M7: Environment (Luebke)
An Argument Against Climate Change
Climate Depot, a climate change denial website founded by a former Republican political aid, released a report featuring over 1000 scientists who disagree that human activity is the primary cause of global climate change. Furthermore, in a review of 11,944 peer-reviewed climate change studies, 66% found no stated position on human caused climate change, and while 33% of the studies implied that humans were contributing to climate change, only .5% explicitly stated that “Humans are the primary cause of recent global warming (procon.org, no date).’
- The moral issues underlying business’s abuse of the
environment–in particular, the question of externalities, the problem of free riders, and the right to a livable environment
Traditionally, businesses have considered the environment to be a free, unlimited, pubic good to be used as they see fit. The tragedy of the commons states that businesses are at a disadvantage if they do consume or pollute as much as they are able to without penalty, and within their own self- interest. A third party that must pay a cost of doing business is known as an externality or spillover. Attitudes of many businesses are changing, as an increasing number of environmentally conscious companies are shifting their social responsibility to be integral to their business culture. The free-rider problem states that many companies rationalize their actions because they are one of many using resources, a tactic to avoid personal responsibility. Moral theorists like William T Blackstone argue that each person has the right to a livable environment as a basic human right. Recognizing and acknowledging this right strengthens the ethical grounds that the environment should be protected from degradation and that corporations must take ownership of the parts they play in it.
- Some of the deeper and not fully resolved questions of environmental ethics: What environmental responsibilities do we have to the rest of the world? What obligations do we have to future generations? Does nature have value in itself? Is our commercial exploitation of animals immoral?
Philosophy Professor Joel Fienburg argues that we have a direct impact on the interests of future generations, and that we have an opportunity to change and shape their interests in undoing the environmental harm that has been caused. It can be difficult to quantify the balance of needs between the current and future generations. Annette Baier argues that we should focus on the rights and interests of future generations as individuals and not a collective group. We should recognize our utilitarian obligation to continuing and improving human communities. John Rawls suggests that we should treat all generations equally, and balance what we are willing to sacrifice from their descendants versus how much we wish to inherit from our previous generation.
Holms Rolston III advocates for the naturalistic ethic, which states that animals and lands have value in their own right, apart from human interests. While lands are a public good that can be enjoyed by all, by boating, hiking, skiing, their value is intrinsic and separate from the human need to enjoy that land. I am a strong supporter of the naturalistic ethic, many people often see humanity and nature as separate entities, but our connections to each other are strongly linked, and valuing our planet beyond fulfilling our immediate desires will have a strong impact how humanity views it’s moral obligation to the environment.
On the topic of animal testing, most utilitarians would argue that animal testing is morally reasonable so long as the results, ie the pain and death it is able to prevent, is able to justify the suffering of the animals, and that the animals are not intelligent enough to experience complex emotional suffering. The conditions of animals in factory farms is unequivocally unethical, which has no doubt increased the requests from consumers and demand to restaurants for farm-to-table dinning options. According the National Restarunt Association, the increase in farm-to-table options for newer generations is “four of the top ten trends” related to local foods (Harvard, 2016).
Who pays the cost of pollution?
The responsibility of paying the costs of protecting the environment rests on the individuals responsible for causing the pollution — not the those who stand to benefit from protection and restoration. The quality of public goods and shared common of nature is something everyone benefits from. Paying restitution for a crime should be done by the perpetrators of the crime, not the victims. Cap and trade pollution permits are a good start in collecting payment for environmental damage, and has a strong potential for utilitarian payoff if it is reinvested in climate-friendly programs, such as renewable energy, recycling centers, and environmental cleanup programs.
No Author. No date. Procon.org. https://climatechange.procon.org/
Harvard University, Culinary Institute of America (2016). “Menus of Change: The Business of Healthy, Sustainable, Delicious Food Choices” (PDF). Menus of Change. Retrieved April 15, 2017. https://www.menusofchange.org/images/uploads/pdf/CIA-Harvard_MenusOfChangeAnnualReport2016_(7-1)1.pdf