philosophical ideas for environmental problem solving

CONSERVATION BEYOND CONSEQUENTIALISM

Thoughts by ALEX LEE, JORDAN KINCAID, AND ADAM AMIR

 

A current Center for Biological Diversity call-to-action declares: “Tell Trump: There is No Safe Drilling in the Arctic.” The call aims to stop a Hilcorp effort to construct an artificial island and drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean. If the “Liberty Project” moves forward, the Arctic environment could be forever altered. Dangers of a spill loom catastrophic; development would fragment the land. The payoff would also be huge: local economies would grow and domestic energy security would advance. To the extent that possible outcomes are predictable, they are likely to be both good and bad. But are possible outcomes the only guide for decision making?

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WHAT THE HELL IS ‘BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE’?

Thoughts by LEE BRANN

Seeming to embrace the immense value of science to environmental decision making, many of our prevailing conservation statutes, agencies, and policies explicitly demand that decisions concerning wildlife and endangered species be informed solely by the ‘best available science.’ The ‘best available science’ is, in theory, at the heart of crucial determinations like endangered species listing decisions, critical habitat designations, and biological assessments.

Surprisingly, however, this catchy and seemingly innocuous phrase is a wellspring of controversy and complications. No human being on Earth can definitively explain what ‘best available science’ means. In fact, we can’t even define any one of those three words in isolation.

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A WILDER PLANET?

Thoughts by CHRIS DUNN

Our world is quickly and perhaps irreversibly, at least in the foreseeable future, becoming significantly less wild, with or without successful climate negotiations in Paris. Allow me to attempt a brief definition of the term and briefly summarize my position.

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CLIMATE CHANGE, THE ESA, AND THE FATE OF SPECIES

Thoughts by LEE BRANN

Some Troubling Decisions on Endangered Species by US Department of Interior

Many species advocates are understandably dismayed by the October 4 Department of Interior decision to deny federal protection for twenty-five seemingly deserving species under consideration for listing as ‘Endangered.’ Many of these species – including the Pacific Walrus, Florida Keys mole skink, and Bicknell’s Thrush – are thought to be extremely vulnerable to climate change, but will be deprived of federal protection nonetheless.

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IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT WE CALL “CLIMATE CHANGE”

Thoughts by JORDAN KINCAID

Alex Lee recently wrote that “the term ‘climate change’ isn’t working anymore” because “most people don’t understand what the term climate means.” Generally, he argues, people confuse “climate” with “weather,” “climate” is too scientific of a term, and “climate change” doesn’t really reflect the “acute environmental crisis” people actually experience; we should stick with “global warming” because floods, hurricanes, higher temperatures, wildfires, and the like, are directly tied to heat. People will better connect with “global warming” because it’s easier to understand than the broader, more nuanced idea of “climate change.”

This is a fairly common hypothesis. Essentially, the argument is that people tend to not be science-literate enough to make the term “climate change” rhetorically effective; most people know too little about science or lack the capacity to assess scientific information necessary to get a firm grip on the real risks at hand. If we take it at face value, we essentially have two options: improve public science education, or play rhetorically to science illiteracy. It seems that Lee would have us do the latter.

In truth, however, this is a false choice based on a false hypothesis.

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DRILLING IN THE ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE: BAD CONSEQUENCES, BUT WORSE REASONS

Thoughts by ALEX LEE

Close to 20 million acres of northeast Alaska became the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in 1980. Before that, it was a federally protected area; calls for the preservation of this area go back to at least the 1950s.

ANWR is not a ‘range,’ as Congressman Don Young if fond of saying, but a ‘refuge,’ set aside as a sanctuary for nature. This area is also the calving grounds for the massive Porcupine Caribou heard and home to a vibrant ecosystem.

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SAVE THE WALRUS, BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF NATIVE PEOPLE

Thoughts by ALEX LEE 

As the icy arctic thaws, animals reliant on sea ice are at a greater risk of extinction – plain and simple. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is currently leading a charge to protect the Pacific Walrus from such a fate by listing them as ‘endangered.’ However, efforts to protect these animals often come with an unintended cost tacked onto the bill and paid for by native communities who depend on these animals as an essential component of culture, tradition, and food security.

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A Blog is Born!

Say tuned for short posts touching on philosophy in the world of environmental problems and problem solving. We will be uploading fun stories, interesting thoughts, and tidbits of philosophy soon!