Author Archives: matthewrharbour

Final week: Prompt 2 Climate Change

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I would largely agree that the climate issue is a political issue, as well as an economic issue. Not only does our current political system fail to take the issue seriously but the political system is deeply involved with the economic sector of society. As a result we have two large and powerful systems that would rather ignore environmental issues than fix them. The government is supposed to look after the best interests of the people and the government has persuaded us that the economic success of large companies is whats best for us. Increasing investment in new technologies and science can greatly reduce our impact and education may help change the social mindset but unless there is a fundamental change in the way the environment is perceived then it will always be subject to the power our government has given the economy. This is part of the reason that global initiatives fail. Instead of taking responsibility we are willing to continue harmful practices so other countries do not get an advantage. I think part of the solution is to make new technologies and environmentalism economically beneficial. Personally I believe its too difficult to suddenly uproot our current love affair with our established systems so the best route would be to show how the environment and sustainable practices can improve the economy when used responsibly and can hurt the economy when used incorrectly. And there does seem to be some promise that new persuasive techniques like this are in the works, using the economy to explain why change is needed. Hopefully as education increases on the issue we can change our political system works, possibly decentralize it or simply reorganize the power and decision making structures. As for the dichotomy between government and technology I would argue that no such separation exists, the government dose not fail to take into account technology it just rather promote old rather than new technologies because those in political power are the same people in charge of the old systems. In regards to if this needs to change the answer is most definitely.

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Week 7 Homo Economicus Response

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Society is deeply intwined in the consumer mentality. We are literally raised with the ideas that we get stronger by expanding, growing, and using more things. Wealth can often be predicted by the amount of material things one possesses. Its to no surprise when trying to put blame on the environmental situation we are in today that capitalistic markets and consumer mentalities get a bad rap. And while this system does deserve a portion of the blame i do not believe consumerism and consumption in general are the enemy. The issue is more specific than that, particularly blind consumerism and the consumption of non-sustainable goods. Capitalism drives us to become bigger and more stronger but its not the drive itself that is to blame as much as the perception of what it means to get there. Instead of thinking that being environmentally friendly is anti-capitalistic there needs to be a change in the way we, as an economic market, think. We need to think in a way in which the environment not only becomes a part of the system but an asset that is economically important to protect.  Ideas like collaborative consumption can help to mediate these issues but they don’t truly solve the problem. Borrowing goods and sharing can help us to consume less but consumption is still happening and still in a destructive way, just to a lesser extent.  Poor nations don’t need to consume less they just need to consume smarter, just like developed countries should. We wont get rid of the problem with consumption until we get rid of the concept of waste. Once we do growth will be limited only by creativity.

Round 7 prompt 1 Buddhism in Japan

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This is an interesting topic to think about since it contrasts something very old and well practiced, religion, and something new and ever-changing, technology. Personally I believe that the major thing is religion has become accommodating towards current societal changes. In the past religion had power similar to that of modern day governments, while today I would compare the largest religions to large corporations. Thats not to say that I think thats a bad thing but it leads to the idea that, like a company, religion has to persuade you to stay. The fact of the matter is that globalization has lead to the spread and diversification of religion, almost anyone can find a religion that matches their own personal beliefs. To accommodate society religions may go against older practices or teachings in order to stay relevant, or they may simply be transformed by the people that use it.

Westernization could of been a major driving force in changing how religion was practiced. Could we change the effect the economy has? -Well yeah i believe its possible but you would have to start from the bottom up starting at the way a person thinks and the foundations of their worldview. In todays society such a task would be hard to accomplish but over time and changes in education we could see a resurgence in older religious beliefs and a change in environmental mentality.

As of how land ethic may change in other religions I cant think of a specific example but the economy has a very blatant effect on religion. For instance the commercialization of religion such as  mega-churches or the promise of salvation through monetary means. Even though selling salvation isn’t necessarily new it does show how outside forces such as the economy can change the way the religion operates. The same is true of Buddhism and the environment.

