Author Archives: skillenlauren

Last Round, Prompt 2: Climate Change

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I agree with Ausubel that failures to mitigate climate change are largely due to crises of government. So far, the U.S. has not been setting the best example as a leading world power buy not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Even though we have the science and technology available to make renewable energy affordable, the politics involved are preventing it from being accessible and implementable on a large scale. Renewable energy options, such as wind turbines and solar panels are only concentrated in certain areas and regions because we do not view them as economically feasible even though they are more sustainable in the long-term. We are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels that we see as cheaper, even though the price does not accurately reflect the cost to society.

Ausubel says, “Cleaning up politics will clean up the environment.” This quote reminded me of the “Homo Ecologicus” reading from earlier in the semester, which criticized existing liberal democratic institutions in failing to handle environmental problems due factors such as short election timespans, opposing special interests, and partisanship. However, Ausubel gave the example of California as an “energy success story,” which can be used as a source for optimism when talking about the failures of governing institutions: 

As the world’s eighth largest economy, the Golden State instituted a    succession of policy innovations such that it now emits about half as much carbon per dollar of economic activity as the rest of the country. It’s first among the states in promoting energy efficiency. The result has been savings of $ 56 billion for customers, while obviating the need for twenty-four new   large-scale power plants. The gains are so impressive that its rules have been adopted by other states and into federal standards.

Therefore, I think it is possible for resolutions for climate change to fit into a dichotomy between government and technology. Maybe California is proof that ecological modernization is achievable and hopefully it can help change the rest of the country’s mindset and then convince the rest of the world that economic growth without environmental degradation can occur. 

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Homo Economicus

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            I think the first order of business for moving the Global South towards sustainability is to reduce population growth. The key to this is increased education and access to birth control. In the Global North, especially the U.S., certain sustainable practices are starting to catch on such as the use of hybrid cars and the practice of organic farming. In my opinion, these are two sustainable initiatives that have not compromised our standard of living and aim to consume less fossil fuels and reduce waste and pollution. However, we still have a lot more progress to make in moving away from the consumer culture we love to hate and hate to love, which emphasizes any and all things “new.” 

            In my opinion, the solution to moving away from our consumer culture is through ecological modernization, which argues for economic growth without environmental degradation.  After all, the human-constructed economy will only be sustained as long as the environment remains habitual for humans. I do think increased “green” consumption or collaborative consumption can help move us in the right direction towards consuming less. But, to make a difference, incentives such as tax breaks need to be provided to encourage people to act cooperatively and increase social welfare. If those forms of collective action succeed, perhaps people will go a step further and start voting with their dollars in preferring to invest in and support more sustainable products. Maybe then, the giant corporations whose sole purposes are to get people to buy new clothes every season, new cars every year, and a new phone every 6 months will finally start to lose their political clout and power over consumers. 

Response to Prompt 2: Permaculture Joe

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I am probably not the only one who did not know what permaculture was before Joe came to speak to our class. Nonetheless, it did not take much explaining on his part to peak my interest since he said that permaculture was a method of sustainable agriculture that is modeled from natural ecosystems and focuses on being self-maintained. Even better, his view of environmental ethics not only emphasized caring for the earth, but also for people in the community, which is a huge plus in my opinion. Joe stressed that permaculture is all about operating on a small scale that strives to build community and relationships, and that was the aspect that struck me the most because it is pretty much the exact opposite of large-scale industrial farming that we have grown accustomed to. I believe that the rise of large-scale industrial agriculture has lessened the power that food has in bringing people together because so many people consume food so mindlessly and forget where it comes from and who grows it. To me, any system that at least attempts to do better than that in terms of being more sustainable and healthier for people and the environment deserves some attention.

The only point Joe made that I am critical of was when he said a flower has intrinsic value if it is beautiful, but it would actually have instrumental value if he finds it beautiful to look at. Furthermore, he thinks that anything that has intrinsic value also has instrumental value as a result, but in class we learned these two types of values are distinct. Something is said to have intrinsic value if it is good “in and of itself” and something is said to have instrumental value if it is good because it provides the means for acquiring something else of value.

Finally, Joe’s lecture reminds me of some of the eight points in the deep ecology reading because permaculture values nature, strives for diversity, wants to satisfy a human need with less human interference, and favors a change in worldview to be less focused on large-scale consumerism and more on building relationships within a community.  

Round 7 Buddhism in Japan Response

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The biggest environmental obstacle in the world is that we as humans are forced to chose between the economy and the environment. We have grown accustomed to our industrialized societies, which have come this far without really considering the environment. It is now so difficult to change our mindset to incorporate the environment into the economy because it carries the negative connotations of “going back” and being anti-growth. I think that this global problem is in large part due to the great influence of the world’s superpower, the United States. I think the anthropocentric nature of Christianity correlates with the capitalist nature of the U.S. and its journey in attaining top-dog economic status. I think that since we live in competitive world, other countries especially China and Japan (who are in second and third place after the U.S. based on GDP) strive to compete, and even emulate the United States. Thus, China and Japan have grown their economies and with that their amount of pollution and environmental degradation have also grown, despite Buddhism being a predominate religion in both countries. So to answer the first question, I think it is less a matter of which religion is predominate in a country and its relation to environmental policies, but more about the influence of the U.S. as a superpower and the anthropocentric nature of Christianity. So it seems that I have kind of hijacked the blog prompt to focus on the U.S. and Christianity, but as we discussed in class, Christianity is currently the world’s largest religion and I think that its growth in popularity has a lot to do with U.S. influence. If China or Japan would have emerged from World War II, as the superpower maybe Christianity wouldn’t be as dominate today and Buddhism would be more dominate. Maybe there would be less environmental degradation as a result, but I can only speculate.

            I do think that if we were to idealize a perfect world, we would obviously place less focus on the economy. Concern over the economy is the biggest threat to the environment and I am sure that without the economy we would be more in tune with nature. However, at this point in time, we can’t just “go back” to the days before the economy and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. I think that we have to keep working towards integrating the environment into the economy through ecological modernization, which the U.S., China, and Japan are all trying to do. 

Responding to Prompt 1 (Preservation)

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President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir might have been hiking buddies, except Roosevelt was a conservationist. He was sympathetic to Muir’s beliefs, but probably felt as though Muir’s spiritual and idealistic approach to protecting nature from humans as unrealistic and impractical in the ever-prospering nation. The United States successfully thrived by utilizing it’s natural resources, which Muir detested because he did not think nature was something that should be used. However, I think the conservationist ideal of utilizing nature sustainably and responsibly is a more practical approach than Muir’s preservationist vision. Conservation favors humans and nature engaging in a mutual relationship in which nature gives to us and we give back to it by protecting it. Like Roosevelt, I too am sympathetic to Muir’s beliefs because I value the beauty of nature. Nevertheless, I have come to hold this value from the connection I have built with nature throughout my life by experiencing it’s beauty first-hand. I think that if nature is kept out of sight it will eventually be out of mind. In other words, if people do not co-exist with nature and learn to appreciate all it gives to us, they will live in a mindless state apart from it and will not care to protect it. Thus, it is illogical to ask for support of a preservationist movement that restricts the ability of people to interact with or benefit from nature. A conservationist approach is the best way to secure an environmental legacy for future generations because it wants to keep nature a relevant part of human’s lives so it can be utilized, but also appreciated and protected.  

 

Additional Source: http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=11746