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Environmental Ethics and the Via Verde What Environmental Ethics has to says about the Via Verde Project
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
Today’s Agenda • Use these approaches as lenses through which to examine the Via Verde Project in terms of 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
Environmental Ethics Rectangle Anthropocentric Nonanthropocentric Holistic Agrarianism: Humans Ecocentrism: “A thing is Individualistic Extensionism: Biocentrism: obligations transform nature for agriculture but understand farm as ecosystem (Berry, Jefferson, Jackson) Individualistic ethical approaches such as Utilitarianism and Deontology are extended to cover non-humans. (Singer for Utilitarianism and Regan for Deontology) good if it promotes the integrity, beauty, and stability of the biotic community. ” Focus on biotic community conceived holistically not to interfere with teleological centers of a life. Basic , non-human telos can trump non-basic and even basic human interests.
Classify according to method Individualistic • Human has complete nature apart from social or natural context • Complex wholes (like ecosystems) can be reduced to sum of their parts • Reductionistic (Methodological individualism) Holisitic • Humans are internally and essentially related to their natural and social environment • Whole cannot be reduced to parts. • Wholes are greater than the sum of their parts
Classified according to perspective Anthropocentric Non-anthropocentric • Anthropocentric: Centered around humans. (Comes from Greek word anthropo which means human) • Non-anthropocentric: Not centered around humans – Environmental ethics formulated from a point of view centered around human beings – 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 nonhuman.
1 a. Extending the umbrella of utilitarianism to cover animals (Peter Singer) Individualistic and Anthropocentric
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
Via Verde Questions • How will project effect sentient beings? • What are its potential benefits? • What are its risks? • Is this an optimal balance? – Given the status quo (Using petroleum) – Compared to other available alternatives • Renewable and non renewable resources • In the short, middle, and long term
1 b. Extended moral rights to animal (Tom Regan) Anthropocentric and Individualistic
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)
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. ” Des. Jardins 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)
Via Verde Questions for Rights • Identify basic human and animal rights – Right to a livable environment (human and animal) – Right to exercise (preference) autonomy – Includes rights to health and safety • Will the project, in any of its phases, violate any of these rights? • If so, can it be modified so as not to violate these rights while still keeping its goals intact? – Diversifying energy resources; responding to increased energy demand; conserving so as not to increase energy demand
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
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
Questions from Agrarianism • What is the impact of the Via Verde project on local, small farms? • What is the impact of the Via Verde project on the communities that surround these farms? • Does it threaten PR agrarianism? – Fosters development of “Jibaro”? • Lives close to the land • Takes dignity and integrity from the practice of traditional agriculture • Caretaker or steward of the land
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
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
Questions from Biocentrism • Identify basic non-human interests using the concept of a “teleological center-of-a-life” • How impacts does the Via Verde have on the “teleological centers of life” that live within the sphere of its influence? • Do basic non-human interests conflict with basic human interests? – Identify potential conflicts • Can these conflicts be resolved? – By integrating the interests? – By modifying the design of the project?
Human Goods / Non-Human Goods Basic Non-Human Good Non-Basic, Non. Human Good Basic human good has priority (Right of Self. Defense) Basic human good has priority because a basic good trumps a non-basic good. Do humans have a basic need for energy? Does the Via Verde violate basic non -human needs? Are there alternatives? Non-Basic Human Good Humans need for energy would trump if project did not violate basic, nonhuman needs The basic, non-human Toss up. Some nongood has priority basic goods have priority because a basic good over others. trumps a non-basic good. Humans need energy for recreational activities. Do these interfere with basic, non-human needs? If non-basic human needs conflict with non-basic non -human needs in the Via Verde project, this is a toss up.
4. Ecocentrism: Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic Non-anthropocentric (under most interpretations) and Holistic
Ecocentrism • Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County Almanac. • “There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land 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. ”
Via Verde Questions • What is the impact of the Via Verde on the ecosystems that boarder its planned route? – Does it preserve their beauty, stability and integrity? • What is the impact of the Via Verde on the human communities affected by its construction and operation – Does it preserve their beauty, stability, and integrity • Do these two converge? – Do the impacts on non-human aspects of the biotic community converge with those on the human community?
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: 176 -177
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”
Lugo, E. (2002) Relación Medico/paciente: encuentro interpersonal ética y espiritualidad. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico: 88
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 teadrinker—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. ”
Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Virtue Ethics” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http: //plato. stanford. edu/entries/ethics-virtue/ Accessed 11/11/2008
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”
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?
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?
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”
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 the gas pipeline with the surrounding natural environment? • Examples: – Humility, self-acceptance, gratitude, appreciation of good in others, prudence, and practical judgment • Question: – Does the Via Verde resonate with virtues such as humility? Or does it express corresponding vices such as greed, arrogance, and imprudence?
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: – Does the Via Verde in design and execution resonate with attentiveness and benevolence? Does fall into vices such as insensitivity and malevolence (or indifference)?
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: – Does the Via Verde express virtues or values like frugality and simplicity? Does it express the vices of manifest and concealed complexity? (Winner)
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?
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”
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
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.
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