Environmental Ethics Worldview

As an environmental stakeholder, I hold the environmental wisdom worldview. I believe that human’s need to adjust their lifestyle in order to meet the growing changes that are occurring in the environment. Yet, humans are not willing to make such changes in order to live in harmony with the earth. The earth and all its inhabitants and organisms hold intrinsic value and their sanctity of these beings should be kept and not exploited.  Humans need to stop viewing themselves as the top of food chain as well as viewing all of the earth’s organisms merely as resources. We tend to think too highly of ourselves in accordance with the rest of the world. In reality though, the rest of the world would flourish without human impact, thus we need the environment more than it needs us. It is difficult though to convince all other humans to hold an earth wisdom worldview. They believe this view as too extreme and tend to lean more tends as anthropocentric view. This anthropocentric view, however, will be our downfall. The environment can only restore itself to a certain extent, and it has not been able to restore itself because of our exponential level of pollution and exploitation. But in order for people to care about their impact, they have to be educated about environmental issues. The reason why I hold environmental wisdom worldview is because I am aware. Not just because of the classes I took but because it has always been instilled in me to be environmentally conscious of our actions. Therefore, the best solution for having others view the environment with an earth wisdom worldview is to have environmental education be a societal norm. As more and more humans become informed they will in turn start to regard the environment with respect and shape policies in order to regulate our impact.

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Environmental Ethics Practicum

New York City is the most populated city in the United States. During the Progressive Era, and the rise of technology, New York City faced “environmental problems relating to public health, sanitation, water supply, sewerage, air quality, and noise pollution motivated reformers to strengthen the role of state and municipal government to pursue remedies, tempering the dominance of the free market and turning increasingly to experts in such fields as engineering, architecture, public health, and administration” (Stine). New York City today is estimated as the most energy efficient city in the United States, for there is a high use of public transportation as compared to the use of automobiles. “Its greenhouse gas emissions are 7.1 metric tons per person compared with the national average of 24.5.” The city has tried to reduce is environmental impact even further by introducing hybrid taxis and clean diesel vehicles. New York City has over 28,00 acres of parkland. Central Park, the most visited park in the city, contains 883 acres of land, consisting of ponds, lakes, ponds, a zoo, and a garden. Fordham University’s campus used to range over 300 acres but it sold most of its campus to New York City to create the New York Botanical Gardens. Fordham student and faculty now have unlimited acres to the gardens. Fordham has always appreciated its natural environment and worked to preserve it through the creation of the botanical gardens. Originally, the Bronx River ran through the Rose Hill farm, students, faculty, and workers took advantage of its assets through activities of “farming, quarrying, hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, study, prayer and remembrance” (fordham.edu). Fordham University also operates the Louis Calder Center, which is a biological field station. It contains 114 acres of forest and 10 acres of lake.

            Today, many students at Fordham, as part of the Sustainability Plan, are working to preserve the Bronx River for the local community through the Bronx River Alliance, the New York City Botanical Garden, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Through Fordham’s Sustainability Plan the University “recognizes the value of minimizing its environmental impact and endeavors to pursue best practices throughout all aspects of its operations” (fordham.edu). Fordham plans to use alternative forms of technology to reduce energy use, and will also work to recycle all waste as well as promote the purchase of renewable products. The design of new buildings is ensured to be environmentally conscious. The use of public transportation will also be heavily advocated. Through all of these steps, Fordham strives to reduce its carbon footprint by thirty percent and present academic programs in order to provide a greater understanding of environmental issues.

