Author Archives: ryanphelps1

Last Blog: Acknowledgement and Remorse


Widespread acknowledgement of the way that human actions have influenced the natural environment is necessary in order for the way that we treat the environment to change, in my opinion. The acknowledgement of our actions will generate a sense of remorse among a majority of our population; however, there will still be individuals that choose to view the earth as a source for human consumption and exploitation. We live in a culture that has fewer small-scale, localized organizations and corporations than large-scale ones, which monopolize and control a majority of the resources and factors that contribute to our way of life. A majority of the individuals associated with these types of large-scale behaviors are often more concerned with making an economic profit than protecting the health of the environment, thereby, inhibiting the acceleration of the environmental movement. If these types of organizations were broken down into small-scale ones that were more localized and affluent within their communities, I believe the movement would gain more momentum.

The dismantling of the large-scale sector will allow for the movement to gain momentum through an increase in supporters whom now understand the true consequences of their actions on the environment due to an increase in public knowledge and discussion. In order to protect our species from extinction, it is important to increase the sustainability of our actions. In reality, our ways of life will never resort to anything that is less than what they currently are. However, through small changes in our everyday life, as a group, we can make a large change. For example; if everyone walked, biked, or road the bus to work once a week, the amount of carbon emissions prevented from entering the atmosphere would be enormous as a whole. The sharing and exchange of resources causes the amount of waste to decrease, as well as the pollution that is produced through the manufacturing of new resources. Local gardens in agriculturally productive regions are easily maintained with a little basic knowledge and experience, especially, if it is shared amongst a few families that all contribute to it. This not only decreases the amount of food purchased through an outside source, but also increases the nutrient levels of the soil. Overall, one of the most important factors that will contribute to the survival of our species is the uniting of localized individuals into groups that will protect and assist one another. These small-scale localized population groups, however, must also communicate on a large scale with other global nations in order to save the planet. Along with future generations learning from our mistakes and continuing to search for more sustainable ways of life.


Week 11, Prompt 1: Homo Economicus


Since the beginning of this course we have been discussing the effect that man has on the environment as he or she attempts to reach new heights technologically, socially, and economically. Our progress as the human race is immeasurable through creativity and technology, however, at some point it is bounded by the natural limits of the environment. Thomas Malthus in “An Essay on the Principle of Population” first proposed that the geometric growth of the population would always be greater than the arithmetic growth of the earth’s natural resources. Henry Thoreau in “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” presented a solution to this idea by proposing that progress is unnecessary and inhibits our ability to live minimally because of a desire for efficiency and economic gain. While these pieces of literature have been in circulation for hundreds of years, a majority of individuals of the human species never adopted their ideas and principles. Rather, they chose to over consume and fall into the modern trap of consumerism.

At some point individuals living in developed nations, especially the United States, have to draw a line and say, “enough is enough.” A combination of collaborative consumption practices and a value system where goods and well-being are separate are necessary in order for this new mindset to be effective. Collaborative consumption is a type of economic arrangement in which consumers share access to products and services rather than owning them outright. This allows for consumers to still gain a sense of enjoyment or usefulness from a product or service without having paid for it in full. This also leads to a decrease in overconsumption and is, to an extent, a type of recycling. It is also important for a value system where goods and well-being are separate to be implemented. Consumers must acknowledge the fact that our sole purpose in life is not to merely earn a salary and purchase goods and services that advertisers place in front of us. Our well-being should be placed on the resources that are vital to our health, the experiences that we can share with one another, and the interactions that we can have with nature. In order to reach a sense of sustainability, overconsumption must be reduced to an acceptable level that is in accordance with the resources that are available to us.

I believe that developing nations should use the past mistakes of developed nations in order to create an efficient and effective strategy for growth and sustainability, which requires developed nations to have an interest other than their own.  Developing nations should strive to create systems that work with the environment, not against it. This is not for the reason that the developed countries have a right to more of the natural resources than they do, but rather to increase the sustainability of the nations future success. It is difficult to sustainably stabilize a population and decrease consumption, however, it is not impossible. The need to do so just has to be present.

Week 7, Prompt 2: Permaculture Joe


I truly enjoyed listening to Joe speak because he wasn’t simply a professor passing on his interpretation of what permaculture was to us. Instead, he was an individual certified in permaculture who had an immense amount of passion and respect for this ecological design system that he chose to live his life by it. We generally look at different theories and ideas through the ethical standpoints that they present to us, however, Joe delivered an insightful overview of what permaculture was from an ethical standpoint as well as a personal one. 

