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Perhaps the problem is with science and technology. It has become fashionable to blame environmental ills on increased knowledge of nature science and the ability to put that knowledge to work engineering. During the industrial revolution the Luddite movement in England violently resisted the change from cottage industries to centralized factories; in the s a pseudo-Luddite "back-to-nature" movement purported to reject technology altogether.
However, the adherents of this movement made considerable use of the fruits of the technology they eschewed, like used vans and buses, synthetic fabrics, and, for that matter, jobs and money. Oinas of the University of Indiana.
Pollution and Environmental Ethics 5 People who blame science and technology for environmental problems forget that those who alerted us early to the environmental crisis, like Rachel Carson in Silent Spring, s Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac, 6 and Barry Commoner in The Closing Circle, 7 were scientists, sounding the environmental alarm as a result of scientific observation. Had we not observed and been able to quantify phenomena like species endangerment and destruction, the effect of herbicides and pesticides on wildlife, the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer, and fish kills due to water pollution, we would not even have realized what was happening to the world.
Our very knowledge of nature is precisely what alerted us to the threats posed by environmental degradation. If knowledge is value-flee, is technology to blame? But they do not. The Maori in New Zealand exterminated the moa, a large flightless bird; there is considerable overgrazing in Africa and on the tribal reservations in the American Southwest; the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians destroyed forests and created deserts by diverting water. Modern technology, however, not only provides water and air treatment systems, but continues to develop ways in which to use a dwindling natural resource base more conservatively.
For example, efficiency of thermal electric generation has doubled since World War II, food preservation techniques stretch the world's food supply, and modern communications frequently obviate the need for energy-consuming travel, and computer use has markedly decreased the use of paper. If technology is not to blame, does it have the "wrong" values, or is it value-free?
Is knowledge itself, without an application, right or wrong, ethical or unethical? Robert Oppenheimer faced this precise dilemma in his lack of enthusiasm about developing a nuclear fusion bomb. Edward Teller, usually credited with its development, considered the H-bomb itself neither good nor evil, but wished to keep it out of the hands of those with evil intent or what he perceived to be evil intent.
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The developers of the atomic bomb, although defending the position that the bomb itself was value-free, nonetheless enthusiastically promoted the peaceful uses of atomic energy as a balance to their development of a weapon of destruction. The ethics of technology is so closely entwined with the ethics of the uses of that technology that the question of inherent ethical value is moot.
On balance, technology can be used to both good and evil ends, depending on the ethics of the users. Assessment of the ethics of the use of any technology depends on our knowledge and understanding of that technology. For example, at this writing, scientists are investigating whether or not proximity to the electric and magnetic 5Carson, Rachel, Silent Spring.
Knopf Clearly, the ethics associated with transmission line location depends on the outcome of these investigations. Acceptance or rejection of any technology on ethical grounds must depend on an understanding of that technology.
The weakness of the Luddite argument lay in the Luddites' ignorance of what they were fighting. We seem to be left with little to blame for environmental pollution and destruction except ourselves. That is, if we are to reverse the trend in environmental degradation, we need to change the way we live, the way we treat each other and our nonhuman environment. Such ideas can be connected by what has become known as environmental ethics.
Environmental ethics is a complex term and requires some explanation. First, we need to understand what we mean by ethics and what justification we have for wishing that everyone be ethical. Morality, in turn, is the perceptions we have of what is right and wrong, good or bad, or just or unjust. We all live by various moral values such as truth and honesty. Some, for example, find it very easy to tell lies, while others will almost always tell the truth.
If all life situations required nothing more than deciding when to tell the truth or when to lie, there would be no need for ethics. Very often, however, we find ourselves in situations when some of our moral values conflict. Do we tell our friend the truth, and risk hurting his feelings, or do we lie and be disloyal? How do we decide what to do?
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Ethics makes it possible to analyze such moral conflicts, and people whose actions are governed by reflective ethical reasoning, taking into account moral values, are said to be ethical people. We generally agree among ourselves to be ethical that is, to use reflective and rational analysis of how we ought to treat each other because to do so resuits in a better world. If we did not bother with morality and ethics, the world would be a sorry place, indeed.
