Author Archives: jdavis1214

Response to Prompt 2

Standard

By and large I feel that our failures to mitigate climate change reside in our government and in the ways that politics over the past 60 years have favored slow and limited steps towards action. While technology plays a crucial role in offering the means of powering our society in a sustainable and healthy way, so much of its progress is often dependent on the whims and decisions of the government. In the example of the light-water nuclear reactor, failure to improve upon the design and switch to a liquid fuel reactor, a technology which would have generated waste 10,000 times less toxic than plutonium, was due to the Nixon administration who wanted instead the plutonium for nuclear weapons during the cold war.
In the light of technology produced through academia, politics often can play a large role as well. Often, new and progressive technologies arise from the minds and laboratories of institutions and universities, which are at least partly funded by government programs and grants. When the political tides turn to defund such national programs to “reduce government spending” or reallocate the money to defense budgets and subsidies, the government indirectly stifles the progress of technologies that could lead to the next great revolution in sustainability.

Point being, our climate issues have not only arisen out of our government decisions, but in a large way the technology we frequently hold up to be our environmental save all is largely directed by our political climate. Overall, it appears to me that the failure of our mitigation action resides in our political system and the ways in which it often upholds priority to a thriving economy. With an option of delay that favors short term gains that can be used to win the next term’s election, the necessary decisions that must be made to address our climate dilemma are too often cast aside as fanciful and hopeful rhetoric. That ‘one-day’ technology too often is our scapegoat. The fact that our government has acted very little to make simple and much needed efficiency changes, which are now in existence and could reduce our energy consumption by 50%, is enough of a red flag to indicate that the government is failing to take even the most moderate of actions. 

Week 10, Prompt 1 Homo Economicus

Standard

With a population that has skyrocketed over the past 50 years and resources to sustain humanities basic needs becoming farer and fewer between, there is a pressing need to reexamine and restructure our predominant social and economic ways. There is without a doubt a need to reduce consumption within the first world and refocus our efforts into sustainable production practices, but what about the developing world that is still on its way to acquiring basic needs and comforts?

As discussed in The Ends and the Means of Development, a strong case is made for the establishment and provision of basic needs such as healthcare and education before focusing on economic growth in developing nations. This, I feel, offers an ideal alternative to the presumed need for growing market economies, GDP, and increased consumption to achieve a healthy and stable country which provides its citizens with a comfortable standard of living. The US in its period of great growth and expansion adopted a mindset and practice of mass consumption promoted by the government and popular media. Recognizing the shortcomings and delirious effects of this approach, nations on their way to ‘prosperity’ have the potential to attain a healthy lifestyle in new, sustainable ways.

In addition to first providing for basic needs, green consumption alongside with collaborative consumption, as elaborated by Rosling and Botsman, also offer a way in which the population can attain and enjoy material goods without further environmental degradation and extensive resource depletion.

Place vs. Space

Standard

The notion of ‘place’ found in many pacific island cultures is one that I find fascinating, perhaps because it stands so starkly contrasted with the western notion of ‘space.’

In my brief time spent in New Zealand a summer ago on a study abroad, I recall sitting in awe in an ornate Marae, a meeting house of sorts of the Maori, where I looked upon beautiful carvings and depictions of their culture and history. It was explained to us how the Maori derived a sense of pride in where their tribes were from – a negligence of their environment reflected poorly on them as a people. Such as Hawaiians, the Maori structured themselves in ever larger and encompassing territories; from the family they belonged to up to Aotearoa, the native word for the island as a whole (translating to ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’).

Of course, the notion of ‘place’ is found widely throughout the Polynesian-descendent cultures. I feel that this unique quality of theirs not only forced them to learn how best to live off the land (else they end up like Easter Island) but also because they were notoriously skilled navigators of the sea- without any barring of your locale, you were lost to the unforgiving ocean.

While the western civilizations of course required some regard of the land to provide for their societies, the apparent and predominant force of this region of the world was that of ‘space’- a view that land was a thing to be discovered explored and exploited for gain. There simply was little, if any, sacred significance to the land beyond what reasoning Christianity offered for it. 

In today’s age of globalization where people move around easily and rarely invest their entire life into one place, a place-based system such as found in the Pacific Islands is far from possible. Rather, cultivation of a place-sensitive environmental ethic seems to be the next best thing to aim for. For more permeating and deep-rooted changes in the structuring of our worldview, a widespread education of environmental ethic would be needed to instill the values and beliefs of living within our natural bounds. Regardless of or governmental or religious restraints though, people can choose to turn their attentions to their local land, whether they have been there for decades of days, and learn to appreciate their sense of place. Opting to buy foods locally, if not grow them, I feel is a small way to become more attune to what the region can provide and supply along with commuting by simple means such as walking and biking, fully experiencing your surroundings versus speeding around in a car, insulated from the inside with AC and the radio. 

Week 2, Prompt 1: Norton’s Intrinsic Value

Standard

Upon reflection of Norton’s argument for weak anthropocentrism I ultimately believe that, though it is an inherently instrumental worldview, it offers an opportunity to incorporate a respect for nature into the decision-making processes that govern our daily activities and society at large. This of course is contingent upon whether or not there is a concerted effort to incorporate the moral ideals and scientific need of nature into the worldview that shapes the considered preferences on which weak anthropocentrism is founded. By acknowledging a worldview that incorporates and prioritizes nature, weak anthropocentrism, I feel, could offer a way to exist within the confines of nature that would work more towards fostering a relationship between the natural world versus catalyzing a rift between it.

Though weak anthropocentrism, in my opinion, offers a chance to ameliorate our rift with nature to some extent, I do feel that instrumental worldviews at large tend to contribute to our societal separation from nature. Such as with most strongly anthropocentric worldviews, human desires take precedence before any regard to nature. With this ideology and the behaviors it subsequently fosters, people tend to prioritize consumption with little thought as to how it affects the natural world and resources at large. Through more consumptive and more comfortable, lavish lifestyles people develop a disconnect from where their material goods originate and where they go after use: they appear on a shelf and then are whisked away by a dump truck with little to no second thought as to how it all ties into a larger picture.

Regardless of how considered and well thought out an instrumental view is, I feel that intrinsic value ultimately plays a key role for the preservation of nature by humans. In terms of policy action to protect and preserve natural areas and resources, relying strictly upon instrumental reasons and motives often requires a long process of compiling scientific evidence, which even then is subject to scrutiny and the whims of personal beliefs and preferences of how important or convincing the evidence. Furthermore, neglecting intrinsic value in the reasoning for preservation of nature undermines a large aspect of why preservation itself is so important. Though often founded on very subjective reasoning, nature in all its mysterious complexity and ever-adapting and changing state deserves its own place in the argument. Such as we value ourselves, we must too value where we derived.

In the debate of technology, I think that it both pushes society away from and simultaneously brings it more in touch with nature. As people increasingly rely on technology, whether it be through social media, dependence on its functions (electricity, transportation, food, packaging and manufacturing, medical), it seems to become easier to isolate one’s self from the surrounding nature and appreciation for where and how goods are sourced. On the other hand, technology plays a crucial role in sustainability adapting to our current population demands and many such technologies are powered and sourced from nature. To address our energy needs we turn to wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal and water, and to effectively and responsibility use them, we require a more in-depth understanding of each. In many products and goods, responsibly sourcing and manufacturing them requires too that we appreciate the natural limitations of where we derive them and how they are cycled back into the Earth.