I personally feel like the environmental ethic that best describes Joe would be the idea that every thing is interconnected with everything else in the environment, as well as within our own lives. Joe claimed the main three principles of permaculture are earth care, people care, and fair share. This represents the correlation between plants, animals, and humans; as well as how balance among them all is necessary. Another important point that Joe brought up was how we should work with nature, rather than going against it. Joe lives by observing nature and replicating it, while also cooperating with those beings (human or non human) around him rather than competing against them.

I was born and raised as a hunter and fisher, while my family also had a large garden that we planted seasonally with a variety of different vegetables and fruits. I understand and appreciate the lifestyle that Joe lives for the reason that it reflects a part of mine to an extent. Living off the land, within your means, in a community brings about a sense of pride and places you at an equal level to the land because of the appreciation you have for it. Joe mostly reminded me of Ed McGaa in his essay We Are All Related for the reason that he places himself within the natural system, while still valuing it for its resources without diminishing them.

Joe did confuse some of the technical definitions that we correlate with environmental ethics such as intrinsic and instrumental value; however, he never claimed to be an ethics professor. He is living a life based on sustainability and appreciation for the things around him, so who are we to criticize him? If more individuals appreciated nature and relied on themselves rather than the grocery store down the road our planet would be a much cleaner place.  

Week 5, Prompt 2: Native Traditions


Ed McGaa claims that it’s important for Western society to revisit the principles and beliefs of Native Americans in order to maintain a balanced relationship with the environment. He stresses the importance of having respect for the Great Spirit, Mother Earth, and the rest of its inhabitants while also maintaining a sense of freedom among individuals in the community.  The most important point that he makes in my opinion is how everything around us functions in the form of a circle, specifically when he referenced how one day our present actions will forever affect the living circumstances of our future generations. Although we may or may not ever have to answer for our actions, it’s an important point to introduce because not only would we be placing ourselves above the environment but also above our own progeny.

In my opinion, our environmental ethics are directly related to how our society views nature. Individuals that view nature as a resource for the production of energy and other products will often exploit it, while those who view it as a spiritual extension of themselves will protect it. I believe that our current society is a mixture of both; consisting of individuals at both ends of the spectrum while lacking in individuals that balance the two ideas. I do think that it’s possible for our society to adopt some of the beliefs of the Native American people into our everyday lives and culture. For example, if everyone acknowledged how sacred the environment was they may be more inclined to share their resources with one another rather than over consuming resources and allowing them to perish. Through the incorporation of Western and Native American views, the amount of pollution created could potentially decrease through conservation. However, it is not likely for warfare to decrease for the reason that the United States will always protect its homeland from radical threats no matter what the cost is to the environment. Although, it could potentially make the decision to enter into war more difficult.

Response to Prompt 3: Romanticism


     Environmental romanticism and anthropocentrism will both have to be compromised in order for our planet to be sustainable for future generations to come. Romanticism is based upon the value found within the natural beauty and simplicity of nature in its purest form. While anthropocentrism is based on the distribution of intrinsic value, the value that an object holds in its own right, amongst human and nonhuman beings. Strong anthropocentrism claims that only human beings possess intrinsic value. While weak anthropocentrism claims that both human and nonhuman beings possess intrinsic value, however, the magnitude of human interests almost always outweighs those of nonhumans. Rather than specifically focusing on the extreme ends of the environmental spectrum, it’s important to begin evaluating and maintaining biological diversity by focusing on non-anthropocentrism ideas.

     Biological diversity is simply defined as the “variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur.” It can include factors such as the abundance and spatial distribution of species, genotypes, functional traits, and landscape units. Biological diversity is valued within an ecosystem not only for its intrinsic properties, but also for its ability to affect the overall well-being of the human race both now and in the future. Biological diversity is important for the reason that it incorporates the relationship between civilizations and ecosystems through the production of ecosystem services. These ecosystem services include plant and animal biomass production, climate regulation, pollination, protection against natural hazards, as well as several other factors related to social-ecological sustainability and management. Together all of these ecosystem services are essential to the functioning of our planet and are equally valued when compared to one another.

     Therefore, by focusing on biological diversity, individuals are able to depart from previously acknowledged environmental beliefs and embrace innovative ones such as those of non-anthropocentrism. By doing so the health and safety of our ecosystem, its resources, and its processes will be sustained; and the stabilization of our human and nonhuman beings will follow.