Sunday, December 20, 2009

Taxation, Democracy, and Liberty

The standard conservative line has it that higher taxes equal less liberty, because the government takes away some of your money (of course, there wouldn't be any money without government, but never mind). The study cited in this report suggests that, to a point, the opposite is the case -- higher levels of taxation correlate strongly with greater democracy, equality, and individual liberty. This makes considerable sense, as the more universal necessities (health care, education, transportation, utilities, fire and police protection...) are provided to everyone as needed at collective expense, the greater everyone's security in the use of what remains to them. Ironically, higher taxes mean greater discretionary resources; a heavier tax burden often leaves citizens with more money to spend as they please.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Preliminary Findings

Philosophical presuppositions:

I. Ontology: Nature is a system, sufficiently integrated as to be analogous to an organism (for example, we can meaningfully if metaphorically extend to it notions such as health or illness, self-regulation, etc.). Among nature’s emergent (nonreducible) products is the capacity for self-reflection on the part of some of the living organisms dependent on it.

II. Epistemology: We can make reasonable, though fallible, projections about future events and the likely consequences of our individual and aggregate actions, habits, attitudes, and policies, though there is always room for doubt about the accuracy of such expectations. Fatalism in the face of such uncertainty, however, is inappropriate because self-fulfilling. Thus pessimism, however apparently warranted, is an epistemic dead-end.

III. Moral Theory: As naturally emergent properties of the relations between beings capable of conscious valuation (to whatever degree – we may not need to theorize direct moral considerability completely) moral obligations, morally significant consequences, and moral character are emergent facts about the natural world.

Some Environmental Ethics Principles (please add more in the comments):

1. As a (nonreductive) emergent product of natural systems, human reflective consciousness functions as a positive feedback loop arising from within nature, which has developed unique potential to transform nature itself. We can thus speak meaningfully of natural vs. human-made features of the world, and use that distinction to critique or praise specific human activities or attitudes, without thereby crediting human exceptionalism or sanctioning a reductively anthropocentric ethic.

2. Our obligations to nature are of a piece, and coherent with, our duties to sentient others, the former flowing directly from the latter. [that our duties to ecosystems sometimes conflict with those to sentient or sapient individuals should not distract us from the essential coherence of the ethisphere.] Deontic, virtue, and consequentialist principles are likewise in dynamic, mutually informing balance.

3. Moral concern for the ecosystem flows from (is consequent upon) moral concern for others (whether sapient, subjects of lives, sentient, or living – we don’t necessarily need to settle). Ethispheric considerations gain moral urgency as our understanding, and the pressure on environments, grow.

4. Ameliorating measures (don’t litter, recycle…) are not themselves answers to our ethispheric duties, and can if fetishized stall deeper measures, but they can also be potently emblematic, and hands-on gestures, of our concern. They also can help to embed habits and attitudes that prepare us to take more substantive action.

Climate Change Denial

Here is an account of some of the reasons Copenhagen isn't doing enough:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Women and climate change

And here's Sabina Zaccaro on the crucial but unsupported role of women in managing climate change, apropos of our earlier discussion of the imperative to address gender justice and the empowerment of women as necessary to furthering an environmental ethic...


Bill McKibben again on a theme he has been striking for several months -- that climate change is unlike any other issue humanity has faced, since we can't solve it with normal political processes -- physics doesn't negotiate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cap & Trade?

Here's a lively video about "cap and trade" and whether it is a meaningful step to controlling carbon:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Doing Something about Climate Change

Here is a nice piece by Bill McKibben, discussing Al Gore's new book on what we can do about climate change.