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Ethics & the Environment, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 1996

ABSTRACTS

How Environmental Ethical Theory May Be Put Into Practice:
J. Baird Callicott

Environmentalists do not appear to walk their walk as consistently as animal liberationists and anti-abortionists. Are we therefore more hypocritical? Maybe; but there's another explanation. Unlike concern for individual animals or individual fetuses, environmental concerns are holistic (systemic)--air and water pollution, species extinction, diminished ecological health and integrity. One pro-life pregnant woman may preserve the life of one unborn baby, the one in her uterus; and one animal liberationist can save the life of one animal, the one he didn't eat. But one environmentalist who refuses to own and operate an automobile has no measurable effect on air pollution. Only collective, social change -- universal banning of automobiles, mandatory recycling, etc. -- will effectively redress environmental insults. Thus, the best way to put environmental ethics into practice is to work to instill environmental values in society as the foundation for coercive environmental policies, regulations, and laws. The mechanistic-materialistic worldview and its associated consumerist value system trickled down into the collective consciousness via its technological manifestation in a plethora of machines. The systemic worldview in which environmental values are embedded may be communicated to the general public less by means of discursive discourse than by a new generation of systemic-electronic technologies.
Persons in Nature: Toward an Applicable and Unifies Environmental Ethic
Frederick Ferré

There is a dilemma facing mainstream environmental ethicists. One of our leading spokesmen, Holmes Rolston, III, offers a rich ethical position, but one that lacks internal connections between principles relevant to the environment and principles relevant to human society. These principles are just different; thus no higher-order guidance is available to cope with cases of conflict between them. A second major spokesman, Baird Callicott, recommends a "land ethics" that is internally coherent but sadly inadequate for addressing many distinctly human ethical concerns. To escape this dilemma I advocate an alternative worldview, "Personalistic Organicism." On this view, inspired by Alfred North Whitehead, a continuum of values, pervading the universe, can undergird a unified ethics in which human persons are recognized as especially valuable without rupturing the continuities that bind humanity to the rest of the living (and nonliving) environment.
Ethical Issues in Environmental Decision Making and the Limitations of Cost/Benefit Analysis (CBA)
Simon Glynn

This paper argues that even the most extensively refined comparative cost/benefit analysis must be supplemented by other factors, irreducible to it, if we are to develop an adequate framework to guide policy decisions affecting technologicl design and innovation.
Sustainability and Moral Pluralism
Mary Midgley

Discussions of environmental ethics, and of applied ethics generally, easily produce a sense of unreality. But they are not a luxury. Faced with a new and monstrous predicament, we do need new thinking. Enlightenment morality, on which we still largely rely, has had enormous merits, but it strongly tends towards egoism and social atomism. This makes it hard for us to think, as we now must, about larger wholes.
Individualism, Holism, and Environmental Ethics
Kristin Shrader-Frechette

Neoclassical economists have been telling us for years that if we behave in egoistic, individualistic ways, the invisible hand to the market will guide us to efficient and sustainable futures. Many contemporary Greens also have been assuring us that if we behave in holistic ways, the invisible hand of ecology will guide us to health and sustainable futures. This essay argues that neither individualism nor holism will provide environmental sustainability. There is no invisible hand, either in economics or in ecology. Humans have no guaranteed tenure in the biosphere. Likewise there is no philosophical quick fix for environmental problems, either through the ethical individualism of Feinberg, Frankena, and Regan, or through the ecological holism of Callicott and Leopold. The correct path is more complex and tortuous than either of these ways. The essay argues that the best way to reach a sustainable environmental future probably is through a middle path best described as "hierarchical holism."

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