            Just as New York City and Fordham University have tried to reduce their impact, so have I. For my practicum, I decided to work in St. Rose’s garden, once a week for two hours. During my time working at St. Rose’s Garden I helped weed the beds of vegetables, plant additional seeds, water the beds, turn over soil, and spruce up the flowers, wrap twine around taller vegetables, and install a drip irrigation system. Pictured below are the radish seeds I planted. It was rewarding to see their progress week after week. I was also excited to see that something I planted successfully grew! I was very impressed with St. Rose’s compost station that I took home a sealed container and started one of my own in my kitchen. My roommates and I now compost all our fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, flowers, seeds and other food that is allowed within the compost. Instead of wasting all of these valuable scraps, they are now being used to help create rich soil for the garden. I’m truly able to see now how much of our food gets wasted by simply being thrown along with all the other garbage. With other members of St. Rose’s garden, we held a pickling party. We pickled leftover cucumbers and zucchini from the CSA. Everyone took part in cutting up the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and other vegetables and together we were able to make quite a feast. We created a fig jam and a grape jam, as well as salsa verde and pico de gallo. Everything was delicious, fresh, and organic and it was comforting to know where all the produce came from directly. Additionally for my practicum, I volunteered to help work at the Environmental Career Panel. The panel consisted of five people now working in various environmental positions. It was interesting to hear how each person came upon working in an environmental field, but the degrees of environmental work varied. For example, one panelist described himself as working for the “man,” for he works as General Electric. He explained that they are now trying to hold more environmental standards but are still very geared toward making money. A panelist of the complete opposite position works for Green Mountain Energy, which is a company committed to delivering 100% renewable energy to companies, households, etc. The career panel provided with students with advice about what careers they could potentially get involved in after they graduate having received a major or minor in environmental policy. Yet, not all students who attended were majoring or minoring in environmental policy. One particular girl was a Biology major, but she said that she would like to use her major to pursue a career in environmental research. The third activity I participated in for my practicum was the Student’s For Environmental Awareness and Justice’s Clothes Swap. Instead of being consuming for the clothing industry, this event enabled us to recycle our old clothes out for new pieces. The remaining clothing after the drive would then be donated, resulting in zero waste and providing for a good cause.

            I believe that my practicum and learning experience through hands on, yet small-scale work, relates to the environmental theory presented by Anthony Weston and the discipline of environmental politics. Weston believes in environmental pragmatism and that we should do whatever works involving practices and policies. For my practicum, I did not necessarily have to be an environmental policy major or be environmentally literate. Rather, anyone for that matter could have participated in these activities and areas and still would have contributed to environmental awareness and action. For example, my use of a compost bin in my kitchen can virtually be introduced to any kitchen. It did not require any money but at the save time created so many benefits. If every kitchen in the United States adapted to composting, we would significantly reduce food waste and contribute to recycling of this food for the soil used for future produce. Another example is the clothes swap I included in my practicum. If disadvantaged families and even more well to do families participated in a clothes swap, they would be able to dispose of old clothes and gain new clothes without contributing to our consumerist society. 

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Energy and Climate Change

To state or even consideration the falsehood of global warming is absolutely unimaginable. As evidenced by the assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, arming of the climate system is undeniable, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level. Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth displays Al Gore’s campaign to spread his message about the facts and future predications of the dangers that green house gas emissions impose toward the current and future state of earth’s climate and atmosphere. Gore states that many hold the assumption that “the earth is so large that we cannot have any lasting impact on the earth’s environment.” However, this statement is completely false. Due to how thin the atmosphere is, it is the most vulnerable part of the earth’s atmosphere and humanity is quite capable of changing its composition. Gore then proceeds to explain the scientific explanation of the overwhelming amount of infrared rays that are being trapped within the earth’s atmosphere due to an increase in green house gases. Gore was first brought to the attention of the rise in carbon emissions by the scientific data obtained by Roger Revelle. A graph was formulated that displayed a steady increase of carbon concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere over the past decades. This astonished Gore and he took immediate action by approaching Congress with a carbon act. He was deeply affected by this frightening and scientifically proven realization. Gore next discussed how he had contacted scientists who are using methods to bring up layers of ice and extract concentrations of carbon Imagedioxide. They can trace back to what year this particular piece of ice was from and examine oxygen bubbles in the ice that will reveal the temperature it was at that particular time. The scientists were able to examine from the ice what year the Clean Air Act was passed. This demonstrates how significant a policy can be toward making changes in our atmosphere. Gore states that the issue we face regarding carbon concentrations is a moral issue and that it is deeply unethical to neglect this problem. We have seen through scientific evidence that the hottest years on record have occurred within the last 14 years. With increased temperatures, ocean temperatures have also raised created some of the biggest catastrophes. Yet even as our world continues to face and recognize these odd and threatening weather patterns, Congress is not started. These catastrophes make continue at even a more rapid pace, and maybe finally Congress will recognize this as a serious issue. Gore also recognizes the increasing rate at which the permafrost is thawing out in the arctic. The arctic receives more sun than any other part of the planet but the ice allows it to act as a mirror. But as this ice continues to melt, the ocean water absorbs ninety percent of the rays. We have seen through the patterns of polar bears that they are now swimming significant longer distances to find ice. Gore again shows how many politicians claim this is a hoax and a threat to our economy. He states, “If an issue is not at the tips of the constituents tongues, it’s easy for them to ignore it.” Next, Gore explains how the seasons are being affected to the rise in temperature, which therefore have affected the migrating and breeding patterns of species. These changes have also introduced an overwhelming increase in invasive species and a steady increase in species extinction. Gore wants our country to recognize that we should be concerned with threats and not just terrorism. He believes that there is a clash between civilization and the environment. As population increases there is a direct pressure on food, water, and natural resource demands. Yet the US has always strived to work in a way that is most profitable, even if that means disregarding the state of the environment. The majority of political leaders in the US want to view global warming as a theory rather than a threat. The government has even worked in ways to hush scientists’ discoveries that have displayed this inconvenient truth. Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific technology to know how to solve the carbon and climate problems. Yet the US still believes that the economy will be affected if we decide to address the environment. Gore makes it clear that we have the ability to do this and that addressing these issues will help our economy and the job market. We can make considerable differences in our carbon emissions by using more efficient electricity, by producing higher mileage in cars, and by converting to renewable technology. Gore concludes by stating that future generations will question our actions if we do not take a stand and realize what steps we need to take now. In David Suzuki’s essay Sidelight: Let’s Transform the Military, he states that we are currently at war with the environment. Suzuki claims that military budgets often dwarf other government expenditures. As global perceptions of military threat’s shift, this allows for our budgets to be used towards more pressing issues such as the environment. Washington DC estimated that 15% of annual global military budget would save the planet from environmental collapse, and $300 is spent on the military for every $1 spent on the environment. Ultimately, countries need to recognize the issues they are causing and take responsibility. Climate change is a social issue as well as an ethical issue. Firstly, high emitters are putting low emitters at risk. Secondly, the harm made to the low emitters is devastatingly catastrophic. Thirdly, the victims are often the poorest people who cannot petition their government to protect them. In order for environmental issues to be successfully taken care of, developed nations need to take the lead on creating serious changes in energy production and consumption.

