Monday, August 17

Clive Hamilton on New Ecological Consciousness (Part-1)

Since we discussed about Global Climate Change last semester (not to mention the ever increasing debate) I thought it's appropriate to post a 2-part video I came across. In these videos (20+ minutes per video) Clive Hamilton talks about “Consumerism, Self-creation and Prospects for a New Ecological Consciousness” in a lecture series titled “Rethinking Our Place in Nature”. To learn more about Clive Hamilton click here.

For those who are wondering if they should spend more than 1hr on watching a video that does not interest them, here’s the content or topics that Clive Hamilton talks about (I have created & listed them in sequential order, and being a blog I have divided them into two parts for respective videos).

Topics in Part-1:-

- What has ecology taught us?

- Industrial revolution led humans to control nature.

- Recent discovery that nature is unable to satisfy human desires.

- Must change from triumphalism to humility.

- How?

:- need for New Ecological Consciousness

But, how?

one method: use reason to overcome appetites.

- Human reasoning has never been sufficiently powerful to change human behavior.

- Ecological Consciousness built on science can appeal to human reason but can’t appeal to inner sense of self.

- Must change self in essence and not relationship with natural systems.

- Existence of world of deeper reality behind everyday world.

World hidden behind nature which renders nature possible” – Arthur Schopenhauer.

- Schopenhauer Vs Kant

- Every creature has a will to live equivalent to that of every human.

- Identification of self from nature:

in man as in animal that does not think there prevails a lasting state of mind the certainty springing from inner most consciousness that he is nature, the world itself” - Schopenhauer.

An expansion of oneself with such appreciation.

- Metaphysical error and moral failure of instrumentalist approach to environment (environment as catalogue of resources).

- Emergence of new ecological consciousness will depend on emergence of sense of self and it’s relationship with natural world (and not much on change of belief and attitudes).

- How can humans construct sense of self?

:– by philosophical changes.

- Occurrence of structural change of present society from Productive Society (PS) to Consumption Society (CS).

- Features of PS to CS transition (Differences between PS and CS)

- Reinforcement of PS -> CS transition by other social changes.
Social reform movements in 1960’s and 70’s.
Collective democracy to individual self.

- Invasion of marketers before achieving answer to the quest of autonomous identity.

- Individuality (our current percept of individuality) of marketing society is pseudo-individuality.

- Need for radical re-thinking of relationship between humanity and natural world.
Current environmentalists use the approach of Green Consumerism.

Still Interested! Click here to watch part-1.

Clive Hamilton on New Ecological Consciousness (Part-2)

Here's the 2nd video to the 2-part video where Clive Hamilton talks about “Consumerism, Self-creation and Prospects for a New Ecological Consciousness” in a lecture series titled “Rethinking Our Place in Nature”. To learn more about Clive Hamilton click here.

Topics in Part-2:-

- Green Consumerism
collection of efforts by environmental NGO’s, businesses and government’s to persuade individuals to buy goods & services that are less harmful to natural environment through their production, consumption and disposal”.
Self-creation from consuming green goods.

- Dangers of Green Consumerism:

Privatization of responsibility for environmental degradation.

Rather than set of problems endemic to economic & social structure, understood as individual responsibility to personal environmental contribution (consistent with free-market view).

- Failure of Green Consumerism to induce significant inroads into unsustainable nature of product & consumption.

- Implications of individualizing responsibility to democracy & environmental progress:

Transforms public debate from institutions (perpetuating environmental degradation) to about personal behavior.

Express concerns through purchasing decisions.

Commoditization of social consent.

Changes ethical conversation to questions of personal morality and not understanding cause & solution (structural factors).

Blocks real solutions.

- Green Consumerism dis-empowers by denying us our agency as citizens.

- "Consumers are not that same as being a citizen, just as Supermarket behavior is not the same as ballot-box behavior".

- Entrenchment of consumption behavior with self.

- Phenomenon of wasteful consumption

:– unbounded desires but limited capacity for usage.

- Evidence contradicting Environmental Kuznets Curve.

