Author Archives: spetrakos

Blog Response to Water Scarcity

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In regards to solving the world’s water needs, I believe that technology can help clean polluted water and help create a more efficient mode of clean water transportation to impoverished countries. However, I don’t think the answer to solving the world’s water needs lies solely in technology because technology cannot create new water. In fact, nothing can create new water supplies, for all matter cannot be created or destroyed. Therefore, the supply of water that is on Earth is fixed and finite. Therefore, instead of asking, what are the solutions to supplying enough water for people’s needs? a better question to ask is: what is the most effective solution to cleaning up our supply of water so that a larger percentage of the water is available for people to use? I do think that the approach to tackling the water crisis is different for developing nations versus developed nations. In developing nations, the majority of people are concerned with the cleanliness of the water supply that they have and having enough of that water supply in order to survive. In developed nations, the majority of people are concerned with having enough of the water supply in order to satisfy their material needs such as bathing and washing in addition to the ultimate basic need of drinking. In developed nations the majority of people use water in ways that extend beyond their need to survive. Furthermore, people in developed nations tend to waste a large amount of water, leaving very little water left for the people in developing nations to use. I believe it would be effective to enact laws that limit the consumption of a person’s water use, require more sustainable farming practices, and protect water quality. I believe this way because the enactment of these laws would ensure that the people that really need clean water the most for basic survival would get it because this source of clean water would be protected under federal governments.

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Response to Prompt 1: Assigning value to the lives of animals

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Yes, I believe that defining value in a non-human’s life plays a significant role in how we define animal rights. This is because how we humans perceive pain may be different than the way certain animals perceive pain. Species that are closely related to humans in their biological structure will most likely experience pain in the same way as humans perceive pain. For example, David DeGrazia believes that since language trained apes and dolphins are “the most cognitively, emotionally, and socially advanced nonhuman animals” (EC p.594) they should be considered “borderline persons.” According to DeGrazia, borderline persons are creatures that possess characteristics of people such as bodily self-awareness, social self-awareness, and a sense of morals. In this sense, the importance of an animal’s life should be defined on whether they are borderline persons or not. Whether an animal is a borderline person or not depends on establishing an animal’s level of “personhood.” It can be argued then that the more “personhood” or characteristics of a person that an animal obtains then we humans will be more likely to defend the animal, for we can identify with animals that act like we do. Overall, the implications of this value system should be based on the notion that an animal’s sense of pain equals an animal’s welfare, not a human’s sense of pain equals an animal’s welfare. For humans and nonhuman animals would not perceive pain in the same way simply because they are biologically not related. However, for borderline persons who are similar in characteristics with humans, the life of those creatures can be assessed on a human’s sense of pain equals an animal’s welfare rationale since borderline persons are closely connected with humans.

Round 7 Response to Permaculture Joe

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During the guest lecture on permaculture, it was apparent that Joe was an expert on the instrumental values of permaculture and how permaculture benefits humans. What I viewed critically was Joe’s interpretation of intrinsic value. Joe’s interpretation of intrinsic value and environmental ethics in general was a bit off because to say that a flower has intrinsic value because it is beautiful still stems from a human putting a value on a piece of nature due to how the human benefits from the flower. In this case, the flower has aesthetic benefits to a human and thus what Joe was talking about was more instrumental value as opposed to intrinsic value-value for the sake of existence. If Joe was given the proper instruction about the difference between intrinsic value and instrumental value then maybe he would give a more valid answer. Also, what I viewed critically was when Joe claimed that not only can you obtain food and building materials (timber) from permaculture, Joe claimed that you can also obtain medicine from permaculture. I believe that the root of medicine is technology and science. Through many years of research of how the human body works, the science of the chemicals in our body, and technology to mass produce these medicines, the medical health industry has progressed and with that progression, human lifespans have been extended by many years. So in regards to permaculture cultivating medicine, how can Joe know for sure that you obtain a quality medicine that works just as well as the medicine that the doctor prescribes? When Joe mentioned Planned Obsolescence in his lecture, I was reminded of “Just Garbage” by Peter Wenz. I like how by practicing permaculture, we decrease the outsourcing of waste to the poor in Third World countries. This is due to the fact that permaculture is small-scale agriculture that decreases waste and uses our natural resources in a sustainable manner. Permaculture is a step in the right direction because if people start off living sustainably through sustainable agriculture, those same people will most likely be sustainable in regards to other ways of living such as living with technology. By living a sustainable lifestyle, people can be encouraged to not live according to the Planned Obsolescence way of life and throw away electronics even if it isn’t broken yet. People can be encouraged to live a healthier lifestyle with the aid of permaculture.