 Question: Can the United Nations effectively create another Convention on Climate Change and make it so that it mandatory that nations follow the policies it sets forth?

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Ecofeminist Environmental Ethics

Ecofeminism is connection between the domination of women and the domination of nonhuman nature. In Karen J. Warren’s essay, The Power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism, she discusses the connections and developments of feminism and environmental ethics and believes that the degradation and exploitation of the environment is similar to the oppression of women. Warren believes that hierarchical logic is the root cause of both patriarchy and environmental exploitation. Traditionally, women are identified with nature and physical while men are identified with the mental and human. The realm of mental is superior to that of the physical, and therefore women are inferior to men. This archaic notion led to the subordination of women by men. Warren’s Ecofeminism focuses on respecting the differences between women and men and the differences between humans and nature. Such differences do not presuppose that one is superior to the other. She states that the use of first-person narrative is important to feminism and environmental ethics, for she believes that it creates a relationship and conceives a relationship with the “other.” Warren also believes that a first person narrative “provides a way of conceiving ethics and ethical meaning as emerging out of particular situations moral agents find themselves in, rather than as being imposed on those situations” (287). Lastly, by using a first person narrative, she states that it creates an argumentative advantage, for the argument has more force if it personal. WhenImage forming a feminist ethic, Warren believes that nothing can become part of the feminist ethic, but rather interwoven. A feminist ethic emerges from the voices of people from historically different and pluralistic situations. A pattern of voices will them emerge from the perspectives of oppressed persons. She believes that if a bias is developed, this will be the better bias for it is inclusive of the oppressed. Finally, her feminist ethic provides “a central place for values typically unnoticed, underplayed, or misrepresented in traditional ethics” (290), and does not view ethics as being gender free. Warren ultimately believes that an interconnection between feminism and environmental ethics can lead to an understanding of the dominant nature towards women and the environment and the solution for ending this oppression.

            I believe that Warren’s connection between women’s oppression and the dominance of the environment can lead back to religious beliefs and teachings from the bible. As stated earlier by Christian theologian Linzey and the observations made by White, Christianity as well as other religions, promote the subordination of women as well as dominance over the world. Thus, such treatment of women and the environment has stemmed back from thousands of years. Men continue to reinforce the idea that they are better than women due to their strength or even societal beliefs that men are more logical and women are more emotional. Yet, there is no true basis for these beliefs. The fact of the matter is that we are different from men and nature is different from humans. Difference and the unknown have always caused fear in men, for it threatened their belief that they were the conquerors. Warren made an interesting point this notion of “difference” her essay, but her execution of shaping a feminist ethic and environmental ethics was often confusing, as her descriptions became wordy and some of her points seemed irrelevant.

Question: Does Ecofeminism hold too much of a bias? Can only women relate? Could this ever pose as a worldview?

