ethics

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					Ethics, philosophy, and
        history
       Bio 415/615
              Questions
1. What is the “tragedy of the commons”?
2. How do utilitarian and intrinsic value
  ethical systems differ?
3. Why isn’t either ethical system ideal in
  a conservation context?
4. What constitutes Aldo Leopold’s “Land
  Ethic”?
        Environmental Ethics
• Aldo Leopold (1949) – “A sand county almanac”
  - Spurred the environmental movement
  - the ‘land ethic’


• Rachel Carson (1962) – “Silent Spring”
  – Sparked modern environmental movement

• Garrett Hardin's (1968) - "The Tragedy of
  the Commons"

• 1970-80s explosion of thought in
  environmental ethics
  – 1972 first environmental philosophy conference
  – Early 1980s first journal Environmental Ethics
          Why conserve?
• This course is about biology. BUT…
• We use biological knowledge to make
  decisions based on our value system.
• Our personal choices reflect what we
  value about biodiversity and nature.
• Our ethics also affect what we decide
  is scientifically interesting.
    Devising a system of values
     (= environmental ethics)
Goal of ethics: create a consistent basis for
  distinguishing good from bad (or better from
  worse)

There is no such thing as a ‘universal ethic’. We
 will not necessarily agree on our rationale for
 conservation.

“Appeal to Nature” or “Naturalistic fallacy” =
  something is good because it exists in nature
  (suffering, extinction, etc.)
    2 broad ethical systems
• Utilitarianism (Anthropocentric Ethics)
  – Human-centered value
• Intrinsic value (Biocentric or Nature-
  centered Ethics)
  – Species (or ecosystems) have rights in
    their own right
           Utilitarian Value
• Goods: Fish, game, foods, spices, oils,
  fragrances, wood, medicine
• Ecosystem services: air quality, flood
  control, soil conservation,
  decomposition, detoxification,
  pollination, dispersal, pest control
• Information: genetic library, chemical
  cues
• Spiritual happiness/satisfaction
         Utilitarianism
        John Stuart Mill
British philosopher (1806-1873)

                Utilitarian value is
                 not just personal,
                 but has a social
                 basis.
         Utilitarianism
        John Stuart Mill
British philosopher (1806-1873)

                [Jeremy Bentham]:
                  “greatest good for
                  the greatest
                  number”
                = hedonistic
                  consequentialism
            Anthropocentric Ethics
•   Greatest good for the greatest number
•   Instrumental value (a thing is ‘an instrument for’)
•   Consequentialism
•   The utilitarian calculus
    –   Pros and cons
    –   Costs and benefits
    –   Pluses and minuses
    –   Hedons and dolors (add to, take away from pleasure)
• Hedonistic utilitarianism
    – Good, pleasure (avoidance of suffering), have intrinsic
      value, all else is instrumental value
• Preference utilitarianism (ranking)
• Monetary Value: valuation, common currency?
 Utilitarianism can be a powerful
    rationale for conservation

• DDT and Silent Spring
• Lead in gasoline
• Ozone layer, Montreal protocol
              Bioprospecting
•   Thermus aquaticus
• Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP
• Archaea
• Near boiling point of water
• Enzymes that work at high
  temperatures
• TAQ Polymerase (replaced E.
  coli DNA polymerase)
• Polymerase Chain Reaction
  (PCR)
• Billions!
Nature 1997
• What is the value of something
  irreplaceable?
• If there are substitutes, depends on
  supply and demand
• ‘marginal’ (small change) value: eg, what
  would you pay for one beach, or 50 tons
  of topsoil, …)
• Various services calculated per area,
  then extrapolated to globe
                                    Nature 1997




• $33 trillion per year. What does this
  mean?
• If ecosystems vanish, but their services
  can be replaced by other means, it
  would cost about 2x global GNP
• Translation: impossible!
The problems of utilitarianism
  The problems of utilitarianism

1. Substitutability: How can we put value
   on things that can’t be replaced? (what
   about species extinctions?)
  The problems of utilitarianism

1. Substitutability: How can we put value
   on things that can’t be replaced? (what
   about species extinctions?)
2. Rarity: Can you estimate value for a
   service for one time and place and
   then extrapolate it elsewhere? What
   happens as it gets more rare?
  The problems of utilitarianism

