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Environmental Ethics

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Environmental Ethics

This course is an introduction to the philosophical study, and moral assessment, of modern human interaction with other species and the environment in which we live. We will begin with a brief introduction to the nature of morality and moral theory, then we will move to in-depth investigations of some of the main topics in contemporary environmental ethics.
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Discussions Discussion Environmental Ethics
Ayana Helebo, Dec. 2, 2011

The Black Rhino is now officially extinct. It has not been seen in West Africa since 2006.


The plight of the rhino is a stark reminder of what scientists call the next great extinction after the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Ayana Helebo
Comments (2)
  • Hillary Campbell Hillary Campbell Dec. 3, 2011
    Very sad that we humans could not figure out how to not exterminate such a majestic animal from the face of the earth. Feels very strange.
  • JP Lopez JP Lopez Dec. 3, 2011
    This seems almost like criminally negligent behavior on behalf of the entire human race.

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Discussions Discussion Environmental Ethics
Alex U, Dec. 2, 2011

This radical description of a call to end global suffering actually brings a very valuable, and often ignored point, to attention; suffering is necessary for the balance of our planet. Evolution, and thus the equilibrium of the natural world, relies on survival of the fittest. This means some creatures will get clobbered in order for stronger and healthier individuals to survive. This will undoubtedly lead to suffering.

I realize this article is neither incredibly scientific nor feasible enough to contemplate anytime soon, but it takes the idea behind many animal welfare campaigns to its extremist conclusion. Many advocates of animal rights proclaim animals as being undeserving of suffering for many reasons (e.g. they have innate value, they’re valuable to us as a means to an end, they provide food, transportation, modern medications, healthier lives, etc.) and so we should do whatever is in our power to minimize that for them.

For starters, in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky discusses that wild animals experience a different stress response than people do. It’s true that death in the wild could be as physically horrible as death to humans, but humans are endowed with the capacity to worry. We can think and stress about incidents that have never happened to us and/or are not putting direct and immediate strain on us due to the presence of cortisol. Whereas wild animals don’t experience the effects of cortisol, so they only panic at the final moment when death is almost upon them. Otherwise, they just don’t care.

Temple Grandin described in her book, Animals In Translation, how dogs don’t suffer the way people do. They experience pain, but they don’t have the capacity to wallow in it. This is why it’s important to keep pets mellow and relaxed after surgeries. They won’t be able to tell you when they’re suffering because it’s not a part of their daily experience.

This isn’t to say that animals don’t suffer, but rather that “suffering” - or whatever the equivalent is to animals - is necessary and variable among all forms of life, and completely dismissing suffering because we attribute our experiences onto animals is just as arrogant as saying they can’t feel anything at all.

Alex U

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Discussions Discussion Environmental Ethics
Camilla Pashar, Oct. 28, 2011

Polluted America: Amazingly colourful aerial pictures that highlight damage to Earth wrought by industry. At first glance they’re beautiful, but these incredible snaps reveal something far more ugly.

J Henry Fair’s spectacular aerial images show the devastation man has wreaked on America.
Pollution is exposed on a massive scale, creating striking vivid colours that highlight the scars of spillages, open cast mining, chemical and oil leaks, industrial decay and deforestation. Click the link for the shockingly beautiful images.


Camilla Pashar

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