Imagine living in an environment where nobody could be trusted, where everything could be stolen, and where physically hurting each other at every opportunity would be normal. While some societies on this globe might indeed be like that, we must agree that we would not want to live under such conditions.
So we agree to get along and treat each other with fairness, justice, and caring, and to make laws to govern those issues of greatest import and concern. The most important point relative to the discussion that follows is that ethics only makes sense if we assume reciprocity--the ability of others to make rational ethical decisions. You don't lie to your friend, for example, because you don't want him or her to lie to you. To start lying to each other would destroy the caring and trust you both value.
Truth-telling therefore makes sense because of the social contract we have with others, and we expect others to participate.
If they do not, we do not associate with them, or if the breach of the contract is great enough, we send them to jail and remove them from society. Pollution and Environmental Ethics 7 Environmental ethics is a subcategory of ethics. Its definition can be approached from three historical perspectives: environmental ethics as public health, environmental ethics as conservation and preservation, and environmental ethics as caring for nonhumans.
The germ theory of disease was not as yet appreciated, and great epidemics swept periodically over the major cities of the world. Some intuitive public health measures did, however, have a positive effect. Removal of corpses during epidemics and appeals for cleanliness undoubtedly helped the public health.
We in modern-day America have difficulty imagining what it must have been like in cities and farms not too many years ago. Life in cities during the Middle Ages, and through the Industrial Revolution, was difficult, sad, and usually short.
In , the Report from the Poor Law Commissioners on an Inquiry into the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain described the sanitary conditions in this manner: Many dwellings of the poor are arranged around narrow courts having no other opening to the main street than a narrow covered passage. In these courts there are several occupants, each of whom accumulated a heap. In some cases, each of these heaps is piled up separately in the court, with a general receptacle in the middle for drainage.
In others, a plot is dug in the middle of the court for the general use of all the occupants. In some the whole courts up to the very doors of the houses were covered with filth.
The s witnessed what is now called the "Great Sanitary Awakening. John Snow's classic epidemiological study of the cholera epidemic in London stands as a seminal investigation of a public health problem. By using a map of the area and thereon identifying the residences of those who contracted the disease, Snow was able to pinpoint the source of the epidemic as the water from a public pump on Broad Street. Removal of the handle from the Broad Street pump eliminated the source of the cholera pathogen, and the epidemic subsided.
The reduction of such diseases by providing safe and pleasing water to the public has been one of the dramatic successes of the public health profession. Permanent settlements and the development of agricultural skills were among the first human activities to create a cooperative social fabric.
As farming efficiency increased, a division of labor became possible and communities began to build public and private structures. Water supply and wastewater drainage were among the public facilities that became necessary for human survival in communities, and the availability of water has always been a critical component of civilizations. Ancient Rome, for example, had water supplied by nine different aqueducts up to 80 km 50 mi long, with cross-sections from 2 to 15 m 7 ft to 50 ft.
The purpose of the aqueducts was to carry spring water, which even the Romans knew was better to drink than Tiber River water. As cities grew, the demand for water increased dramatically. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the poorer residents of European cities lived under abominable conditions, with water supplies that were grossly polluted, expensive, or nonexistent. In London, the water supply was controlled by nine different private companies, and water was sold to the public.
People who could not afford to pay often begged for or stole their water. During epidemics, the privation was so great that many drank water from furrows and depressions in plowed fields.
Droughts caused water supplies to be curtailed, and great crowds formed to wait their turn at the public pumps. In the New World, the first public water supply system consisted of wooden pipes, bored and charred, with metal rings shrunk on the ends to prevent splitting. The first such pipes were installed in , and the first citywide system was constructed in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in The first American water works was built in the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
A wooden water wheel, driven by the flow of Monocacy Creek, powered wooden pumps that lifted spring water to a hilltop wooden reservoir from which it was distributed by gravity. One of the first major water supply undertakings in the United States was the Croton Aqueduct, started in and completed six years later, that brought clear water to Manhattan Island, which had an inadequate supply of groundwater.
Although municipal water systems might have provided adequate quantities of water, the water quality was often suspect. As one writer described it, tongue firmly in cheek: 11 The appearance and quality of the public water supply were such that the poor used it for soup, the middle class dyed their clothes in it, and the very rich used it for top-dressing their lawns. Those who drank it filtered it through a ladder, disinfected it with chloride of lime, then lifted out the dangerous germs which survived and killed them with a club in the back yard.
