Environmental dilemmas

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Environmental dilemmas

  1. 1. ENVIRONMENTAL DILEMMAS: That should give you more than enough to be going on with. Many environmental dilemmas are much harder than dilemmas that are investigated in the laboratory, because in the context of many environmental problems with dilemma structures, the stakeholder cannot see the social interdependencies. He does not see the impact of his decision on the outcome of others, and potentially even does not know that others are affected by his decision. Situations in which self interest leads human actors to mismanagement of natural resources, over extraction, pollution, degradation or even destruction of resources can be the consequences of neglecting common goals. Some of the more obvious environmental dilemmas: 1) Increased life expectancy. This is the biggest dilemma. Most environmental problems can ultimately be attributed to having too many people. For most of ours species’ history there weren’t many people because most children died from disease or starvation or by their parents killing them before they ever grew up. With modern technology we now grow so much food that people don’t starve, and medicine has eliminated a lot of disease. As a result the world’s population has exploded. So what do we do? Let people in the developing world starve to death to limit environmental damage? Even that isn’t a solution because in the long term the fewer children die the fewer children people have. The only ultimate solution to over population is making sure people DON’T die. But in the meantime we cause major problems. Now that’s a dilemma. 2) Development vs. degradation. People, especially in the developing world, need more money. They can only get more money by development. That basically means they need to take what they have and build things with it. An example of development would be cutting down a forest, which makes no money for anyone, and planting crops, which can be sold to make money. Another example would be to use the people and rocks etc to build a factory. But cutting down a forest causes environmental problems like global warming and soils erosion, and building a factory also adds to global
  2. 2. warming and cause other pollution as well. So should these people be forced live in poverty forever to avoid the environmental problems? Or should people in America and other places be forced to give them their money? Would you give up all your money and everything you own so that someone in Brazil doesn’t need to cut down any rainforest? Is it fair of me to force you to if you don’t; want to? Dilemma 3) GM foods. These are basically plants and animals that have had genes from other species spliced into them to make them grow better. So tomatoes might have genes form arctic fish spliced in so they don’t freeze on cold nights, or cotton might have a gene from a bacterium spliced in so that the cotton plant produces a poison that kills any insect eating it. Using this technology is great because it means that we don’t have to use chemicals to kill insects, we don’t; need to use as much fertiliser which washes off and poisons rivers and we can grow more food on less land, so we don’t need t cut down forests to make cropland. That’s great for the environment. Unfortunately these plants can produce seeds, and they can spread. If no animal in the world can eat our poisonous cotton plant what will stop it taking over the world and making a lot of other plants and animals extinct? So should we use these foods because we know they are good for the environment now? Or should we refuse to use them because they could cause environmental problems tomorrow? 4) Nuclear energy. Clean, cheap, almost no greenhouse gas emissions, little environmental damage form mines. Potentially major problems if the material isn’t stored properly. And it has to be stored for thousands of years. So do we use nuclear power to combat the environmental problems caused by global warming and leave the problem to future generations? Or do we leave them the problems of atmospheric pollution caused by fossil fuels? Neither seems ideal.

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