1. Substitutability: How can we put value
   on things that can’t be replaced?
2. Rarity: Can you estimate value for a
   service for one time and place and
   then extrapolate it elsewhere? What
   happens as it gets more rare?
3. How do we calculate the value of
   ‘happiness’, ‘contentment’, etc?
  The problems of utilitarianism
4. How do we find a common currency for
   different qualities? (good night’s sleep
   for good meal?)
  The problems of utilitarianism
4. How do we find a common currency for
   different qualities? (good night’s sleep
   for good meal?)
5. Human engineering: plastic trees? (is
   this ok? Restoration, gardening, …)
  The problems of utilitarianism
4. How do we find a common currency for
   different qualities? (good night’s sleep
   for good meal?)
5. Human engineering: plastic trees? (is
   this ok? Restoration, gardening, …)
6. Scale: local value may be assessed
   differently than regional or global
   value, and processes have different
   functions at different scales
  The problems of utilitarianism
4. How do we find a common currency for
    different qualities? (good night’s sleep
    for good meal?)
5. Human engineering: plastic trees? (is
    this ok? Restoration, gardening, …)
6. Scale: local value may be assessed
    differently than regional or global
    value, and processes have different
    functions at different scales
7. Value changes: consider value of natural
    medicines once product becomes
    synthesized
  The problems of utilitarianism
8. Everything is relative: consider
    ecotourism vs. oil drilling on a nature
    preserve. What would influence the
    decision to drill or tour?
  The problems of utilitarianism
8. Everything is relative: consider
    ecotourism vs. oil drilling on a nature
    preserve. What would influence the
    decision to drill or tour?
9. Negative value: species harmful to
    humans? (invaders? predators?)
  The problems of utilitarianism
8. Everything is relative: consider
    ecotourism vs. oil drilling on a nature
    preserve. What would influence the
    decision to drill or tour?
9. Negative value: species harmful to
    humans? (invaders? predators?)
10. Species that don’t contribute: no
    rationale for conserving nonfunctional
    species?
  The problems of utilitarianism
8. Everything is relative: consider
    ecotourism vs. oil drilling on a nature
    preserve. What would influence the
    decision to drill or tour?
9. Negative value: species harmful to
    humans? (invaders? predators?)
10. Species that don’t contribute: no
    rationale for conserving nonfunctional
    species?
11. Unknowns: do we actually know the
    value of most species or ecosystems?
  The problems of utilitarianism
12. Human experience: we all rate ‘nature’
    differently. If you live in a city, what
    value do you assign the night sky?
  The problems of utilitarianism
12. Human experience: we all rate ‘nature’
    differently. If you live in a city, what
    value do you assign the night sky?

Others???? Hardin?
            Intrinsic value
Biocentric or Nature-centered Ethics
 • Species intrinsic values and species
   rights…US Endangered Species Act
 • Animal rights, the value of the sentient
   being
 • Ecosystem, holistic value
   – Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac (?)
            Intrinsic value
Biocentric or Nature-centered Ethics
 •   Deontological or rule-based ethics
 •   Kant’s Categorical Imperative
 •   Non-consequentialism
 •   Absolute, not subject to measurement,
     nor varying by result or outcome,
     intrinsic and not as an instrument to
     benefit of anything external
The Ecological-Evolutionary Land
    Ethic and Ethical Holism
    Aldo Leopold 1887-1948




                      1949
      Leopold’s Ethical Sequence

•   Self
•   Kin (Family)
•   Social Group (City, Town)
•   Nation (Religion)
•   All People
•   All Sentient Species (Animal Rights)
•   All Species
•   Land-Ecosystem
Gifford Pinchot        John Muir




 Resource          Preservation
 Conservation     Ethic
 Ethic
Gifford Pinchot
                  Scientific forestry
                    (late 1800s)
                  • Sustained yield
                    without harming
                    productive capacity
 Resource         • Avoidance of waste
 Conservation     • Best use for human
                    benefit
 Ethic
                       John Muir
Intrinsic value of
  wilderness
• Spiritual value
• Sierra Club
• But utilitarian?
                     Preservation
                            Ethic
The Hetch Hetchy Dam—1913
     (Congress passed Raker Act)
The Hetch Hetchy Dam—1913


        Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well
         dam for water-tanks the
         people's cathedrals and
         churches, for no holier
         temple has ever been
         consecrated by the heart
         of man. (Muir)
         The great irony is that the valley’s demise was the work of the City of San
         Francisco, which now is home to many environmentalists who would lay
         their bodies down in protest if anyone tried to build such a thing today. But
         San Francisco is hooked: how do you tear down a dam and remove a
         reservoir that helps deliver 85 percent of a city’s water?
                   NY Times, April 10, 2010



“Within five years, native grasses and wildlife would
begin to reappear as the Tuolumne River reclaimed its
original channel. Willows and alders would quickly
return to its banks and, soon after, Ponderosa pines
and oak woodlands would begin to take root. As
habitat restored itself, large numbers of animals
would migrate home and the twin of Yosemite Valley
would re-emerge in the light of the 21st century.”

                                   www.hetchhetchy.org
  Problems of Intrinsic Value
1. Species are transitory
  – Species evolve, and most species that ever
    existed are extinct.
  Problems of Intrinsic Value
1. Species are transitory
  – Species evolve, and most species that ever
    existed are extinct.
2. Species are antagonistic
  – How do we decide who to favor in the
    confrontation of competitors, predators
    and prey, hosts and parasites, etc?
  Problems of Intrinsic Value
1. Species are transitory
  – Species evolve, and most species that ever
    existed are extinct.
2. Species are antagonistic
  – How do we decide who to favor in the
    confrontation of competitors, predators
    and prey, hosts and parasites, etc?
3. Ecosystems vary through time
  – Which state is the ‘correct’ one?
  – Focus on the process, not the state?
       What’s the answer?
• Sustainability, capacity to adapt
  (continue to change) are modern themes
• Biodiversity at least gives capacity for
  future adaptation (Leopold: “save every
  cog and wheel”)
• Ethical questions, like scientific ones,
  are sensitive to scale
• Where do you stand?

				
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posted:9/18/2012
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