory. In fact throughout this whole process I realized that having a holistic view of the issue enabled me to better understand the reasoning behind environmental protection. Sacrificing the individual benefit for the benefit of the whole is still somewhat related to a cost-benefit analysis. If I take into account my own personal interests, the destruction of any ecosystem does not benefit me in the long run (individualistic approach).  I think that the most powerful example of this reasoning is the one he gave when he talked about the Native Americans. Even though they exploited the environment for their own selfish reasons they also gave back to those they exploited.

I think these two posts are deeply related. My response in prompt 1 was essentially individualistic. I based my whole essay on an anthropocentric view of the issue. Mosquitoes should be eradicated because they only bring diseases to humans and livestock. In my prompt 10 however I arrive at maturity in my theory for environmental protection. Even though I still believe that as humans living in a capitalistic society we are only trying to protect the environment because it benefits us in the long run, I also think that by viewing ourselves as being members of a bigger biotic community we are able to reach a higher level of morality and sacrifice the individual benefit for the benefit of the whole.

Extra Credit

23 Jan

Over the least two weeks I have learned about many environmental philosophies. I feel like I have a much better understanding of what environmental philosophy is and what issues it tries to solve. From Russow to Callicot and Bradford, they all try to defend environmental protection using different arguments. I feel like I am now able to voice my own opinion in the matter whether I do it orally or through righting. I can say today that my own position in this whole debate is closest to that of Callicott. In his essay, “The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic”, explains that both point of views the individualistic and holistic are both compatible in reaching an answer. That is exactly what I believe. I think that the issue of environmental protection is too big to be just one sided. I think that our ability to view ourselves as part of a bigger biotic-community (like suggested in Russows’s article) is fundamental in our ability to protect the environment and all of its living creatures (plants, and animals). Nevertheless, at the same time my finance background as well as my own personal experience pushes me to believe that human beings care about the protection of our biotic-community because ultimately it benefits us in the long run (cost-benefit analysis). I am really glad I took this class, and I can’t wait to debate with my more environmental conscious friends.

Prompt 10

20 Jan

In his essay, The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic, Callicott tries to develop his own theory as to how humans should view nature as being part of their own community in order to better protect it. In his article, he analyses and compares different approaches to environmental ethics in order to further argument his own solution to this problem. On one hand he explores a more holistic approach when he talks about Leopold’s Land of Ethics theory, and on the other hand he deals with a more anthropocentric approach, which is more individualistic in the sense that it only considers environmental effects on humans. After careful examination, Callicott views both theories as relatable because in his on own view of the subject everything is related in a biotic community.

In arriving to this conclusion Callicott first analyses the more holistic theories such as Leopold’s Land of Ethics theory. He believes that in order to save the environment we should start viewing ourselves as member of a bigger picture, as member of a biotic community. We shouldn’t be only unified as men but more as earth-creatures (in a sense). According to him this evolving view of environmental ethics will benefit us in because it will enable us to expand our moral obligations to more then just humans (without replacing our previous ones). He gives us the example of Native Americans who believed they were part of a bigger community. Even though they exploited the environment they gave back to those they exploited. Nevertheless he does not believe extreme theories such as

Callicott also analyses the more individualistic theories that are more concerned with how the environment affects humans. He argues that even though an anthropocentric view is not necessarily against a more holistic view of environmental consciousness, humans need to be better aware of their role in the destruction of the environment. People and even on a bigger scale countries want to save the environment as long as it doesn’t burden them. For instance, let me take the example of Venezuela. A few years ago Venezuela discovered one of the biggest oil deposits in South America and in order to exploit that oil they would have to destroy a big portion of the Amazon forest, which would be an ecological disaster. In order to stop them from exploiting this resource (which would bring the country a lot of money) other countries made an agreement with Venezuela and promised to give them a certain percentage of the profits Venezuela would have realized if they had exploited the oil deposits.

In my opinion, I think Callicott’s solution to land ethics is a good one. In my opinion, the solution to land ethics can only be achieved when taking both holistic and individualistic approaches. As humans living in capitalistic societies we are naturally led to think about what is best for us. Anthropocentrism is something innate to us humans (even if it is on different levels) and as such I believe that environmental protection is just a way we utilize it. I agree with Callicot’s theory because it is exactly what I believe in. I think that viewing ourselves as members of a bigger community such as Native Americans did will effectively enable us to reach a higher level of morality nevertheless, we only try to protect our environment because it ultimately benefits us to do so.

