EnvPaper2 - Maia Sage Houck PHI 109: Ethics and Climate...

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Maia Sage HouckPHI 109: Ethics and Climate Change09/21/2016In learning about climate change, we were exposed to solutions posed by many differentthinkers. Some facing the issue address it from a purely economic standpoint. Some argue for amore holistic view of the planet’s condition. We know now without reasonable doubt that climatechange will have drastic, long term, and possibly even irreversible effects on the earth itself. Butin what ways might climate change harm (or reveal) the very things that make us human?In our readings, two prominent voices that emerged in favor of strictly economicapproaches to climate change were Baxter and Hardin. Baxter’s piece “The Case for OptimalPollution” is centered on determining the measure of environmental damage that we determineacceptable. He believes that the measures we take to preserve nature should reflect only thedesire that human beings have to experience those aspects of nature. Economic value is, toBaxter, a significant indicator of that desire. In his own words, “I reject the proposition that weoughtto respect the ‘balance of nature’ or to ‘preserve the environment’ unless the reason fordoing so, express or implied, is the benefit of man.” (276)Hardin also appears to take a stance against the more “hippie-ish” motivations behindsustainable living. In “Lifeboat Ethics”, much of Hardin’s moral reasoning is dedicated to theproblem of how to appropriately offer aid in disaster situations where a great many people needassistance. If climate change continues along its current trajectory, these kinds of situations willunquestionably arise. Hardin’s argument, however, is that countries like America should not offeraid based on our conscience. He compares the countries of the earth to lifeboats drifting in the
ocean. Some have more resources or space than others. There are also a great many people whoare not in any lifeboat at all, but treading water in the sea and searching for safety. How shouldwe respond to the swimmers? According to Hardin, any attempt to offer aid or admission ontoanother lifeboat is a mistake. If we do, “the boat swamps, everyone drowns. Complete justice,complete catastrophe.” (2)It strikes me as somewhat privileged of Hardin to complain about immigration as an issue

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Term
Fall
Professor
Jim White

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