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Outline and Reading List Reframing the Land Ethic: Sustainability and the Humanities Philosophy, July 11-13, 2011 Bryan Norton July 11: Leopold: Sustainable Thinking without the Word Aldo Leopold, while a daring thinker who speculated brilliantly about natural value in a human world (and human value in natural world), was a hard-headed pragmatist, both as a thinker and as a doer. The fulcrum argument in environmental ethics today is not between anthropocentrists and nonanthropocentrists, but between “monists” and “pluralists”. Monists attempt to construe all environmental values in a single theory and means of expression so that all outcomes can be judged according to a unifying rule. Pluralists expect actors to be affected by multiple, sometimes incommensurable values and must seek a reasonable balance among competing goods. Interpretations of Aldo Leopold’s work split according to the monist/pluralist dichotomy. Nonanthropocentrists such as J.B. Callicott posit a sharp distinction between instrumental and intrinsic values and believe all values must be traced to a contribution to the latter, and see Leopold as rejecting utilitarian reasoning in favor of a radical departure in Western ethics—intrinsic values of nature trump instrumental values to humans. I will propose and defend a more pluralistic interpretation of Leopold’s work on which he recognizes multiple values that emerge at different scales of natural systems. This latter view, it will be argued, places Leopold within the Progressive Tradition, but as part of what can be called “The Third Way” (Norton, 2005; Minteer, 2006) The Third Way eschews both the rampant economism and Social Darwinism associated with the gilded age and also plays down the mysticism of Muir in favor of a pervasive application of the “method of experience.” The Third Way offers a pragmatic method which applies the scientific method to questions of both fact and value. Leopold, on my interpretation, embraced an “adaptive” approach to conservation of both natural and social value and he was pluralistic in the sense that he learned from multiple ethical viewpoints and saw resource use problems as a question of balancing multiple values across multiple scales of time and space. This interpretation will be drawn out of a careful reading of Leopold’s first attempt at a conservation ethic (“Some Fundamentals”), linked to Leopold’s interest in pragmatism (in the work of Hadley, President of Yale when Leopold studied there), and culminating in an experimental, experience-based approach that incorporated multiple ethics and a commitment to judge the resource use of cultures by the results of their practices, not by their ideologies. We will see that, at the end of “Some Fundamentals,” Leopold endorses a comprehensive ethic of practice, and states (in every way other than using the word) a broad and durable sustainability ethic. Thought Questions: 1. Is Leopold best seen as having begun as a Pinchotist and ended as a Muirian? Or, did Leopold find a “Third Way,” a way that combined a pluralistic attitude and an application of the scientific method as a guide to progressive policies? 2. What role did analogies and metaphors play in Leopold’s philosophy of management? 3. Did Leopold see policies to protect interests of humans and interests of nature as divergent or as convergent? Readings: Aldo Leopold, “Some Fundamentals of Conservation in the Southwest,”(1923;1979) A.T. Hadley, “The Influence of Charles Darwin on Historical and Political Science,” pp. 121-142 of Influences of Modern Thought. Originally published in Psychological Review, 1909. Aldo Leopold, “Marshland Elegy,” “Thinking Like a Mountain,” A Sand County Almanac. (1949) Norton, Sustainability: A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management, (2005) Especially Sections 2.3, 2.4; Ch. 3, Ch.6; Section 12.7. Ben Minteer, The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought In America. (2006) (Passim) Note: Readers are directed to p. xvii-xviii of Sustainability for several shortened routes through this rather long book. By following one of these guides, you may be able to get what you want/need from the book in a lot fewer pages. July 12: Sustainability: Economics, Ecology, Ethics; An Interdisciplinary Tour Sustainability is perhaps best thought of as a political concept, at least in the sense that it began to carry weight in international and in domestic policy discourse and actions before it was given a clear meaning in either academic or socio-economic discourse. As such, it appears to academics and disciplinarians as a “bucket” into which one might wish to pour substance, substance in the form of theory and technical elaboration that would interpret sustainability as a concept whose analysis should be carried out in the discourse