Final Exam Study Questions
Nature, Technology, and Society (Spring 2015)
Study Questions on Kingsolver’s “Fist in the Eye of God”
1. Explain how natural selection works. Use an example.
2. How is genetic diversity in a population important for the survival of that population? Why does Kingsolver think it important for food crops to have genetic diversity in them?
3. Explain Kingsolver’s magic wheat example and the lessons she draws from it.
4. Explain the differences between contemporary genetic engineering and traditional cross breeding. In addition, why does Kingsolver think only cross breeding “works with nature.”
5. Why do some believe that genetically engineered organisms are like exotic species and pose some of the same risks?
6. Explain some of the worries that Kingsolver describes about Bt Corn.
7. Explain how the consequences of Bt Corn use might be similar to the consequences of the overuse of drugs leading to anti-biotic resistance.
8. In what way does Kingsolver think genetic engineering is a “fist in the eye of God?” Do you agree with her?
9. What are some of the concerns about the new fast growing salmon about to be approved for production and human consumption.
10. Explain how genetically-engineered herbicide-tolerant crops can lead to super weeds.
11. Explain some of the health worries of eating genetically engineered foods.
12. What are some of the political problems that may result form global spread of genetically-engineered crops?
13. What is “terminator technology?” Identify one negative consequence of this and one positive use.
14. What is Kingsolver’s “quasi-religious” argument against genetic engineering?
Study Questions for Monsanto vs Vandana Shiva on Genetically Modified Organisms
1. Discuss the controversy over GMO labeling. Does Monsanto support GMO labeling? Explain.
2. Discuss the debate over patenting seeds. Why does Vandana Shiva think GMOs involve “biopiracy?” Explain.
3. Explain the difference between herbicide tolerant and pest resistant GMO crops. Give examples of each.
4. Explain Monsanto’s comparison between skepticism toward GMOs and skepticism toward the use of vaccines. Do you think it a good one?
5. Describe some of the differences between the industrial agriculture Vandana Shiva’s opposes the ecological agriculture she supports.
Questions of Katz’s The Big Lie
1. What is “the restoration thesis?”
2. What is the philosophical (not the practical/technical) reason for rejecting it? How does the analogy with art support this reason?
3. What are the two types of reason Katz gives for opposing restoration? (Hint: They have to do with the act of restoration and the result of restoration.)
4. Define the notion of an “artifact” the way Katz defines it. Is Katz’s account of artifacts a good one?
5. Are there human artifacts that were not intentionally designed? Are all things intentionally designed by a human properly conceived as artifacts?
6. What does it mean to claim artifacts are “anthropocentric?” Must all artifacts be anthropocentric? Why or why not?
7. What does Katz mean by “natural?” What are the two objections to the concept of the natural Katz considers and what is his response to those objections?
8. Give examples of different degrees of naturalness.
9. What does Katz think about the claim that all human activities are natural? Does he think any human activities are natural? If so, which ones?
10. How does Katz relate the natural and the technological?
11. Would Katz favor restoring the South Carolina coast if proposed future oil development off the coast devastated our coastal communities as a result of an oil “spill” disaster?
Question of Jordan, "Sunflower Forest: Eco Restoration a Basis for a New Environmental Paradigm"
1. How does Jordan use the gardening metaphor to describe restoration? Is gardening a helpful way to think of the appropriate human relation to nature?
2. Explain the difference between preservationism and restorationism as ways of relating to nature.
3. What would preservationists say in response to Jordan’s criticism that you can’t stop natural systems from changing.
4. Explain Jordan’s criticism that preservationism foster a human/nature apartheid. Is this an accurate and fair criticism on your view?
5. Why does Jordan think preservation offers a severely limited and unhealthy relation to nature? Is he right?
6. Why does Jordan think restoration, in contrast to preservation, is a health relationship to nature? What features does it have that support this claim?
7. What does Jordan mean when he says a healthy relationship to nature must be ecological?
8. Must a healthy relation to nature be economic? Involve work? Involve a giving back to nature? How could humans give back to nature?
