Chapter 13 environmental philosophy and theories


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Chapter 13 environmental philosophy and theories

  1. 1. Chapter 13 Environmental Philosophy and Theories
  2. 2. Introduction • Environmental theories are divided into two categories: – Explanatory: Accounts of environmental phenomena and their relationship to human life – Normative: Prescriptive sets of values and actions related to the environment • Normative and explanatory theories are brought together in environmental discourses. • The interaction of facts and values in discourses are instructive for health care.
  3. 3. Ecological Limits Theories(1 of 2) • The first generation of environmental theories. • Call attention to the finite nature of natural resources and the capacity of the environment to assimilate pollution. • Suggest that patterns of behavior that the environment cannot support indefinitely must be altered.
  4. 4. • Ehrlich established the “carrying capacity” of ecological systems, positing that populations that exceed their finite limit die back due to lack of resources. • Hardin established “the tragedy of the commons”, positing that reproductive limits are the solution to carrying capacity problems. • The concepts support ecological limits and form the basis for the ecological footprint. Ecological Limits Theories(2 of 2)
  5. 5. Environmental Value Theories(1 of 3) • The second generation of environmental theories. • Attribute ethical value to nonhumans and the environment. • Suggest that interests beyond those of the human population must be taken into account when making decisions and that nonhumans have morally relevant interests.
  6. 6. • Oppose the anthropocentric notion that land and animals are only valuable if they provide service or pleasure to humans. • Support the idea of the intrinsic value of land and animals and the idea that humans have obligations to these entities in and of themselves, forming the basis for environmental protection. Environmental Value Theories(2 of 3)
  7. 7. • Singer argued that it is sometimes necessary to evaluate the moral value of beings when conflicting interests of two groups arise. • Theories are important because they direct ethical and political recognition to the reliance of humans on the natural world. Environmental Value Theories(3 of 3)
  8. 8. Holistic Theories (1 of 3) • A subset of environmental value theories that expanded individualistic ethical ideas to the value of whole ecosystems beyond that of their constituent parts. • Place greater value on species than on their individual members, particularly when it comes to threatened or endangered species. • Leopold argued that the whole “biotic community” should be preserved and is the relevant unit of ethical analysis.
  9. 9. • Varner defended species management using Leopold’s argument because it benefits the overall population and the ecosystem even though it harms some individuals. • For example, hunting helps control the deer population and benefits the population, the forest, and other animals in the forest at the expense of individual members within the population. Holistic Theories (2 of 3)
  10. 10. Holistic Theories (3 of 3) • Theories have been tempered by criticism that they are fascist and have recently begun taking individual ethics into consideration.
  11. 11. Justice Theories(1 of 3) • Based on political theories that consider the distribution of good and bad things among human persons without concern for the environment and nonhumans. • Environmental theorists apply justice theories to the distribution of environmental goods and hazards among persons and groups of people.
  12. 12. • Distribution of goods and hazards often leads to inequalities along the lines of race, ethnicity, and income. • An example of this is locating a hazardous waste dump near an impoverished neighborhood consisting of mostly minority residents. Justice Theories(2 of 3)
  13. 13. • Theorists also consider “environmental justice” in terms of the ecological footprints of nations. • Theories are not concerned with the intrinsic value of nonhumans, but often lead to solutions that avoid environmental harm while accommodating nonhuman interests. Justice Theories(3 of 3)
  14. 14. Summary(1 of 2) • A wide variety of apparently competing normative environmental theories have been developed over the past four decades. • These theories ultimately attempt to guide action by bringing facts in line with values and values in line with facts. • In spite of their differences, theories agree that the way people understand value affects their behavior.
  15. 15. • Theories strive to bring abstract knowledge to bear on practical world problems and resolve those problems with rationality and concern for others. • Lead to agreement about the need for reforms even if they posit different solutions for achieving them. Summary(2 of 2)