I think capitalism will eventually have to be phased out if we are going to truly have an ecological society. In the beginning, capitalism will be necessary to give the social ecology movement the momentum it needs. It would take much longer to achieve the realization of an ecological society without it. However, if consumption is the problem, we cannot consume our way out of it. Green products are a great step in the right direction but the collaborative consumerism discussed previously in class should be the ultimate goal.
I do believe humans can eventually sever our tangible connection to nature. We can distance ourselves from the outside world, from interacting with the physical parts of nature, as we continue to depend more and more upon technology to help us with the most basic tasks. I thoroughly appreciate my smartphone and my laptop, but it has become clear to me just how crippling these devices can be. The time my computer crashed provides a great example. Seeing my screen go black and being unable to turn it back on initially incited a feeling of panic. After placing it in the hands of a specialist, I had the most relaxing three days of my semester. Being unable to use my computer allowed to me engage in other things I enjoyed, even while I was acutely aware of how heavily I depended on technology. I realized that it is incredibly useful, but it can also incapacitate me from completing the most basic tasks on my own. Using other resources, like the library, to find information instead of just googling the topic is a simple example. Our escalating dependence on technology decreases our desire to engage with the outside world and in that we lose our tangible connection to nature.
I do think we will always have an intangible connection, however. I don’t know how far the connection extends, but I do believe we are connected to nature in some way. Harming the earth inevitably harms us, but beyond an anthropocentric view, we were meant to be in communion with nature. I hold this belief as part of my Christian faith. According to the Biblical point of view, God created the Garden of Eden in the beginning with man and woman living in peace with all nature and animals. That was how it was created to be. We have cast that opportunity aside but it still stands as the ideal.
As has been stated over and over again in class, education is one of the necessary tools to changing the current social norms, especially the ones that tell us we need the newest, biggest, current best thing on the market to be happy. We learned in class that society was taught after the war ended to view consumption as necessary for the growth and well-being of society. We can do the exact same thing and teach people that consumption is not the way to happiness but to destruction, of our planet, our neighbor and ultimately ourselves, and emphasizing the reduction of consumption to the benefit of society. I am not certain we could maintain our current standards of living simply because they are driven by the self-serving greed we have embraced as a society. I do believe we could have a great quality of life while decreasing consumption if we have the right attitude. There is enough resources to meet the needs of everyone and if we can learn to be satisfied with having our needs met, even if we don’t have all of our desires, our quality of life will be sustained. It will look differently than the current measure of quality of life but will still be valid.
Collaborative consumption sounds like a great idea. It is a way to continue to consume without depleting the finite resources. I don’t know that we were wired to share but I do believe we can be taught to embrace the concept. I don’t think we need a separate value system for goods and quality of life but a separation of goods from quality of life to know that the two are not mutually exclusive. So depending on what is meant by separate value system, I might agree.
Developing nations are very much invested in following Western culture. Because we are bigger, how we live and what we place value on is viewed all over the world and becomes the standard that other countries try to meet. I personally do not think that is a good idea, but that’s beside the point. If Western culture can reduce consumption while still maintaining quality of life, developing nations will follow suit. As the prompt points out, the level of consumption in developing nations is much lower than that of Western cultures so it will be easier in practice for them to reduce their consumption. The shift in mindset will still be difficult to execute but the key will be implementing it in developed nations first.
In my opinion, raising the social status of women leads to lower birth rates because it gives women options for their life. In general the areas with the highest birth rates are also the poorest and where education for women is suppressed. Due to the lack of other opportunities, women are essentially boxed into the role of a wife, mother, caregiver, and homemaker. They have no opportunity to become educated and secure a job to provide for themselves, so often the only option is to follow the path laid out for them by a patriarchal society. A society that dictates that their main or only role is to produce children and keep house. Education opens doors for women, allowing them to have a future of their own choosing. Education provides opportunities for them to do what they want, even if it’s not creating children or even if it is creating children.