9. Is human influence on nature itself problematic or is it only human influence that damages nature that is problematic? Which of these views is help by restorationists? By preservationists?
Study questions Hettinger, Nature Restoration as a Paradigm for the Human Relation with Nature
1. How do restoration and preservation differ with regard to (1) how best to take care of nature, (2) nature’s key value (wildness or biodiversity/classic ecosystems?) and (3) humans separate from or part of nature?
2. Describe four examples of different types of restoration.
3. Explain what it means to criticize restoration as paternalistic domination of nature.
4. Hettinger list what he considers five “insights” of the restoration paradigm; describe 3 of these. Do you agree they are important “insights?”
5. What does it mean to say restoration is “anthropocentric?” Is restoration necessarily anthropocentric? What does Hettinger think about this? What do you think? Can restoration help nature for its own sake?
6. Explain Hettinger’s argument that Katz can only embrace “anthropocentric restoration.”
7. Explain what Jared Diamond means when he says “we must shoot deer to save nature.” Generalize this claim and use it to support the need for restoration.
8. Explain the critique of preservationism (and Katz) according to which they fail to allow for full human participation in nature. Is this critique fair and important? Why or why not? Is modeling our relation to nature on our relation to art a helpful model? Explain
9. Explain the human/nature apartheid model of the human relation with nature. Is this a helpful model? Why or why not?
10. Is it important to have a positive vision of human’s place in nature?
11. What is “primitivism?” What is the relation between preservation and primitivism? Is primitivism compatible with human flourishing?
12. Hettinger describes four “perils” of the restoration paradigm. Describe three of them. Are these fair criticism of the restoration paradigm?
13. In what sense to some restorationists think humans are parents of nature? Is this a virtuous way of conceiving of the human relation with nature? Does nature need humans?
14. Discuss the relation between restoration and wildness of nature? Are they compatible? Are they opposed?
15. How does Hettinger evaluate the following claim: “Restoration is the human gift back to nature and is a net-benefit to nature.” Can humans benefit nature? How?
16. What model of restoration does Hettinger embrace? Gardening? Benefitting? Restitution? Cleaning up our mess? What model do you think makes most sense?
17. What is Hettinger’s criticism of the idea that restoration provides a positive vision of humans relationship with nature and is a paradigm of a healthy human nature relationship.
18. Evaluate Hettinger’s claims that human flourishing need not feed on wholesale destruction of nature.
19. Is Hettinger right that restoration only has a minor place in a healthy human/nature relationship?
Questions on Marris’ Rambunctious Garden
1. Explain the idea that nature = pristine wilderness and why Marris thinks this is problematic. What is Marris’ alternative idea of nature?
2. What is wrong with the idea that protecting wild nature means preventing it from changing?
3. Explain the difference between protecting “classic ecosystems” and protecting natural processes?
4. Why does Marris say there is “no going back?” Going back to what? Is rewilding going back?
5. Are humans running the whole earth? Should we run it consciously and effectively?
6. Does Marris think of nature on earth as a “garden?” What kind of garden?
7. Why does Marris think we can “create more and more nature.” Can we?
8. Describe the alternative nature protection goals that Marris identifies instead of the goal of protecting pristine wilderness.
9. Does it make sense to “cherish evolution” in a forest overrun by kudzu? In an abandoned farm field where a forest (of native? or non-native species) is growing?
10. Is preserving biodiversity/species in places they did not exist before a legitimate conservation exercise? (African lions in Texas?)
11. Do signs of humanity spoil our appreciation of natural beauty? Should they?
12. What is the “sublime?” Can we find it in our backyards?
13. What is the baseline problem? What are some alternative baselines? What are some of the problems returning an area to a baseline?
14. Why is Hawaii sometimes called the “extinction capital of the world?” Why are Hawaiian native biota so often easily overrun by non-natives? Why might some think Hawaii nature is severely degraded? Why might someone deny this? What does it mean to say that Hawaiian nature is “cosmopolitan.”