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Deep Ecology (Deep Values, Extenionism) vs. Shallow Ecology (Policy Reform, Anthropocentrism) & Environmental Pragmatism: A Defense of Shallow Ecology

In Arne Naess’s articles, The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement and Self-Realization: An Ecological Approach to Being in the World, he identifies the differences between deep ecology and shallow ecology. According to Naess, every being has an equal right to live and to blossom. He advocated that a true understanding of nature would give rise to a point of view that appreciates the value of biological diversity and understandings of dependent of the interrelationships in nature. Naess’s ecological philosophy emphasizes on self-realization of man’s narrow selves, that people must realize themselves as part of an ecospheric Imagewhole. He explains that self-realization is if one does not know how the outcomes of one’s actions will affect other beings, one should not act. Naess identifies deep ecology as having respect for the global living as well as having the freedom to live and flourish. Deep Ecology differs from the concept of shallow ecology because it strives to change the mind of the person as a whole, rather than changing the mind of a consumer. Rather than evaluating how one’s actions might affect the future generations, Naess’s vision for Deep Ecology is to have the individual evaluate their individual self. Shallow Ecology relies on technological solutions but Deep Ecology is sees individual evaluation and changes as the solution. Naess believes that spiritual growth will enhance our interactions with other creatures. He states that, “deepening our identification with all life-forms, with the ecosystems, and with Gaia, this fabulous, old planet of ours” (272). We must recognize that we are all interrelated and all contain intrinsic value. Naess does not necessarily believe that humans have caused destruction of the earth but rather our culture’s lack of concern towards our impact.

            Anthony Weston holds similar views about society as Naess does. In Weston’s article, Enabling Environmental Practice, he that we must use a bottom-up technique, i.e. start from the bottom, in order to act upon the values represented in environmental ethics. He hopes to evolve environmental ethics and pragmatically include practices in our society. Weston sees environmental ethics values as in the originary states, meaning they are typically in the stages of incompatible outlines and social experiments yet still contributing to the development of new possibilities. Environmental pragmatism does not seek to be anti-anthropocentric as well systemizing views of deep ecology. What Weston hopes to achieve is a coevolution of practices and institutions. Thus, rather than having one universal principle, a “what works” attitude would be more effective. I personally agree more with Weston’s approach to environmental ethics than I do with Naess. Although Naess’s idea is beautiful, it is not realistic. People do not suddenly gain an undying love for nature. It takes a lifetime or a very significant event in one’s life in order to have such respect and adoration for the environment. I was raised to respect and love animals, as well as respecting and enjoying the environment around me. Without this particular upbringing, I may feel very different and for all I know I might not even be in this class if it wasn’t for the way I was raised and the morals I was taught. Weston’s view, however, is an easier and quick approach to encompassing environmental ethics into people’s lives. Practices such as recycling programs at universities or creating nature outings for urban areas, will create the most change. Exposing people to environmental practices will create greater concern and raise consciousness, rather than telling people they should value the environment on a spiritual level. If anything, Naess’s approach may turn people off from environmental ethics.

Question: Is Weston’s approach realistic in solving environmental problems?

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Ecotheology: Western Christian and Eastern Buddhist Ecological Spirituality and Environmental Ethics

Various religious sects have made a change towards their view of animals. They have recognized that human’s treatment of animals does not correlate with the original teachings that God disposed upon us. In Lynn White’s essay, The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, she discusses how ecological change and environmental degradation has gone far back for thousands of years. What she believes is our greatest downfall is introduction of Western technology. We previously used simple farming methods and lived in harmony with the natural world, but as technology and science grew, so did our urge to dominant the world. She believes that “what people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them” (55). Therefore, our relation to the environment was greatly shaped by Christian views. Christianity is the most anthropocentric of all religions. Buddhist Environmentalists “see their worldview as a rejection of hierarchical dominance of one human over another or humans over nature, and as the basis of an ethic of empathetic compassion that respects biodiversity” Yet Christianity still views humans as the dominating force of the world, and other beings simply as human resources. Although religion relates saints to natural objects, these saints till take human form. White believes that these Christian viewpoints such as mastering and dominating the environment, will lead to our downfall. In The Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey’s essay, For God So Loved the World, it was interesting to hear from the perspective on the treatment of animals from someone who we can assume is a religious man. Linzey states that due to Christian doctrine, animals have always been viewed as property. The term animal in Imageitself holds a negative connotation to this day. He states that, “this low, negative, even hating, attitude towards animals, regarding them as a source of evil, or as instruments of the devil, or regarding them as beings without moral status, has, sad to say, been the dominant view within Christendom for the largest part of its history” (59). They are still creatures of God but we do not treat them as so. Linzey believes that Christians have a hypocritical mentality and easily forget how truly horrible they have been. In order to change the way we treat animals, Linzey suggest three steps. The first states that we must not hate those who hate animals. As frustrating as it is, he believes we will only push them further into their darkness. The second states that we must not hate, even the Church. Linzey discusses how the Church may have influenced much hateful behavior, however it has also been the leading force behind liberating many. The third states that we must not hate one another. We cannot complain about animal abusers if we are to be compassionate to towards each other. Ultimately, Linzey knows that animals are still being treated as things, but people are beginning to have a conscience. Christianity is very influential and has the power to persuade people to act in a certain way. Therefore, if the church advocated the humane treatment of animals, I’m sure some radical Christians out there would even listen. The Church needs to use its power for the equal treatment of animals, just as it provided help for the slaves. It is very easy to hate the Church for its backward methods, but if it does have the power we should use this power the animals’ advantage.

