Env. philosophy class,

Here are some comments on your questions that I collected Thursday.

Let me know if you have more that I can help you with.


Examples of ecosystem processes that support culture include pollination services of insects, wetland functions such as water purification and flood control, and the CO2/oxygen exchange between animals and plants.

Qua means "as". Father qua father, means a father in his role as father.

The basic sources from which Rolston derives his intrinsic value in nature are multiple: There are intrinsic values (plural) in nature. In animals, plants, ecosystems, abiotic natural wonders, and the systemic creativity of nature itself are all non-instrumentally valuable (intrinsically valuable) on his view.

The relationship between nature and culture is not always harmonious. They have "entwined destinies", especially today. But culture eats nature and couldn't have developed in the way necessary for human flourishing without serious sacrifice of wild nature, or so Rolston argues. The best way to foster nature and culture is to make sure that any destruction of natural value is compensated for in equal amounts by the cultural value created. Rolston appears to think this tradeoff is no longer possible: no amount of natural value destruction can be offset by cultural value today, because the balance is already so skewed toward cultural value that nature has exceedingly high value due to its relative rarity.

Rolston's views on using animals for commerce have a number of dimensions. He opposes disrespectful use of animals as in the prairie dog shooting and rattle snake killing contests. Killing elephants to make ashtrays out of their feet is another example of disrespectful use. He does favor using animals for food, but since these are not wild animals, that is a different issue for him. Some killing of wild animals for commercial reasons if it is necessary to get support from locals for policies that will preserve the species would be accepted.

I don't think he likes the idea of measuring the value of nature in monetary terms, so putting $ value on wildlife does not sound like something he would embrace (thought if it was a way to preserve the species, he might agree to it).

Putting a suffering deer who will certainly die out of its misery makes a lot of sense. Rolston however worries that it is inappropriately placing a value in culture--sympathy-onto nature. One reason it might be inappropriate is that if we let sympathy guide our feeling about suffering in nature, we will think nature is a bad place because there is so much suffering. And Rolston would not want such a view of nature-as an evil place where suffering is great and we extend pity and sympathy to all the suffering animals there.

Yes, things that lack systemic value can have value. They might not be systems that are productive of value, but still have intrinsic value or at least some instrumental value to others.

One of you made the point that for any value we are talking about nature possessing-even supposed objective value in nature-we are valuing it. This seems true. For Rolston that would mean that there are two things going on, or at least two. There is the value in nature (the instrumental nutritional value of nutrients to a tree, the intrinsic value of the tree's own good) and then there is the human who is "tuned-in" to this value and valuing it. There could be cases were we don't value, value that we acknowledge is out there: Nutrients are valuable to poison ivy, but we disvalue poison ivy and so we don't think those nutrients are doing anything good (at least for us). And of course there is also the sentient animal valuing its own life whether or not we value it.

The claim is made that "the real value we are observing is our subjective valuing." But when I watch an antelope lope across the plains, I can focus on the antelope and its grace and speed and how marvelously it gets away from its predators and/or I can also pay attention to the pleasure I'm getting at watching it and be happy about that (which would be observing my subjective valuing, rather than observing the valuable creature in nature and its value).

Is all valuing of nature self-interested because nature is of such great and pervasive utilitarian value to humans? A reason to think not is that humans can value and support policies toward nature that work against their self-interest. A logger might agree that the forest needs to be preserved for the spotted owl, even though it will put him out of work.

The main difference between health and integrity of ecosystems is that naturalness is much more important to integrity than to health. Adding nutrients to a forest (fertilizing it) might make it healthier, but it makes it less natural and this compromises its integrity, but not its health.

Endemic species is one that is found in a location and no place else on earth (so if you wipe it out there, it is extinct). Indigenous species (native) is one that has evolved for some time in a local area. One species might be indigenous to many different areas (and hence is not endemic in those areas). An exotic species is one that has come to a new area in which it has not evolved (and so local animals/plants have had no chance to adapt to it or the exotic to the locals). An exotic could be endemic in very unusual circumstances only. Exotic means exotic in a location. Zebra mussels are exotics in the U.S., but not in Europe their native land.