Prompt 9

19 Jan

The concept I chose to address in Paul Taylor’s essay is: “Human-Centered and Life-Centered systems of Environmental Ethics”. This concept is the basis of Paul Taylor’s theory on the attitude we as human should adopt towards nature as a whole. In fact in this passage, he argues that the solution to the moral dilemma we constantly face concerning subjects such as animal rights, endangered species, pollution, and so on is the acknowledgement of earth’s biotic community.

This concept is radically different than the ones we explored previously. Reagan in his article argued animal equality through his view of inherent values. He believed that animals as well as humans possessed inherent values such as suffering and thus should be treated as equals. Russow on the other hand argued for animal equality by using intrinsic values. She believed animals possessed intrinsic values and thus should be treated on a par with humans. Taylor chooses instead to use a life-centered approach. By placing all living creatures (plants, animals, and humans) in the center of it all, he explains that we are “morally bound to protect or promote their good”. In his opinion a life-centered theory of environmental ethics would rid us of all the possible divergence of opinions in the matter. We as human beings would ultimately reorder our moral universe and start to look at “earth’s biosphere in a new light”.

I personally find Taylor’s concept of a life-centered approach to environmental ethics to be the most complete out of all three. He succeeds in integrating all living creatures including plants in his theory whereas Reagan and Russow failed to do so. I agree with him when he says that by viewing humans as a piece of a bigger picture we feel more compelled to help preserve wildlife because we recognize their inherent worth. Even though I agree with most of Taylor’s argument for biotic equality I find myself confused when he states that his concept of life-centered environmental ethics goes against views of anthropocentrism. In my opinion putting human beings in the center of a biotic community on the same level as plants and animals seems as something opposite to human superiority on the surface, nevertheless it is actually only achievable because of anthropocentrism. We as humans want to protect our biotic community mostly because we depend on it for our own survival. This brings us back to the cost-benefit analysis of the capitalist economic system. We evaluate the costs and benefits of animals and plants and make a rational decision that will ultimately favor us in the long run. I think that the shift in morality Taylor explains is only achievable by not only creating this sense of connection and attachment to earth’s bio-sphere and but also because of our own survival instincts.

To put it in a nutshell I believe that Paul Taylor’s concept of life-centered environmental ethics is the most complete; nonetheless I think that the whole idea of environmental protection is the result of our own anthropocentric views and survival instincts.

Lecture 06/Prompt 08: Ecological Ethics

19 Jan

In her article Russow tries to argue the “traditional answer” on the importance of species. According to her, species have some intrinsic or inherent value” thus it is our duty to protect them and stop them from going extinct. She also tries to argument (in a way) against Reagan’s inherent value theory because she attributes more importance to animals then Reagan does.

I understand Russow’s point of view on the argument and I agree with her to some extent. In fact, I believe it is our duty to protect animals from extinction but for some different reasons. In my opinion, animals hold a more instrumental value to humans then an intrinsic value. Adopting a pet is for instance a mean of achieving happiness. I remember asking for a dog when I was younger not because I was unhappy but because I thought it would make me even happier (and it did).

Russow’s argument can lead to a possible conflict of interest in determining the intrinsic values of different species. Is a crocodile more important then a dog? And if so why or why not? The answers to these questions are more subjective then objective. In fact, I you go back to my first prompt, you will know that I would gladly allow the extinction of mosquitoes solely based upon my past experiences with them. This conflict between subject and objective further comforts me in my previous argument. I deem animals as important creatures and their survival vital for the reason that they are a mean of achieving happiness.

I believe that the whole issue of animal protection is also something related to our environment and upbringing. In fact, as I talked about in my previous post on “Policy and Economics” cultural relativism plays a big role in our views concerning certain arguments such as animal protection. I had the chance to travel the world and especially several countries in Africa, and most people I met in those countries don’t really care about animal protection. In fact, it is something they rarely think about.

In conclusion, even though I agree with Russow’s global idea of protecting animals and endangered species, I think that we ought to protect them not because of their intrinsic value but because of the instrumental value they hold.