- Must re-manufacture ourselves and not just change our consuming behavior.

- Can the citizens be persuaded for an authentic fulfilling alternative to consumer life?

- Must directly challenge consumption & identity formation.

- Recent down-shift phenomenon among some individuals as a challenge.

- Non-philosophical, non-environmental motive of the down-shifters but for personal fulfillment.

Still Interested! Click here to watch part-2.

Wednesday, May 13

Bad science yet again!

It turns out that I read several journals published by Elsevier (now that I think of it, they're even publishing a paper of mine in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science). But they were recently outed about publishing several "fake journals". Unbelievable!

Tuesday, May 12


If someone is in an excruciating amount of pain, is it ethical to ‘make’ them live? Or is it ethical to allow a doctor to help them die? Society is much more liberal today than it was in the past, and physician assisted suicide remains a perplexing question, both legally and morally. Is it morally permissible to have a doctor assist in euthanasia when someone is in a lot of pain? I’m not sure.

A utilitarian argument for euthanasia: “Actions,” according to the utilitarian John Stuart Mill, “are right as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce pain or the reverse of happiness.” In the case of a terminally ill patient suffering from severe, untreatable pain, we would see that the happiness of that individual would be maximized by euthanasia and pain minimized. When someone is in that excruciating level of pain from this progressive disease it would make the person unable to enjoy the activities that made their life pleasurable, so there could be no higher intellectual or emotional pleasures to balance the physical pain. If the patient was to choose death, their misery would be reduced. Family members and friends would suffer by watching their loved one suffer through a prolonged illness. If the person was able to choose euthanasia for themselves, it would open up more hospital space and resources for patients with more treatable conditions. (It is important to recognize that utilitarianism requires us to evaluate all possible effects and how they would contribute to or detract from everyone’s happiness.) With the case of voluntary euthanasia, conventional utilitarian justifications against killing do not apply. Euthanasia is not a random action but one, which occurs only at the demand of a suffering patient.

There is also a moral question as to whether active or passive euthanasia should be used?; Active euthanasia being when a patient requests in and passive euthanasia being when a doctor does not treat a patient. I do not know the answer to this. There are also many legal issues that coincide with this issue. If euthanasia was legalized, there are issues of family members trying to convince their family member into it, and therefore receiving the benefits from a will, life insurance, etc. I would hope this wouldn’t happen, but you never know.

What do you think? Is this an ethical option?

Response to Graham

I agree with you Graham that for organisms like bacteria or insects it becomes difficult to discuss whether these organisms have intrinsic value. However, I have a hard time with applying “essences or a set of essences,” especially if they are to be a certain property that something possesses.

In respect to the “essences”, if it is something the organism is to possess, like as you state, a “physical, function, or potentially immaterial” property, wouldn’t labels such as these only help us sort out what type of instrumental property the organism has? For example, let’s say that it was determined that insect X had a specific role in its ecosystem, like decomposition of animal Y’s remains. I am assuming then that the property or essence of insect X would be: decomposer of animal Y. However, such a property seems to only designate what insect X does, not what makes it insect X. To me this is like saying that I am a human because I can talk, read, and write, but I am sure that you would agree that this is not what makes me human—these properties are not what make up my intrinsic value or even essence.

Also, there are some general problems of essentialism (which are why it is not generally accepted today). One, to ascribe an essence to a certain species you must ensure that all members of that species have that property. So what happens when a member of that species does not have that property or trait, are they then a member of a different species? Do they make up their own species? Second, properties may be very similar between different species (or even exist in other species). For example, a certain role or trait of a species may best describe its essence, but what if another species also has the trait?

In general, when it comes down to organisms like bacteria and insects; I think that it is more about respect such organisms through respect for each ecosystem as a whole. For example, if I make sure to not overuse and to reuse things that I need, and that I do not stomp around doing whatever I please and using whatever I wish (and along with other actions), I would say that I am respecting other people and other species around—and in general my surrounding ecosystem. So, in terms of biodiversity, by respecting your ecosystem (and thus the other organisms/species in your ecosystem) you are then helping in the conservation of biodiversity.

