Environmental Ethics and Morality Ethics Term Paper

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" Humans have become "obsessed" with the idea that the masculine should dominate the feminine, the wealthy should dominate the poor, humans should dominate "nonhuman Nature," and Western cultures should rule over non-Western cultures (Devall, et al. 264).

Devall and Sessions believe that while "some leading intellectuals" in the Western culture have viewed religion is merely superstition, and yet there are religious traditions (such as Buddhism, Taoism, Native American rituals and Christianity) that embrace the idea of asking deeper spiritual questions. These faiths, the authors believe, agree with the basic principles of deep ecology. What the authors are suggesting is that humans should try to break away from seeing themselves in a narrow view as isolated human egos. Instead, it would be closer to the concept of deep ecology if humans would begin to identify first with other humans from diverse cultures - "all humans." And secondly humans should begin to see that "No one is saved until we all are saved" (265) according to Devall and Sessions. That "all" includes rain forest ecosystems, rivers, grizzly bears, and even "the tiniest microbes in the soil."

All things in the world's biosphere "have an equal right to live and blossom" and reach the highest levels they can reach, Devall and Sessions insist. This worldview also embraces the belief that there is an "overwhelming" amount of propaganda (through modern technology's advertising and marketing) and that propaganda is created to "encourage false needs and destructive desires" (265). Advertising by corporate America is designed to coax the individual into consuming more goods, which increases production. This "diverts" people away from the spiritual growth and maturity society needs in order to reach that deep ecology.

The "Basic Principles of Deep Ecology" include these eight concepts (266): a) all human and nonhuman life have an intrinsic and inherent value; b) the diversity and richness of life forms "are values in themselves"; c) aside from their "vital needs" humans have no right to exploit this richness of life forms; d) in order for nonhuman life to flourish, human life and culture must be on the decrease; e) there is a rapid "worsening" of the nonhuman world and humans are causing this worsening; f) new policies must be put forward to alter the "economic, technological, and ideological structure" of how humans live and act; g) instead of trying to achieve a higher standard of living, humans need to change ideologically and appreciate a "life quality"; and h) individuals who embrace the previous seven principles are obligated to implement the changes in society that are needed.

In this essay, Naess and Sessions go into greater detail on each of the principles, which are too involved to incorporate in this research; however, it is worth noting that the essay is from a chapter in a book published in 1985, and what they say about the worsening of the condition of the plant and its nonhuman species is way out of date. To wit, things are far worse than they were twenty-two years ago. For example, they quote from the 1984 United Nations' "State of the World Population" report, mentioning that high population growth rates in many developing countries has diminished the quality of life "for many millions of people" (267). Looking at the latest (2006-2007) United Nations reports (compiled by over 125 scientists from the international scientific community), those numbers pale in comparison.

SOCIAL ECOLOGY / MURRAY BOOKCHIN: The other side of the coin when it comes to deep ecology is the sometimes very cynical worldview of Murray Bookchin. This writer - albeit his leadership among Greens and his intelligent assessment of the need for direct action in the years past - condemns the ideas of deep ecology as "spiritual vagaries" and "sutras" (Bookchin 236). He calls the approach of Naess et al. "eco-babble." Social ecology to Bookchin follows along the lines of a Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity of Fox news; that is to say, rather than putting forward thoughtful solutions, Bookchin attacks what has been put forward by other thinkers. His essay reminds me of the recent presidential elections; the candidates spend much of their campaign money on ads attacking the competition rather than putting forward anything about them that would indicate visionary ideas.

Ironically, though he attacks deep ecology, the late Bookchin was himself known as a fiery advocate for ecological action, but he distances himself from the spiritual aspect of conservation and the idea of human oneness with all living species. Bookchin, a libertarian, calls deep ecology "first-world arrogance" and "yuppie nihilism" (236) - and he insists that social ecology embraces feminine radicalism and "anti-imperialist movements." In other words, direct action in the streets (the way radical "greens" take violent action at WTO conferences and wherever globalization forums are being set by corporations) is preferable to spiritual and intellectual underpinnings and approaches to solving ecological problems.

In the somewhat jaded view of Bookchin, the deep ecology people are merely delving in "superstition" and in a "cosmic arrangement of beings frozen in a moment of eternity to be abjectly revered..." (236). Bookchin's social ecology eschews the "crude concerns of deep ecology"; and instead of the "mystical" and "metaphorical" approach to preservation of the planet and its species, Bookchin embraces citizen initiatives and "neighborhood assemblies." It seems silly for those who don't approach environmental problems exactly the same way to be so brutally harsh on each other; while Bookchin obviously sees the need for change as much as the deep ecologists do, he prefers not only a course of more direct action, but a strategy of attack against those who don't share his worldview.

BARRY COMMONER, MICHAEL COOR, and PAUL J. STAMLER:

Population in itself Does Not Cause Increased Pollution" is an essay that initially posits a rational viewpoint about the problems that cause pollution; it isn't enough to simply blame overpopulation, according to the Commoner essay, but rather it is more sensible to look at the impact of technological changes. The environmental impact of technology - "per unit of production" (Commoner, 319) - is the key, in Commoner's view, to understanding pollution. Granted, this article was written in 1971, but the tone of the article suggests more than just a series of opinions and empirical data with reference to why pollution has increased so dramatically. It suggests that rational explanations are more valuable than fear-related estimates of doom and gloom for the planet. Even a "stable population" is going to cause pollution problems, the article asserts, simply because technology is having a more profound impact on the planet than ever before. And as a corollary to that view, which I write as at this very moment tens of thousands of commuters pull into gasoline stations across America to fill their SUVs, the tone and theme of Commoner's article is of more value than the substance of the article. I agree that a rational, careful, thoughtful approach should be taken before any "expert" or "scientist" puts forth an absolute theory on the causes of our problems.

CHING LAI CHENG: The arguments of Ching make a lot of sense to me because we have witnessed the "free market" in our capitalistic system create a condition where the rich get wealthier and more powerful while the poor are shoved aside, asked to accept a minimum wage that is well below subsistence level, and the quality of life deteriorates for everyone. On page 328 Ching quotes from John Arthur and William H. Shaw: The "market mechanism" does not and cannot provide "a decent urban environment, pollution-free air, public transportation" and parks, they write. That is because profit rules over quality of life. This is not to suggest that I am in favor of a kind of socialism that spreads the wealth evenly, but I do believe that an adjustment to the present capitalistic system in America would be welcome. But any suggestion of change is resisted strongly in the media and in political circles. An example of the resistance to those needed changes comes whenever a person begins to talk about a national health care system. Right away, those opposed to national healthcare call it "socialized medicine" and bring images of communism into the discussion. The movie "Sicko" has brought out the need for national healthcare of some kind. But the movie has also brought up same argument against "socialized medicine."

Meanwhile, Ching writes that "efficiency" (in capitalistic market production) cannot be rationalized without consideration of "distributive justice." In other words, bigger and better doesn't translate into fairness for all. And another way to approach that concept is that just because the free enterprise system can produce bigger, more comfortable and faster cars - and in the process make investors in the corporations that manufacture those cars wealthier - doesn't mean the benefits from ownership of those cars is a good thing. The greenhouse gases produced by those faster cars has a negative effective on all people living in that society, especially the very poor, as they…[continue]

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