I felt that Joe’s interpretation of intrinsic value was a bit off since he described the value of a flower having intrinsic value because he finds it beautiful. In actuality, in the realm of environmental ethics and how we ascribe value, this kind of description would imply an instrumental value. Intrinsic value describes something that has value in itself– something that would have value regardless if there were an individual there to value it; something that has value just by existing. Regardless, it reminded me of how I felt when trying to engage in a philosophical or ethical conversations with one of my many philosophizing peers before I had taken political philosophy or this course. Without knowing the language and vocabulary and having a mutual understanding of basic definitions of key ethical/philosophical terms, it’s very difficult to have a meaningful conversation– otherwise you might end up arguing about facts (definitions). It made me appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to learn more about this field that is otherwise really difficult to engage in.
Anyway, I felt that the goals of permaculture were very commendable in taking into account mimicry of natural processes and caring for the land in a way that was sustainable and not exploitative necessarily. However, I was kind of skeptical at his emphasis on the instrumental aspect of permaculture without much mention of how to incorporate or meet the needs of the surrounding biota. He pressed upon the importance of soil and its benefits to carbon sequestration but I wish he could have spoke more on the benefits of permaculture on local organisms and how to reduce the impact of the disturbance that comes along with altering a landscape. I think as humans we have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back for learning things from nature and incorporating its processes and forget that we have a responsibility to use that knowledge in non-exploitive ways that account for our anthropogenic impacts.
This lecture reminded me a little bit of the reading about Lynn White and her narrative of the European plow. I thought this example really embodied literally and symbolically the evolving relationship between human and technology. The shift from subsistence farming to farming to acquire the resources to have more oxen, to have a bigger plow altered attitudes towards farming and nature as a whole. Permaculture seems to be an evolution and a move towards creating an agricultural landscape that isn’t always changing, where fruit aren’t ripped from the ground every few months to make space for new ones, and soil and biota can thrive with minimal disturbance to the land. This contrasts greatly with the values and goals of the story that White depicts though the same attitudes are still quite prevalent in most large-scale agriculture-based societies.