Monday, May 11

Private Sector Ethics

The above is a link to an interesting article written by John Prescott called "The Private Sector: Espionage, Ethics, and 'Competitive Intelligence." In the article, Prescott discusses the concept of competitive intelligence, which is the activity of collecting, analyzing, and utilizing business-related information to help make informed decisions. Prescott also discusses the ethical dilemma behind the use of competitive intelligence. The big issue at hand is that although some of this information and the competitive use of information may not be illegal in certain instances, there is an ethical responsibility for companies to use better judgment and respond ethically to the information they receive. An example of this is the case of Proctor and Gamble in which Prescott discusses in the article. According to the article, Proctor and Gamble used competitive intelligence in order to enhance shareholder value. Although this was not deemed illegal, the "average citizen" would view the espionage used by P&G to be unethical and illegitimate.

I found this article particularly interested for a number of reasons. The first reason being my background in business and my general interest in business ethics and how big business operates. The second reason for its relevance to the discussion we had earlier on in the semester about the ethics postponing the release of important medical information or medicines by private sector companies in order to gain financially. In our discussion of the topic, we discussed how some private sector companies often postpone release of new information or better medicines in order to continue to profit from current medicines or information that is available to the public. These two topics are very similar in nature. In essence, these private sector medical companies are using competitive intelligence to profit in the same way as these private sector big businesses are doing. I found this article to be very interesting, especially with our experience with the ethics of private sector companies.

I personally find it unethical to use competitive intelligence in the medical industry because of the ethical implications it could lead to because the potential benefits new drugs and information could have on the public. I find it a bit trickier in the private sector retail industry, however. The reason for this is that although I believe a company has the responsibility to be honest with the public, it is often crucial to gain a competitive advantage against your competitors in order to stay in business. Without a competitive advantage or use of competitive intelligence, many smaller companies would probably falter, leading to a few large companies developing a monopoly in the industry, which also leads to unfavorable results and potentially unethical behavior by the monopolized companies.

Sunday, May 10

Homeopathic Medicine

Reading Jenny's post reminded me of probably the funniest lecture of my college career. As most of you know, I'm a chemistry major and I'm taking Inorganic from Doc Bitterwolf. He decided he would introduce the bioinorganic chemistry section (biochemistry with metals) with a lecture laughing at homeopathic tonics/potions/mysterious liquids. Since it is a room full of senior chemistry majors, we naturally looked at some of the ingridients. Most of the 'magical potions' were just exteremly dilute metals/other crap. Almost every metal, even lead, is found in dilute levels in the body so I don't really think adding a little bit extra is really going to help.

Simply google searching homeopathic medicine lead me to this site:

One of the little potions I thought was funny was what they called Petroleum (Crude oil!). My guess is that it is a can of crude oil. Or even oil mixed with water (wait, that doesn't make senes). Some of the things it says to treat include (but certainly not limited to!) Motion Sickness, eczema, smelly sweat, and even diarrhea! Take note that these conditions have almost nothing related to each other... at least none that I can think of. Besidese, crude oil is chop full of all sorts of things. Mostly non-toxic but there are some nasties in there--you wouldn't drink gasoline, would you?

I'd strongly suggest checking that website out, or others like it, for a good laugh. Especially if you have a decent background in biological systems/chemistry.

Finally, wish I were smart enough to bottle crap and sell it to the uneducated for lots of money..