Question: Why do Christians see fit to dominant and abuse animals that are in fact creatures of their beloved God? If religion did not exist, would we still treat animals as things? Does Christianity provide more disservice to animals or has it helped in human’s recognition of their immoral practices towards them?

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Biocentric Environmental Ethics

             Biocentric Environmental Ethics argues whether sentience is the correct standard for determining who or what has moral value, specifically in regards to trees, flowers, etc. The earliest forms of conservation and preservation were typically reinforced for anthropocentric reasoning. Early conservationists strived to preserve nature for the sake of human purposes, and preservationists wanted to preserve the wilderness for aesthetic and spiritual reasons. When plaintiffs began protecting the environment they were Imagefaced with the issue of standing to sue. The plaintiff is not the object and cannot personally be harmed, and thus it was substantially more difficult to reinforce rights for nature. Yet, deep ecologists argue that simply being alive should be enough for moral standing. In Paul W. Taylor’s essay, The Ethics of Respect for Nature, he claims that we protect the environment because our well being depends upon its well being. Instead, we should preserve nature because it is an end in itself. Nature, however, is unaware of the damage we do to it. For example, trees are not aware of itself being cut down or of its neighboring trees being cut down by the thousands. But the good of trees is still affected; this is not determined by sentience. The second concept of respect of nature is inherent worth. If something is member of earth’s community, the realization of its good is something intrinsically valuable. Taylor believes that our commitment to nature shapes us “to adopt the attitude of respect for nature, an attitude we believe all moral agents ought to have simply as moral agents, regardless of whether or not they also love nature” (204). He further believes in basic elements that make up our ethics of respect for nature. Our biocentric outlook on life allows us to see ourselves as part of the community, thus meaning that we are connected to everything and everything is connected to us. Taylor states that it is rational and intelligible for us to recognize our position in the organic system. Everything has a purpose and an individual meaning. We must not take for granted the existence of a single entity of nature. Every organism has a purpose, an instinct to thrive, continue to grow, undergo changes, and produce offspring. Humans, nonhumans, and plants all hold these instincts. The final element is denial of human superiority. Taylor does not understand why humans believe that their capabilities are superior to those of other organisms. We cannot make such rash judgments. Religion, as Taylor believes, set humans on a pedestal, by proclaiming that we have a soul, we are rational, and that we are placed higher on the food chain. But he looks upon this justification as arbitrary and irrational. We must see ourselves as part of the natural world, not a separate entity. In Taylor’s article, Competing Claims and Priority Principles, he discusses further the clash between human and nonhuman interests. He does not understand why we cannot coexist with animals and plants on our planet. Taylor describes priority principles to further understand the conflicts of human and nonhuman interests. First, he explains that humans have a right to protect ourselves against things that will harm us, otherwise known as the principle of self-defense. But humans exploit their power in regards to basic and nonbasic interests. Humans alter, damage, and exploit the natural environment to fit their needs, even if these needs are not essential to human survival. In the principal of minimum wrong, humans are unwilling to forego their nonbasic interests because of their lack of respect for nature. But in order to reverse or give back to nature, the principle of distributive justice seeks to fulfill interests of both nature and humans. Lastly, the principle of restitutive justice is to provide compensation back to the environment. Taylor essentially believes that humans must see themselves as having the same interests as plants and therefore act accordingly and respect the life all living things regardless of humanlike capabilities.

Question: Will our society ever reach a point where it is illegal to kill a plant? Is it actually possible to form such policies?

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