Pollution and Environmental Ethics 9 Water filtration became commonplace toward the middle of the nineteenth century with the first successful water supply filter constructed in Parsley, Scotland, in Many less successful attempts at filtration followed, a notable one being the New Orleans system for filtering water from the Mississippi River.
In this case the water proved to be so muddy that the filters clogged too fast for the system to be workable. The problem with muddy water was not alleviated until aluminum sulfate alum began to be used as a pretreatment to filtration in Between and deaths from infectious disease dropped dramatically, owing in part to the effect of cleaner water supplies.
Human waste disposal in early cities was both a nuisance and a serious health problem. Often the method of disposal consisted of nothing more than flinging the contents of chamberpots out the window. Around , King Henri II repeatedly tried to get the Parliament of Paris to build sewers, but neither the king nor Parliament proposed to pay for them.
Stormwater was considered the main drainage problem, and it was in fact illegal in many cities to discharge wastes into the ditches and storm sewers. Eventually, as water supplies developed, 12the storm sewers were used for both sanitary waste and stormwater.
Such c o m b i n e d sewers exist in some of our major cities even today. The first system for urban drainage in America was constructed in Boston around There was surprising resistance to the construction of sewers for waste disposal.
Most American cities had cesspools or vaults, even at the end of the nineteenth century, and the most economical means of waste disposal was to pump these out at regular intervals and cart the waste to a disposal site outside the town. Engineers argued that although sanitary sewer construction was capital intensive, sewers provided the best means of wastewater disposal in the long run.
Environmental Pollution and Control, Fourth Edition
Their argument prevailed, and there was a remarkable period of sewer construction between and The first separate sewerage systems in America were built in the s in Memphis, Tennessee, and Pullman, Illinois.
The Memphis system was a complete failure because it consisted of small-diameter pipes, intended to be flushed periodically. No manholes were constructed, and because the small pipes clogged, cleanout became a major problem. The system was later removed and larger pipes, with manholes, were installed. Screens had to be cleaned manually, and wastes were buried or incinerated. The first complete treatment systems 12In, to limitthe quantity of wastewater discharge, the city of Bostonpassed an ordinance prohibiting the taking of baths without doctor's orders.
The quest for public health also drives the concern with the extinction of species.
Not too many years ago the public would have agreed with a paper mill executive when he said, "It probably won't hurt mankind a hell of a whole lot in the long run if a whooping crane doesn't quite make it. Once a species is extinct, its unique chemical components will no longer be available to us for making medicines or other products. Because of this concern, the extinction of species has been codified as the federal Endangered Species Act and numerous state laws.
Note that the driving force in these laws is not the value of the species itself but its potential value to human beings. In summary, the first form of the environmental ethic makes the destruction of resources and despoliation of our environment unethical because doing so might cause other humans to suffer from diseases.
Our unwillingness to clean up after ourselves is unethical because such actions could make other people sick or prevent them from being cured of disease. Because ethics involves a social contract, the rationale for the environmental ethic in this case is that we do not want to hurt other people by polluting the environment. We realize that the destruction or despoliation of the environment would be taking something from othersmnot much different from stealing.
A river, for example, has value to others as a place to fish, and contaminating it takes something from those people. Cutting down old growth forests prevents us and our progeny from enjoying such wilderness, and such actions are therefore unethical. The concept that nature has value is a fairly modern one.
Until the midnineteenth century, nature was thought of as something to fight againstmto destroy or be destroyed by. The value in nature was first expressed by several farsighted writers, most notably Ralph Waldo Emerson.
He argued that nature had instrumental value to people, in terms of material wealth, recreation potential, and aesthetic beauty. Instrumental value can usually be translated into economic terms, and the resulting environmental ethic from this argument requires us to respect that value and not to destroy what others may need or enjoy.
The concern of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot about the destruction of American forests is was not because they believed that somehow the 14Fallows, J. Pollution and Environmental Ethics 11 forests had a right to survive but because they felt that these resources should be conserved and managed for the benefit of all. Such an environmental ethic can be thought of as conservation environmental ethics because its main aim is to conserve the resources for our eventual long-term benefit.