15. Why are Australian marsupials endangered and what is being done to protect them?
16. Should humans decide what nature will look like on earth in the future? Is there an alternative?
17. What is a “novel ecosystem?” Are they valuable? In what way yes? In what way no?
18. Is it rational to think a native ecosystem is better than an (human) changed ecosystem? Should we assume that a human change to nature is necessarily “degradation?” Explain.
Study question on Kolbert, Enter the Anthropocene
1. Describe and discuss the geological debate about whether or not we have entered a new geological epoch. What sorts of things determine a new geological time period? What effects have humans had that might justify such a designation?
Questions on Marris et al. “Hope in the Age of Man”
1. Is the Anthropocene a disaster? Is it a defeat for environmentalism? Is it an “ecological hell?” What do Marris and her colleagues think? What do you think?
2. What is wrong with the notion of virgin, pristine wilderness according to Marris and colleagues?
3. Is an important goal of environmentalism to “create new glories that contain heavy hand of man?” Give an example
4. Evaluate this claim: “This is the earth we have created.”
5. Do humans have a duty to manage earth?
Questions on Marris, “We Are Planet Managers”
1. Given that the earth is not totally pristine (that humans have influenced in various degrees much of earth), does this mean that valuing the wilder areas of the planet is a mistake?
2. Is the management decision to let nature take its course in an area to manage that area in the same way that actively deciding what happens in that area is to manage it?
3. Evaluate the idea that humans are and should be planet managers.
Questions for Ellis, “Neither Good nor Bad”
1. Is the Anthropocene permanent? Why or why not?
2. How significant is human impact on the planet? Are “we changing the way the entire planet functions?”
3. Is the Anthropocene a positive opportunity
4. Has humanity become god like? Is so in what ways?
5. Will humans alone determine what the future is like?
6. Does nature depend on us?
Questions on Hettinger’s “Age of Man Environmentalism and Respect for an Independent Nature”
1. Identify and describe some of the features that Hettinger characterizes as “Age of Man Environmentalism”= AME.
2. Contrast AME (as described above) with the ideas of what he calls “Respect for an Independent Nature.” What are its key values?
3. Identify four (different) ways humans are having massive effects on nature on earth.
4. Make the case as powerfully as you can that humans are creating earthen nature. Now criticize this as best you can.
5. Explain what Hettinger means by “nature’s ongoing agency.”
6. Explain Hettinger’s charge that the humans create earthen nature idea involves “anthropocentric narcissism.”
7. What are novel ecosystems? Are they just another name for human degraded natural systems?
8. What are the reasons for thinking that humans are or should be earth managers? What are some problems with these reasons? Do you think it important that humans take on the responsibility of planetary management?
9. Discuss the models of humans as boss, parent, gardener of nature.
10. Is earth a giant (perhaps “rambunctious”) human garden?
11. Does human flourishing require that we not have (or exercise) control over Earth? Is there value in the gifted, given character of nature that would be lost?
12. Are humans (a) fully natural, (b) fully unnatural, (c) both part of and separate from nature? Which does Hettinger think and why? Which do you think and why?
13. What are some of (problematic) implications Hettinger claims follows from thinking humans are fully natural.
14. What is naturalness? In what way does Hettinger think it is value adding? On Hettinger’s view, do things that have been importantly shaped by humans still contain significant natural value?
15. Once a natural area has been significantly altered by humans is there any way its naturalness can come back?
16. What is “rewilding?” Is the decision to rewild an area just another way humans have of managing that area?
Questions about David Keith and Buffering the Sun: Climate Engineering
1. Would the problem of global warming be solved for future people if we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero today? Why not?
2. How does the above fact strengthen the case for solar geo-engineering (= SGE) (as against spending our money on reducing CO2 emissions)?