of one’s discipline of choice. Not surprisingly, this situation has resulted in disciplinary turf wars and in contestation over which discipline will dominate the discourse of choosing and pursuing sustainable development. We will explore some characteristic disciplinary readings, including one by an economist, one by an ecologist, and some of my consideration of what sustainability “should” mean. I see ethics and evaluation studies as essential to enlightening our search for sustainability by considering what we can and must know in order to determine what would be a “fair bequest” to future generations. In practice, defining a “fair bequest” to future generations has become a multidisciplinary point of controversy, as economists insist that sustainability is a matter of growth theory and of maintaining capital stocks over generations, while ecologists reject economists’ equilibrium theories because they do not take into account the importance ecologists place on the “resilience” of ecological systems and on the possibility that systems can reorganize and enter alternative, less beneficial regimes. In an attempt to weigh these various disciplinary claims, I outline my own conception of sustainability, one that owes much to Leopold’s Thinking Like a Mountain, but places responsibility upon communities to determine what they value enough to sacrifice in order to save. I call my approach “Normative Sustainability”. Thought Questions: 1. What is sustainability? 2. What discipline should be the fulcrum point from which we move our culture onto a sustainable path? 3. Can there be a “science” of sustainability? Readings: Robert Solow, “Sustainability: An Economists’ Perspective,” Brian Walker and David Salt, Resilience Thinking “Forward”, “Preface,” Ch. 1,2,3,6; peruse case studies. Norton, Sustainability, Esp. Ch. 3, 8-9. July 13: Adaptive Management, Sustainability, and the Evaluation of Change Strong sustainability thinking has formed a partnership with a “movement” in resource and environmental management, Adaptive Management. The approach to be proposed places more emphasis on processes of decision making and public involvement in setting sustainability goals than on articulating fixed sustainability objectives. This emphasis, in turn, requires a realistic understanding of environmental problems and their moral and political complexity, which is matched by the complexity of the systems that increasingly must be managed as the human footprint expands across the globe. Central to a rational approach to achieving sustainability must be an emphasis on processes that allow contemporary societies to learn their way toward sustainability, modifying and reconsidering goals as well as appropriate means by which to decide what policies and what interventions will construct a path toward sustainable development for a given community. We will contrast two approaches to pursuing sustainable policies: on one approach, the first step is to propose and agree upon a set of objectives which, once met, would constitute sustainability. This approach, once the objectives are set in advance, can relegate discussion of achieving sustainability to be one of developing means to achieve a well-defined goal; and it lends itself to a resource management tradition in which scientific experts are dominant. We will consider an alternative approach on which it is admitted that both sustainability goals and sustainability means are obscure at the outset and pursues an adaptive, learn-by-doing approach to specifying, at a community level, both the goals and means of sustainable living. Thought Questions: 1. Can sustainability objectives/goals be set in advance? Is it possible to act to move toward sustainability without having defined goals? 2. How can communities articulate, through deliberative processes, the values that are important to protect? 3. Are sustainability goals necessarily generated locally? Are there general aspects of sustainability that will be a part of any local sustainability process? 4. Does designating a given problem a “wicked problem” mean that we cannot pursue solutions to it in a rational manner? Readings: Norton, “The Ways of Wickedness,” ms or Sustainability, Ch. 5 Suggested: H. Rittel and M. Webber, Dilemmas in the General Theory of Planning,” Policy Sciences, 4(1993), 155-169. H. Simon, “From Substantive to Procedural Rationality” in F. Hahn and M. Hollis (eds), Philosophy and Economic Theory, Oxford U. Press, 1979. S. Funtowicz and J. Ravetz, “Science for the Post-Normal Age,” in L. Westra and J. Lemons, Eds.,Perspectives on Ecological Integrity. Kluwer, 1995. Norton, “Ethics and Sustainable Development: An Adaptive Approach to Environmental Choice.” From: Atkinson, Dietz, and Neumayer, Handbook of Sustainable Development, pp. 27-44.
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