A modified form of the conservation environmental ethic evolved during this time, championed by John Muir, the founder of The Sierra Club and an advocate for the preservation of wilderness.
This preservation environmental ethic held that some areas should be left alone and not developed or spoiled because of their beauty or significance to people. Muir often clashed with Pinchot and the other conservationists because Muir wanted to preserve wilderness while Pinchot wanted to use it wisely. Often this distinction can be fuzzy. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it, ''16 he was being both a conservationist and a preservationist.
The condition of our rivers and lakes has been one of the more visible aspects of environmental pollution. Not too many years ago, the great rivers in urbanized areas were in effect open sewers that emptied into the nearest watercourse, without any treatment. As a result, many lakes and rivers became grossly polluted and, as an Boston Board of Health report put it, "larger territories are at once, and frequently, enveloped in an atmosphere of stench so strong as to arouse the sleeping, terrify the weak and nauseate and exasperate everybody.
The River Cam, for example, like the Thames, was for many years grossly polluted. There is a tale of Queen Victoria visiting Trinity College at Cambridge and saying to the Master as she looked over the bridge abutment: "What are all those pieces of paper floating down the river? We simply do not like to see our planet contaminated and spoiled.
Nor do we want to see species or places destroyed without justification, and we argue for both conservation and preservation because we believe that nonhuman nature has value to us and its destruction makes the lives of our children poorer. Thus the environmental ethic of conservation and preservation places value on nature because we want it conserved so it can continue to provide us with resources and preserved so it can continue to be enjoyed by us.
Environmental pollution is bad either because such pollution can be a public health concern or because such pollution can be a public nuisance, cost us money, or prevent us from enjoying nature. In the first case we want our water, air, food, and our 16Leydet, F. In the second case we do not want to have pollution because it decreases the quality of our lives.
We also do not want to destroy species because, in the first instance, these species may be useful to us in what they can provide to keep us alive longer or because, in the second sense, we enjoy having these species as our co-inhibitors.
These two views represent what has become known as an anthropocentric environmental ethic, that is, people centered. We do not want to cause pollution or destroy things because of the value these may have to humans, in terms of either public health or quality of life. There is, however, a second kind of environmental ethic, one that recognizes all of the above concerns but also places a value on the environment, including animals, plants, and places.
That is an intrinsic value, a value of and by itself, independent of what value we might place on it. Such an environmental ethic can be thought of as the ethics of simply caring for nonhuman nature. Why indeed do animals, trees, or rocks deserve moral consideration and moral protection?
Why should we extend the environmental ethic to cover the nonhuman world? Based on the rationalization for ethics, there cannot be a very strong argument for such an extension of the moral community. Because there is no reciprocity so goes the argument , there can be no ethics.
Our caring for nonhuman nature, then, cannot ever be rationally argued and defended. This leads to the temptation to give up the search for a rational environmental ethic and recognize that the scholarly field of ethics cannot ever provide us with the answers we seek. Using ethics to try to understand our attitudes and to provide guidance for our actions toward the nonhuman world is simply asking too much of it. Ethics was never intended to be used in this way, and we should not be disappointed that it fails to perform.
And yet we clearly do care for the nonhuman world. We would condemn anyone who wantonly destroyed natural places or who tortured animals. Why is it that we feel this way?As a result, many lakes and rivers became grossly polluted and, as an Boston Board of Health report put it, "larger territories are at once, and frequently, enveloped in an atmosphere of stench so strong as to arouse the sleeping, terrify the weak and nauseate and exasperate everybody.
If a tree is to be cut down in order to build a house, this action has to be explained to the spirit before cutting begins. Does that mean that noncapitalist economies the totally and partially planned economies do a better job of environmental protection, natural resource preservation, and population control? Second, the association between traffic-related pollutants and diabetes and metabolic symptoms is an area for growth in research.
An organism, or a person, can be exposed simultaneously to several different sources of a given pollutant. Why are we such a destructive species? The concern of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot about the destruction of American forests is was not because they believed that somehow the 14Fallows, J. Such an attitude helps us make decisions where value questions come into play.