3. Describe what is involved in SGE. What is the evidence that it will work?
4. Identify the two main geoengineering strategies and then contrast them in terms of speed of effectiveness and cost
5. Explain why some see a tension between GE and cutting carbon emissions.
6. What are some of the major risks/problems with spraying sulfates in stratosphere as a way to address global warming? Are there risks associated with not using GE?
7. Describe some of the “governance challenges” involved in SGE. Do think these are serious? How might these challenges be addressed?
Questions on Jamieson, Can Space Reflectors Save Us? Why We Shouldn’t Buy Into Geoengineering Fantasies
1. Jameison has two distinct worries about GE research. Describe what they are? (Hint: One has to do with funding for adaptation, the other with a slippery slope argument.)
2. Describe Jamieson’s characterization of the “basic structure of the climate change problem.” Who caused it? Who is likely to suffer most? Is mitigation (cutting greenhouse gas emissions) by itself a solution?
3. Explain the 3 different possible ways to address climate change: Mitigation, adaptation, compensation.
4. Why is climate change particularly unfair to poor people?
5. Who gets the $ to address climate change if we pursue mitigation, adaptation and compensation? Who gets it if we pursue GE?
6. Discuss the problem of who might have the moral or legal authorty to “pull the trigger” on GE?
7. Describe in detail Jamieson’s reasons for thinking resarch into GE will lead to deployment of GE.
8. In what way is Jamieson not totally against GE? What role does he see GE playing?
Questions on Scott, Geoengineering and Env. Ethics
1. Define geoengineering (=GE). What are the two main sets of strategies for GE?
2. Explain the argument that we owe it to future generations to do research into GE now. (“Arming the future,” “Plan B,”)
3. Explain how the questions of whether we should do research into GE and whether or not we should deploy GE are related.
4. Explain the argument that GE can benefit nature by reducing out impact on it.
5. According to Lynn White, what are the two factors that have led to the ecological crisis?
6. What is Drengson’s technological fix critique of GE?
7. Explain the idea that technological fixes (like GE) prevent society from engaging in more fundamentally needed changes.
8. Explain and evaluate Jamieson’s idea that successful GE might be worse for humans and the environment than climate change.
9. Why is it a problem that GE might have winners and losers?
Questions on Monbiot’s Ch 1 of Feral
1. Describe why Monbiot thinks we need to rewild our lives. What is it we are lacking, in his opinion. Do you agree?
2. In what way does Monbiot argue our lives our constrained? Constrained by what? Does he think we should “swing our fists regardless of whose nose is in the way?”
3. What is Monbiot’s two pronged understanding of rewilding? What, exactly, are we rewilding?
4. What does rewilding ecosystem not propose to do? Does it aim to preserve species?
5. What does Monbiot’s think rewilding ecosystems/nature involves? Does it involve any restoration? Are the results classic wilderness ecosystems? What is the end goal of rewilding?
6. Explain the tension between restoring extirpated species and letting nature decide. How might Monbiot get around this tension?
7. What are “trophic cascades” and how do they help support the sort of rewilding Monbiot has in mind?
8. Elephants in Europe went extinct (or were driven extinct) 40,000 years ago. Are today’s European ecosystems in anyway adapted to Elephants?
9. Describe some of animals Monbiot thinks we might want to restore to North America . Are there any extant American species adapted to these ancient monsters? (Consider the antelope.)
10. Does rewilding involve a human retreat from nature?
11. What does Monbiot see as the relation between rewilding human life and civilization? Is Monbiot a primitivist; does rewilding involve returning to hunter-gatherer lifestyle? What does he think of advanced technology in light of his concern to rewild both nature and humans?
12. In what way is rewilding environmentalism more positive than traditional environmentalism, according to Monbiot?
13. Does rewilding hurt people? Should it? What does Monbiot say about this?
Questions on Donlan, Greene. et al. Re-wilding North America
1. Describe the Pleistocene Re-wilding (PRW) proposal. What would it involve? Give some examples of the species proposed to be “rewilded” and how would it be done?
2. What are the arguments for PRW its proponents give? Consider and explain the ecological, evolutionary, economic, aesthetic and ethical considerations in its favor. What do you think of these arguments?