More on

Lauren asked some great preemptive questions to my presentation about biodiversity and sustainability in her last post. When talking about responsibility, I think it’s intuitive that humans are the primary cause of biodiversity loss and destruction to the environment. Therefore it is our responsibility to solve the problems that we are causing. I believe that the utility that biodiversity can provide, necessitates a significant global response to this problem. When discussing how to go about solving this problem, I agree with Wilson that we ought to “freeze” these biodiverse places. A place is something that Sahotra Sarkar identified in ecology as an area with a major concentration of biodiversity. Though this (and a few other) concept(s) in ecology are ambiguous, there is generally an agreement of when enough diversity exists in a population to be considered biodiverse.
In our discussion following my presentation, there seemed to be a real problem with the notion of intrinsic and instrumental value of biodiversity. I agree with Matthew, that if we rethink biodiversity as this pool of resources for the taking, then we may destroy places simply for their instrumental value. There seems to be a fine line between the recognition of the value biodiversity has, and the acquisition and discovery of resources that could prove valuable. Perhaps this would be a major problem if we managed to actively recognize and protect biodiverse places. Making the argument for instrumental value is much easier than arguing for intrinsic value. Being somewhat of a conservationalist, I still believe life to have intrinsic value but the issue becomes blurry when discussing microorganisms, insects, or other minute organisms. A better argument is made for the uniqueness those organisms possess. Again it seems we can agree that the extinction of a certain organism is bad because once it disappears, it is gone forever.
I keep seeing a reoccurring theme of essentialism in these recent issues. Essentialists believe that most biological organisms have “essences” or properties that comprise and demarcate what it means for them to exist as that organism. This reconstruction may work a little better in the context of discussing why life has an intrinsic value, as opposed to how it could serve as a functional species concept. Still we are left with the issue of determining what these essences or set of essences are. They could be physical, functional, or potentially immaterial properties (as Justin referenced) that something possesses. This notion seems far too unclear to make definitive statements about the intrinsic value of life and biology in general.

Wednesday, May 6

The Swine Flu Scare

The news has been flooded with the swine flu scare. However Mexico has recently begun to reopen their shops and schools according to an article by BBC News:

I don’t know a lot about the virus, but it seems to me that they media has blown the virus out of proportion. From what I understand new viruses are discovered every year, with the common flu virus killing thousands of people around the world. So why is the swine flu such a big deal? Yes they virus has killed people, but the people at most risk are the young and elderly, like all virus infections. Why don’t the networks care about other viruses that kill thousands of people every year? I think the obvious answer is that the news networks are making a ton of money off of this scare. By hyping this story up, people are checking the news daily/hourly to see if any new cases have been discovered and the news networks are making a killer profit. It is in their best interest to make things seem like a bigger deal than they really are. I wish the news networks would just report the news, and not add any “drama” to ensure that viewers keep coming back for updates. This (profit) is the biggest problem with big news networks, because they care more about making money then delivering unbiased news.

Tuesday, May 5

Some stuff I found interesting

I had to do a group project in one of my animal science classes where we refuted posters that were put up in the commons that were fighting against milk, meat, and cows in general. Our group choose bST (bovine somatotropin) as our topic. I have already stated my oppinion about how I feel that this hormone is being misrepresented and the media is using scare tactics so people wont use it.

One of the largest arguements that is being thrown around is that cows are absolutely terrible and destroying our country by releasing tons of methane into the atmosphere. According to K. A. Johnson and D. E. Johnson from Washington State University in their article "Methane emissions from cattle,""Ruminant livestock can produce 250 to 500 L of methane per day. This level of production results in estimates of the contribution by cattle to global warming that may occur in the next 50 to 100 yr to be a little less than 2%." To add to my arguement for for bST, using rbST (which is the manufactured hormone produced the same way as human insulin for diabetics) reduces the number of lactating cows required to produce a given quantity of milk = reducing feed products = A reduction of cultivated cropland =decrease soil erosion and reducing the number of cows reduces the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. Using rbST in 1 million cows saves enough cropland to reduce soil erosion by 2,300,00 tons per year and CO2 emmisions by 824,000,000 kg per year. Even though cows are only contributing to global warming under 2%, bST can reduce this even more. I just thought all this was interesting.

While we were researching for materials we also stumbled across this book and website that I just can't believe are even out there (well I guess i can, there is alot of crap out there) but still... Its so ridiculous to see what out there. The book is called Milk A-Z and the website is If anyone has the time to check out something, definitely check out the website. It just humors me to see how hostile they are. They call some of the best animal scientists in the world "the clueless ones." So much of this websites information is not cited and I could not find anything to back up half the information. I believe this ties in with alot of what we have said about publications and how they are un sesored and not peer reviewed. They are claiming all facts but they have no way to back that up. I think this is a great case of someone who falls under the category of the "tyranny of the ignorant" and is leading many others to fall for the same trap.

