Environmental Disobedience in a Humans-Only Democracy

Hettinger notes on Hettinger's "Envrionmental Disobedience"


1.   Introduction

      a. Importance of acting on one’s beliefs 498

      b. How much action in defense of nature is required given green views?

2.   Do environmental activists have a duty to obey the law? 498-99

      a. Reject absolute obedience to law (even to democratically sanctioned law)

      b. Reject the view that law qua law has no moral force (for this would make breaking the law morally irrelevant); even bad laws have moral force

      c. Obedience to law qua law is an prima facie (overrideable) duty

3.   What are the grounds of duty to obey law? 499-500

      a. Loyalty for what law/state has done for you

          i.        But environmentalists argue that loyalty to earth is a stronger than loyalty to law

      b. Duty to promote just institutions (e.g., democratic majority rule)

      c. Duty of fair play (willingness to lose in a democracy)

      d. Environmentalists have a prima facie duty to not weaken the democratic rule of law and to accept laws they participated in making (even if they opposed them: it is only fair)

4.   Different types of noncompliance with law 500-02

      a. Civil disobedience (=CD) vs. revolutionary (object to particular laws vs. object to whole system)

      b. CD vs. militant (educate and persuade majority vs. coercing the majority)

          i.        CD is easily justified, whereas militant action much harder to justify because it is undemocratic

      c. Civil and uncivil manner of disobedience

          i.        CD need not use civil tactics (CD can use violence and evade arrest to persuade public, though these are not likely to be effective forms of speech)

5.   Worries about letting individuals decide when it is permissible to break the law 502-03

      a. Consider lawbreaking by those you disagree with: Anti-abortionists, Unabomber, McVeigh

      b. Rawls’ constraint: Disobedient must appeal to existing sense of justice in society; this prevents crazy justifications being used to justify lawbreaking

      c. I don’t see an alternative to letting individuals decide on their own when and how to break the law

          i.        Individuals are responsible for what they do, even when they obey the law

          ii.       That we allow a certain method of disobedience doesn’t mean we must accept all acts of disobedience of that type (e.g., anti-abortionist’s or Unabomber’s use of violence)

          iii.      Justifiability of disobedience depends on the substantive moral issues involved, not on whether that type of disobedience is ever permissible.

6.   Worries about violence 503-04

      a. Different types of violence: Terrorism, violence against persons (almost impossible to justify in a democracy), violence against property (i.e.,destroying property–easier to justify)

      b. Note: Violence against property, if effective, will hurt people (not just “harming” things)

      c. But leal protests and nonviolent CD can be more harmful than property destruction

      d. Prohibiting all violence unacceptably relies on act/omission distinction (rancher/antelope case): When violent (and illegal) activity only way to stop much greater violence, one does not remain morally clean, by refusing to act violently

      e. Gandhi’s point that violence brutalizes those who use it and illustration of Watson’s lack of humility and demonizing of opponents

7.   Justification for environmental activism beyond civil disobedience 504-05

      a. Consequentialist arguments for non-civil disobedience: justified by good results

          i.        Ignores the special burden undemocratic disobedience must bear

8.   Critique of Humans-Only Democracy 505-06

      a. Democracy an unjust political system from a nonanthropocentric perspective

      b. Doesn’t allow nonhumans to count politically in their own right: “A system that requires political participation for inclusion in grounds of legitimate authority is not just for those beings who by nature can’t participate”

9.   Attempts to create a more-than-human democracy 506-07

      a. Stone and Eckersley’s suggestions “to include nonhumans in ground rules of democracy”: Legal guardians for nature, Environment Defender’s Office, constitutional rights for nonhuman nature

      b. Trustees for nature should hold significant numbers of legislative seats;

          i.        Must move beyond one human, one vote

          ii.       Must justify votes in terms of env. values

      c. Trustees major policy objective would be noninterference, to allow nature to unfold on its own, at least as much as possible given important human needs and values

          i.        This responds to epistemic and paternalistic worries about how they should vote

          ii.       Respect for the self-determination of nature in a more-than-human democracy is like the respect for self-determination of humans in a human democracy

      d. Democracy need not be inherently unjust from a nonanthropocentric perspective.

10. Implications for militant disobedience 507-08

      a. Given this critique of democracy from nonanthropocentric perspective, not plausible that nonanthropocentric greens must limit themselves to democratic means of change (CD)

      b. Not limited to the means put forward by a system that they believe to be corrupt as currently constituted

      c. Burden of justification against lawbreaking that democracy creates weakens under this critique of democracy

      d. Militant eco-activists can be seen as thwarting a humans-only democracy to help bring about a more-than-human democracy

      e. Militant tactics are a morally open option

      f. But this does not mean they are the right thing to do; this depends on consequential reasoning (will such tactics be effective at bringing about a fairer treatment of nature?)