3. Explain and assess from your own point of view the moral argument for PRW.
4. Using a concrete examples, explain how its proponents think PRW restore and enhance evolutionary and ecological potential.
5. How to PRW advocates respond to the objection that PRW involves interference with nature? Is this a successful response?
6. Is PRW an optimistic as opposed to a pessimistic conservation strategy?
Question on Rubenstein, Pleistocene Park
1. What is the difference between traditional rewilding, Pleistocene rewilding, and de-extinction?
2. Are the species proposed for rewilding North America, exotic or native species? What does this depend upon?
3. How might PRW restore ecological and evolutionary potential? Give examples.
4. What is a “novel ecosystem?” Why does Rubenstein claim PRW would create such ecosystems rather than restore old ecosystems?
5. What is Rubenstein et al.’s response to claim PRW will help preserve the proxy species?
6. Are the worries about human/wildlife conflicts resulting from PRW significant in your opinion?
7. How might PRW ignite public support for increased funding of environmental protection worldwide? Is this a strong consideration?
8. In what ways is PRW like Jurassic Park and in what ways not?
Questions on Diehm, Restitution, Restoration, and Reviving Extinct Species
1. What is the major reason for de-extinction (=DE) that Diehm examines and criticizes? That is, proponents argue for DE because we have a duty to make _______________ for our wrongs.
2. Diehm considers restitution to three different entities. What are they?
3. Do you think DE is a kind of restitutive justice? Why or why not?
4. Discuss to what extent DE might be seen as restitution to individual organisms. Which individuals? What problems does Diehm see in this?
5. What problems does Diehm see with the idea that DE is restitution to extinct species? Does DE recreate the same species?
6. Should DE species be subject of bio-patents?
7. How might DE be seen as restoring natural systems? Why is Diehm skeptical about this?
8. What are some of Diehm’s overall criticism of DE? Why does he think DE is troubling? What should we be doing rather than DE?
9. Diehm sees DE as a supposed “technological solutions” to env problems. Why does he oppose such a solution? What is he worried about?
10. Explain and evaluate Hettinger’s suggestion that DE is not restitution for a wrong, but making it the case the wrong did not occur.
Questions on Affluenza Film
1. What is “Affluenza” as described in the film? What are three or four major points made in the film?
2. Compare our consumption today with earlier levels of consumption.
3. What are 4 different reasons to be concerned with our current levels of consumption?
4. What does ecological footprint analysis suggest about our level of consumption today? How many earth’s would it take to live sustainably at the level of consumption we live at now?
5. Discuss the relation between growth and happiness.
6. Identify and explain several ways in which growth in GNP does not indicate an improvement in our lives.
7. What is one suggestion people have given for how to provide for jobs for everyone even as we dramatically decrease the amount of consumption.
8. Is it morally wrong to be wealthy and wasteful on a planet were 1/5 live in abject poverty? Develop an argument both for and against the idea that it is unfair for Americans to be as rich as we are while so many in the world have virtually nothing.
9. Is the following true: Conservative Christians are worried about the effects of our culture’s focus on consumption. Explain why or why not. What is the relation between consumerism and family and community?
10. According to the video, are people happier at our current high level of consumption than we used to be? Explain.
11. What is simple living? Describe the voluntary simplicity movement. Is this a desirable alternative lifestyle in your opinion? Why or why not?
Questions on Monbiot on Materialism
1. What are the relationships between happiness and self-esteem? What is happiness? What is self-esteem?
2. Explain the idea of “ownership gone in reverse.”
3. Define materialism.
4. According to Monbiot, does materialism affect rich people or poor people?
5. What are some of the problems materialism is associated with? Does materialism cause these problems or is it merely associated with them?
6. What are some effects of constantly being shown luxury goods? Is this a valid critique of advertising?
7. What is the difference between being a consumer and a citizen?
8. Is there a connection between a “perpetual growth economy” and materialism and its problems?
Study questions for Wenz on Consumerism and Human Nature
1. What does Wenz mean by “environmental synergism.” Do you think the claims it involves are true? Why does he think consumerism is opposed to synergism?