Week 5 prompt 2 nuclear waste disposal

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Nuclear energy is a problem not a solution. Yes it provides energy that is greatly needed but i don’t think it can be taken a a respectable alternative to our energy needs when you take into account the long lasting environmental effects. Even small amounts of radiation can cause large scale health effects to the human body, an effect that is mirrored in the environment.

Our current policy is to hide our nuclear waste under the rug and pretend like nothing happened, in this case the rug just happens to be a mountain. The result is an increasingly unsafe environmental policy based on shortsighted immediate goals. Cost Benefit Analysis fails in that it does not fully define the scope of the issue. Under immediate circumstances nuclear power is effective and reliable at providing energy. What it fails to take into account is the externalization of costs that nuclear waste often brings along. Not only is it an issue of national security, with the possibility of nuclear technology being used in weaponry, but also an issue of public and environmental health. Take for example the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. Both cases show how much danger can be caused by these plants, as radiation from these accidents will plague the earth for many years. Just today the Fukushima plant operator reported a new leak more that 2 years after the initial disaster. In my opinion its unethical both in terms of the environment in in terms of humanity to continue to use such an energy source when the danger is so high.

Its irresponsible to continue producing nuclear waste when we haven’t even found a proper way of disposing of it or safeguarding the process that makes the energy. There is no ethical way to decide where it goes because it isn’t even an ethical practice to begin with. As for disposing of the waste we already have, i think the best idea would be to seal it away like we have and hope for the best.

Week 2 Response to prompt 1 Norton’s Intrinsic Value

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On the topic of human relations with nature it is tough to map out the exact causes of the transition from respect and synergy to one of dominance. The advent of agriculture the European enlightenment and industrial revolution no doubt played a significant role in highlighting the effects of our dominance but I would argue that human separation from nature started earlier, ever since man formalized and extended the concept of possession. This concept led to the belief that items, and in particular land, could belong to an individual or groups of people. It’s at this point that I would suspect such a separation to occur and the groundwork for an anthropocentric ideological system to take root.

I believe anthropocentrism plays a very important role in how we understand nature and that the concept, although sometimes portrayed as a result of human ego, is needed in order to orient ourselves in relation to the world. Our understanding of math, science, and furthermore nature is classified and described in relation to human notions and goals. Without such a perspective we would lack our current understanding of anything. That is not to say that unregulated societies based on anthropocentric concepts are impervious to fault. The Tragedy of the Commons proves that human nature and the exploitation of the environment can lead to, quite literally, a tragic situation. By taking a weak anthropocentric view you are agreeing to the notion that although there may be other perspectives that could and probably should be taken into account, that it is only the human perspective that we can fully understand and therefore the one that we should focus on. This is a notion that I don’t feel is particularly dangerous as long as there is an understanding that nature is still needed and still holds value. Looking at the world through human eyes may lead us to achieve human oriented goals but those goals don’t have to be exclusive to the separation of humans from nature or the destruction of nature.

The notion of intrinsic value is a tough subject because its one that almost impossible to measure. Nonetheless I do believe some level of intrinsic value is important in preserving nature. The preservation of nature, in all reality, can be ignored in intrinsic terms and continue under basic materialistic goals. This kind of view is risky though because it disregards nature when it stops being the optimal materialistic option. Personally this is dangerous, we need nature as a safeguard, and by giving intrinsic value to nature we help to secure this safeguard. In the future I don’t think technology will be used to further the separation from nature but to blur the lines. For instance biomimicry is a growing field and uses nature as a foundation for technological advancement. Technology could be used to replace natural processes but we can always learn from nature and we will continue to respect this. For instance we can create simple enzymes in labs but these enzymes are slow in comparison to those already present in nature. We are only beginning to understand how these complex enzymes work. Nature has too much to offer the technological world for technology to get rid of it.