Policies like China are almost automatically rejected by most people. I oppose China’s policy because it is a direct infringement on my basic human rights to have such a personal decision mandated by the government or anyone except me. The positive side of that kind of regulation is the acknowledgement that the human race has an overpopulation problem and it attempts to do something to solve it. However, it is not a viable solution for a couple of reasons. The most important one is that it completely infringes on women’s rights. It is no one’s place to tell a woman what to do with her body or to tell anyone what to do with their body. The argument could be made that because the issue of reproduction involves the well being of society, the government has the right to step in. However, there are certain freedoms and decisions that cannot be made for someone else. It is better to provide the tools and incentives for a person to make a certain choice. An additionl reason is that our society is constantly relaying the message that we are only complete if we are in a relationship and in turn, a relationship is only meaningful if you have a child. Movies, television, and music all harp on the notion of being a part of a relationship to complete you as a person. In turn, if you are in a relationship, particularly if you are married, and not having children, people think something is wrong. Even having only a single child invites criticism. It is silly to think the government, even if it wasn’t infringing on personal privacy, would be able to successfully combat the pressures of society.
In my opinion, lower birth rates are caused by increased equality between the sexes. A higher standard of living can encourage some people to have as many kids as they can, whether for religious or other reasons, if they know that they live in a country that will provide the resources to care for them. The Duggars are an example.
I was highly surprised by Joe’s view of environmental ethics. I made the assumption that because he was a practicer of permaculture and believed in holistic, slower living in communion and conjunction with the land, his view of intrinsic value would be different. I understood his response to Seaton’s question about intrinsic value to be that value is derived from the utility of the object and the more utility an object possesses, the more value it has. This seems to be a purely instrumental point of view. Permaculture itself seems to be an instrumental value based functional system, another surprising reality.
I think the most important thing I learned from Joe’s talk was to avoid characterizing environmental outlooks and viewpoints as automatically based on intrinsic value. Throughout the readings and class discussion, it has become clear that making assumptions often leads to oversimplification of a belief system and makes it difficult to actually understand the tenets of that system. Additionally, regardless of the value base of a belief system, it can still be environmentally friendly, sustainable, and good for the earth and the organisms that it sustains. Joe is living his life in a manner that encompasses all of those things.
I have a hard time believing that permaculture holds the solution to any and all of the world’s problems, however. The majority of environmental issues stem from economic, racial, and cultural issues. Can permaculture solve or help solve those issues? The practice of living life based on the flow of ecological design systems sounds great and is definitely possible to do but I do not see how it can provide solutions to the global issues that environmental degradation stem from.
I definitely agree with the similarity between Joe and Aldo Leopold. Permaculture advocates holistic involvement with nature that mimics its natural systems. Even if based in instrumental value, permaculture is concerned with care for the land, care for people, and creation and share of the earth. Leopold’s land ethic of care for the earth, both because it has value and because we need it, are echoed in the three ethics of permaculture.
In my opinion, progress is so slow it might as well be nonexistent. Yet, when it comes to saving and conserving our environment and natural resources, the things we need to survive, any progress is a good thing.
I agree with both sides of this argument. President Obama is correct in pointing out that there have been strides made in the current political system towards environmental protection and policy. There is more research being conducted on the effects of issues like fracking, fossil fuel combustion, greenhouse gases, and natural gas production on the environment. This research facilitates education, which is crucial in making informed decisions, especially in matters of national policy. There is more willingness to admit that climate change is a real problem and more agreement in the scientific and political realms about the need to find a solution. Just these steps alone are crucial to implementing proper environmental policy. Like the saying goes, “admittance is the first step to getting help.”
However, the pace with which this education is occurring is simply too slow. Based on the increased amount and intensity of natural disasters and the change in average regional temperatures around the world in the last decade, just two examples of climate change effects, the acknowledgement of environmental issues should be happening faster and steps to prevent environmental damage should be taken faster. This is the only planet we have and we cannot afford to dilly-dally in saving it.
I do not think a reform of the current system would work as a solution. While society has only adopted the ‘man dominates nature’ perspective fairly recently, it takes twice as long to reverse a pattern once it is learned than it does to learn it in the first place. I do not think we, as a society, have that kind of time unless we are willing to adapt as the earth deteriorates. A radical reform, while unlikely and somewhat frightening to contemplate, would be the fastest way to bring about the changes that could prevent ecological and environmental collapse.