Biodiversity Conservation

Unmined Riches- E.O. Wilson

Wilson explains that if we use our available manpower, the United States could make a substantial contribution to a global biodiversity survey. He explains there first should be an emergency assessment of immediately threatened regional ecosystems thought to harbor especially rich and diverse assortments of species. Areas where high diversity is confirmed could then be the focus of intense conservation efforts. He then proposes an intermediate effort aimed at a more systematic exploration of threatened areas that are especially rich in species, like tropical rain forests. Insects and other arthropods are so vital to the overall functioning of life, Dr. Wilson writes, that "humanity probably could not last more than a few months" if they were to disappear. Finally, a global biodiversity survey would combine the first two studies with more conventional long-term explorations. The survey would be broadened to include the tiniest creatures like protozoa and bacteria. This growing encyclopedia of life would provide, over decades and even centuries, a description of the living world that gradually coalesced "to create a fine-grained image of global biodiversity."

Because of the destruction of tropical forests and other habitats, uncounted species are becoming extinct before scientists can even name and study them for their scientific and economic value. An effort to survey all these "unmined riches," Dr. Wilson says, is at least as important as mapping the human genome or cataloguing the heavens, since it involves the living fabric on which human survival depends. I feel that E.O. Wilson has made a compelling argument for us to begin biodiversity conservation now before it is too late. I think that Wilson reminds the jaded viewer that there really is a crisis, and that it is nearly too late to do anything about it. This ethical dilemma goes hand-in-hand with global climate change in the fact that it is hard for people to first acknowledge the problem, and second it is hard to know what the effects will be. There are ethical and moral responsibilities that need to be taken into consideration. Who is responsible to conserve biodiversity? What about the responsibility to provide resources to people? How do we go about conserving biodiversity since it is so vast? Etc. etc.

Should College Athletes Be Paid?

The above is an article written by Lee Andrew Henderson regarding the issue of paying college athletes a salary for playing sports for there respective school. The argument proposed by Henderson in the article is that of they are putting in a lot of extra work and more responsibility than typical college students. She proposes that these athletes, at the very least, should be given a weekly allowance or some sort of small wage to help pay for transportation, food, books, etc..

Her second argument, which I find to be quite strong and compelling is her introduction of the case of the Texas Longhorn football program. In 2005, the Longhorns won the National Championship in which they gained $3.5 million. Another $14.9 million went to the rest of the Big 12 teams. All of this is possible because of the players on the field, yet they do not see any of that money.

It seems to me that a case can be made that giving these student athletes a monetary reward for their effort. Since many of these programs make millions of dollars for their respective universities, it seems fair to me that the athletes should receive some compensation for their contribution. I can also see the counter-argument that the money should be pumped into programs other than the athletic department for the betterment of the education of the student at these universities. I'm sure there are a lot of different information opinions and views on this topic. I'd like to see what all of you think about the matter.

Response to Global Warming

Before class last week, I had was not sure what my opinion was climate change. My uneducated opinion was that I didn’t think that humans were the sole contributor of climate change. I thought that a few politicians had nothing better to do and made a big deal about something that was not known for certain. That being said, I still thought that we had the obligation to change our ways to ensure that this planet is here for other generations. I thought that the cost of not taking action outweighed the cost of taking action regardless if we were actually causing global warming.

After class I have been convinced that we are actually causing the global warming. Before class I was not aware of the science behind proving that we have caused the climate change. However this really hasn’t changed my opinion of what we should do. I think that we defiantly need to change how we use the world’s resources.
How do we solve this problem? This is what I see as the biggest problem facing us. I think that raising awareness about global warming is the easy part. How are we going to regulate and enforce policies to reduce green house emission and reduce global warming? The Kyoto portal has addressed these issues, but they don’t seem to be doing enough fast enough. It seems that people are greedy and don’t want to effect economic growth by enforcing green policies. What do you guys think? What can be done and is it too late?