Thursday, February 25, 2016


Here's the Jonathan Franzen piece I mentioned. Like much of his work it's a little overwrought, but consider whether he might have a point about global versus local or individual concern (not unlike Regan's concern for individual animals).

Hunting and Conservation

One further thought about the Sierra Club and other organizations that Singer takes to task for not opposing hunting: they were able to build large popular constituencies precisely by crafting a big tent for various supporters of the natural world. Prominent among those supporters were some of the people who spend the most time appreciating it -- hunters and fishers. Thus their appeal was to nature at large, not individual animals in particular. Depending on what their actual beliefs were, this might have been a principled decision, or it might have been a compromise of their principles in search of support. Singer's critique might be more nuanced if he teased out which it was.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Latest on Exxon from Bill McKibben

Aldo Leopold

It appears that Leopold actually died in 1948, so my childhood memory that he was still at the University of Northern Iowa in the mid-1960s appears to have been a fantasy. I suppose his Sand County Almanac felt so fresh to me at the time that I projected a sense that he was still alive and working.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Environmental Racism

The interest in racial matters in some of your posts suggest that one topic we might investigate this semester is environmental racism -- the disproportionate placement of polluting industries and toxic dumps in predominantly minority areas. The ethics of this is perhaps a tad obvious -- it's wrong on Kantian, Millian, and Aristotelian grounds (though perhaps for somewhat different reasons for each). The economic, political, and social dynamic that perpetuates it, and the growing resistance to it, however, are more than worthy of an ethicist's attention, and it would also be helpful to locate it in other discussions about the environment (for example as in my last post, not dropping local concerns in preference for global ones, but integrating them).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Localized pollution vs. climate disruption

The environmental movements of the 1960s and '70s tended to emphasize relatively local pollution issues, whereas now much of the focus is on global disruption. We have to hold the two in balance, however, for they're not ultimately separable (though issue-by-issue they can play out rather differently). Here is a shocking statistic on mortality due to air pollution:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Climate Displacement

One of the reasons we cannot seriously discuss environmental ethics outside of a wider ethical context is because everything is embedded in the wider environment. The ecosphere is also an ethisphere. Interestingly, the attached article makes the claim that perhaps we should legally define displacement due to climate disruption as a form of political persecution...