Stephanie Petrakos

Week 5 Prompt 3: Justice

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I agree with Wenz’s belief that developed countries, such as America, are outsourcing our waste to poorer countries. But I wouldn’t go to the extreme of calling this act “environmental racism” because I don’t think racism is the main motivator behind this action. Rather, I think developed countries, such as America, are outsourcing our waste to poorer countries solely for financial benefit. For example, when it comes to e-waste, I don’t believe it makes a difference to American electronic companies whether they are shipping their old TVs and cell phones to Guiyu, China or to Manila, Philippines, for all they care about is breaking down the electronics in order to get the precious metals inside, even at the cost of human life. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you are Asian, Hispanic, Black, or White, if you can provide the man power and are desperate enough to risk contracting cancer, brain damage, mutations, or kidney disease for minimal pay, then an American electronics company wants you. Poor communities don’t tend to be located next to hazardous waste sites, poor communities are created by foreign outsourcing. Foreign outsourcing creates poor communities by shipping waste to these communities and forcing the people that live there to live off of minimal wage. If the American companies that create this foreign outsourcing give their foreign workers a higher wage, then there is a higher possibility that the money can be used to protect the health of the community’s environment and the health of the people that live there. What I believe should be done about the waste that is generally shipped to developing countries is avoid shipping the waste to the developing countries in the first place. That is, America should instead of, for example, “recycling” e-waste, they should reuse electronics (that are in useable condition) by donating them to schools and households that are in dire need of them instead of being thrown in a landfill. Maybe some kind of incentive such as a tax deduction, could be given to the donator in hopes that more people will be willing to become more sustainable. The only question is what should we do about the electronics that are obsolete? For the electronics that are obsolete, the government should require the companies that make these products to take back the obsolete products and make it their responsibility to store this waste in an environmentally safe manner. These companies should understand that storing this waste in an environmentally safe manner does not mean we should give the waste to someone else. For giving the waste to another country spreads the problem rather than containing it or making the problem less severe.

-Stephanie Petrakos

Additional sources:

 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-4579229.html

 http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/30/world/asia/china-electronic-waste-e-waste/index.html

 http://www.ierc.com/e-waste-landfills-in-the-philippines/

Response to Prompt 1 Norton’s Intrinsic Value

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I believe intrinsic value is critical to the continued preservation of nature by humans. For if every individual in society views natural resources from an anthropocentric point of view and only considers “what’s in it for me?”, then the rate of exploitation of those resources would rise exponentially.  This hypothetical increased rate of exploitation could be easily explained by Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons proposition.  The Tragedy of the Commons explains that given a common pool resource, a resource that is not excludable but IS highly divisible, a society is more likely to use up that resource to the point where that resource is no longer viable. For example, deforestation has been a major sustainability and ecological issue ever since the 1900’s. The exponential rise of global deforestation as it relates to an exponential increase in human population over time can be seen in the time graph here: http://mongabay-images.s3.amazonaws.com/12/1203all-time-deforestation1.jpg . From this graph, it is obvious that as the human population increases, so does deforestation rates. However, what is not obvious from looking at the graph is the human motivation behind excessive deforestation. With an increased human population is an increased demand to chop down trees to make paper, firewood, home furnishing, and more. This consumption mindset of society “allows no room” for an intrinsic value of nature and thus, over consuming humans have no qualms about exploiting the earth’s finite resources. Technology, in a sense, contributes to this exploitation and pushes human society away from nature because more often than not, technology has been developed to create machinery that extract, pollute, and diminish natural resources solely for the benefit of humans. When humans exploit natural resources, they simply don’t see nature as “worthy” enough to be respected and thus deny its flora and fauna the chance to live. If humans were to continue down this path of “mental separation” of nature vs humanity, then the potential long-term effects of this extreme separation would be the exhaustion of natural resources (wood, petroleum, fresh water, clean air, etc.). Furthermore, the only way to diminish the rate of exploitation of nature is for society as a whole to start viewing nature as having an intrinsic value as opposed to being a mere resource for their own benefit. Nature, with its flora and fauna need to be viewed with respect simply because nature is a living, breathing being even without the influence of humans.

 -Stephanie Petrakos

 

Additional Sources:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/162/3859/1243.full

http://www.ejolt.org/2013/02/common-pool-resources/

http://rainforests.mongabay.com/general_tables.htm

http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/intrinsic-value-ecology-and-conservation-25815400

Responding to Prompt 1 (Preservation)

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Although it is understood that preservationists are positively impacting the environment by encouraging others to leave nature alone, I believe they are also negatively impacting the environment by excluding humans in the “environmental healing” process. By refusing humans to touch areas of nature without an explanation as to why, preservationists are denying humans their role in nature. Even Aldo Leopold, John Muir’s successor in the preservationist movement, “viewed people as a part of nature, and certainly not as the owners of it.” Therefore, if preservationists believe people as a part of nature, wouldn’t it be hypocritical for them to deny people their part in protecting nature by being involved with nature? Why is it fair then for John Muir to have taken hikes into the woods with President Theodore Roosevelt in order to emphasize the value of nature but deny others physical access to these areas? By denying people access to areas of nature, people will never be able to fully grasp and understand their role in protecting nature.  By denying people access to areas of nature, people won’t understand why protecting nature is so important. For in order to understand this importance, it is my firm belief that people need to feel the soil under their feet, breathe the fresh air blowing through the trees, and feel the sun warming their faces. The satisfaction that comes with being in the natural world will encourage more people to protect the natural world.  Furthermore, I believe that yes, it is illogical to ask for support of a movement that restricts the ability of people to interact with or benefit from what they are advocating for. For how can one expect a person to support anything that they can’t see, touch, or hear? Therefore, the movement that I suggest should be one that involves both preservationists and conservationists together. A movement that involves both leaving plots of nature alone (preservation) and also involves conserving the resources available in those plots of land (conservation) would protect nature from overdevelopment and exploitation while also allowing people to play their vital role of making nature a more sustainable place to live for future generations.

Additional source: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/hisnps/NPSThinking/nps-oah.htm