2. What are some of the arguments in favor of consumerism that Wenz addresses and what are his responses?
3. What response do critics of consumerism have to the claim that we need to keep increasing consumption or employment will suffer? How does increase in worker productivity add to the worry that increased consumption is necessary to prevent unemployment?
4. In what way does Wenz think high consumption is addictive? Give examples.
Study questions for Segal, Are we Simple Creatures?
1. What is Segal’s response to the following: We are simple creatures, with simple needs. Human flourishing is best achieved if we satisfy our small number of basic needs. Thus simple living is best for human flourishing.
2. Does Segal think we are simple or complex creatures? Explain
3. How can the desire for self-esteem get translated into a desire for a specific product?
4. What are some of the fundamental needs that Segal identifies?
5. Does he think that our fundamental desires can be satisfied by material consumption?
6. How does Segal respond to the claim that since we are complex creatures with complex needs, we need many different material items to satisfy those needs?
7. How does the complexity of human nature/needs undermine the idea that material consumption is the way to become fulfilled.
8. How can the fulfillment of a genuine need via material consumption cost us too much?
9. Which does Segal think preferable: High or low consumption lifestyles? Why?
10. What does Segal have in mind by “simple living?”
11. Explain why Segal thinks the case for simple living depends on the idea that we are not simple, but complex creatures.
Questions Schor, Clothes Encounters
1. What is the difference between a fashion minimalist and a fashion maximalist and which is Schor and why?
2. Does Schor think we are too materialistic? Explain why or why not?
3. Describe what has been happening in the clothes industry according to Schor.
4. Explain what sort of a clothes industry she want to support though her apparel purchases.
Questions on Schor, Tackling Turbo Consumption
1. Describe the work and spend culture.
2. What is productivity? What have increases in productivity led to? What might they have led to?
3. Explain and give examples of the decline in vitality of social life?
4. How does Schor think the desire to “keep up with the Jones” has changed?
5. What is problematic about consuming more imported products, according to Schor?
6. Describe the “simplistic” critiques of consumption that Schor opposes.
7. If “overconsumption” is not the problem, what is the problem according to Schor?
8. What does Schor say about the “symbolic” meaning of consumption.
9. Describe the alternative economic vision that Schor promotes. Relate it to the capitalism/socialism debate.
10. What does Schor think of trans/multi-national corporations? Explain here views.
Questions on Alexander’s Deconstructing the Shed
1. According to Alexander, what are some key elements of simple living? How does he define it? Consider the role of consumer products, the concept of “enough,” and the idea that more is better.
2. Explain NH’s worry that Alexander does not put enough focus on the “intrinsic value of work.”
3. Explain the concept of downshifting.
4. What is Alexander’s critique of the importance of owning a house in modern society? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
5. What is Alexander’s attitude about buying clothing and what do you think of it?
6. Alexander gives a long list of possible examples of simple living; describe 5 of them.
7. According to Thoreau, what is the “cost of a thing?”
8. Alexander suggests spending money is like voting: What are you voting for when you buy things?
9. According to Alexander, how might shopping be revolutionary?
10. How does simple living “honor nature?”
Questions on Orr, The Designers’ Challenge
1. What are the four facts that Orr thinks shapes our world? How does Orr think designers/your generation should respond to these facts?
2. What is “nature deficit disorder?”
3. Does Orr think we are about to run out of oil or that we still have half left?
4. Does Orr think we should be optimistic or hopeful about the future? Why or why not?
5. What are some of the principles of good ecological design that Orr identifies?
6. What is the “fundamental oath of designers?”
7. Why does Orr talk about the Civil War and WWII?
8. What is this generation’s “Great Work,” according to Orr? In what way is it “Great Work?”
9. Does Orr think his ideas should appeal more to liberals and Democrats or conservatives and Republicans?