Rolston's Conserving Natural Values:
Chapter One: Natural and Cultural Values
- NATURE AND CULTURE OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE
EARTH NOW IN A POST EVOLUTIONARY, BUT NOT POST ECOLOGICAL PHASE
- Visitors from space filing Volume One on Nature (geological/biological/physical phenomena) and Volume Two on
Culture (anthropological and sociological events)
- Is this biased since evolutionary history is billions of years old, while cultural history only 100,000?
- Rolston's idea is that nature and culture are about equally valuable
- Not the usually anthropocentric (=human centered) idea that human affairs are what's important and nature
only a minor blip
- Nor the radical species egalitarian idea that humans are of no greater significance than any other species:
- Rolston buys human superiority
- For Rolston, if you had to get rid of one or the other it would be a close call.
- Difference evolution and ecology: Evolution is horizontal (depth) (temporal), ecology is vertical (breadth) (a slice of
- "From here on out, culture will increasingly determine what natural history shall continue"
- "Culture more than nature is principal determinant of earth's future" (8)
- We are not in a post ecological phase, as still deeply dependent on natural systems (water and oxygen cycles,
ecosystem services, temperature stability)
- Not the claim that evolution has ceased
- Rolston's claim is that natural evolution is no longer the primary determinant of what happens on the planet; rather
culture will determine that
- Soule: Bringing vertebrate evolution to an end; but even if that is true lot's of other evolution continues (vertebrates
only 4% of species)
- Evolution continue at various levels: But is it perturbed/directed by humans?
- CENTRALITY OF NATURE/CULTURE DISTINCTION
- Nature/Culture distinction central transformation on earth
- Two main domains of value that appeared on earth (p. 6)
- Universities divided into natural sciences and cultural studies (art, humanities, social studies)
- Strange to devote several sciences (anthropology, political science, economics) to just one species (our needs
and arrogance explain this in part)
- Many have criticized Rolston for putting to much stress and weight in his env. philosophy on this distinction
- ROLSTON'S PRINCIPLE OF ACTION: OPTIMIZE (MAXIMIZE?) MIX OF NATURAL CULTURAL VALUES
- May destroy a natural value, only if the cultural values substituted are sufficient to provide a net gain.
- HUMANS ARE RADICALLY DIFFERENT FROM NONHUMANS
- How radically different the human phenomenon is; Being human makes a radical difference
- Humans are what we are by culture, not only by nature (as is true of nonhumans)
- We become finished by culture
- But some higher animals have complex culture (though rudimentary in comparison to human culture)
- Anthropological, political, economic, technological, scientific, philosophical, ethical, religious determinants affect
human behavior but not nonhuman behavior.
- Difference in how humans/nonhumans transfer information: Cultural vs genetic
- Humans have a vastly greater ability to pass on learned information to next generation
- Nonhumans transfer information/coping skills via genes (pretty much only) and information acquired during an
organisms' lifetime is not transmitted genetically
- Can you explain why not?
- Nonhumans do make some limited choices and some teaching goes on, but vastly less
- Humans transfer information (not only/mainly by genes but) by transmissible cultures into which they educate the
next generation; coping skills are transmitted via traditions, crafts, rituals, books, and technology manuals;
- Learned information gets transferred on
- Information transfer much greater/faster in culture transmission than in genetic transmission: Parent has 2 or
3 children to whom pass genetic information; but these children get information from dozens of teachers, reading 100s of books by authors not
genetically related, by watching TV from information all over the world
- Natural selection pressures relaxed (or altered?) in culture
- Charity, affirmative action, head start, study medicine and cure bodily diseases
- Animals are adapted to their ecosystems, humans adapt their ecosystems to their needs
- Only humans have (full?) moral responsibility
- Only humans likely to have conscience and moral responsibility to weigh their species self-interest against other important natural values.
- Human culture still depends in myriad ways on nature and so humans part of nature still, even though separate too.
- OBJECTION: HUMANS TOO ARE NATURAL; REPLY: BUT NOT JUST NATURAL
- Critics might argue that because humans evolved out of nature and are products of natural laws in evolutionary history and have an origin that is
natural, we are just natural
- Reply: Genetic fallacy or "nothing but" fallacy; ignores emergent properties
- Confuses what a thing now is essentially with what its historical origins once were.
- Humans have significantly evolved out of it (nature)
- THREE SENSES OF NATURAL:
- (1) Spontaneous (vs deliberative),
- (2) Following the laws of nature (vs. being supernatural),
- (3) Fitting in with nature (vs. an unsustainable/domineering relationship to nature) ("relative sense of natural")
- (1) Spontaneous (nondeliberative) nature vs. deliberate culture
- Nature runs by causal laws, biology, instincts, accidental contingencies
- Culture is mind-based (in above ways), intentional
- Compare beaver dam or bird nest artifact
- With cobbler who planned and deliberated boots
- This is the main sense of "natural" Rolston uses when he distinguishes nature and culture
- Not all human behavior is intentional/deliberative
- Perhaps we should call nonintentional human behavior (e.g., instinctual) natural?
- This would allow some naturalness (in this sense) in humans
- Deliberative behavior of nonhumans would then be non-natural?
- (2) Follows the laws of nature sense of natural (vs supernatural)
- Laws of nature such as physical laws of electricity/gravity
- Everything better or worse is natural in this sense
- Humans, no matter how high tech, can't break these laws but only use them in ways we want
- Callicott quote (5) everything humans do is natural just as everything nonhumans do is natural
- Toxic waste dumps as natural as barrier reefs
- Since there is no contrast class, we aren't going to get any guidance out of that sense of natural
- Rolston wants guidance (some possible value import) out of being natural
- Won't get it if talking about natural in this sense.
- (3) "Relative" sense of natural: What humans do culturally can be natural to the extent it's sustainable and/or conserves remaining natural
- I'd call this a normative/moral sense of "natural" or "in harmony with nature" sense of natural
- Those cultures which are more rather than less in a sustainable relationship with their ecosystems are more natural (in this sense)
- E.g., human behaviors that are healthy for humans as they agree with natural systems
- Human acts that intelligently fit into ecological cycles
- Some deliberate human acts more, rather than less, in keeping with how Earth was proceeding prior to human arrival and with how nature
continues to proceed in relative independence of humans (8)
- In this sense, Rolston thinks humans should act "naturally" (in harmony with nature)
- Humans should chose a culture that is congenial to the values achieved over evolutionary natural history and ecological values that
- Letting nature take its course and letting nature evolve
- NOT ONLY CAN NATURE AND CULTURE COMPETE (WIN/LOSE) BUT NATURE AND CULTURE HAVE ENTWINED DESTINIES
(WIN/WIN) AS WELL
- Natural and cultural values can conflict
- Examples of win-lose:
- Among humans: Developers win, env. lose or vice versa
- Between humans and nonhumans: Humans win and nature loses (cut down a forest for its timber and to make plowed fields)
- Clearly humans shouldn't lose all the time, but sometimes perhaps they should constrain what is good for them for the good of nonhumans
(plants, animals, rivers, canyons, ecosystems)
- But Entwined destinies points out that nature supports culture; technosphere layered onto and part of biosphere
- In so far as nature provides life support that is often good for culture, can have win-win
- Entwined destinies where values are often complementary and not in conflict
- Flora, fauna, people all need clean air, water, good soil, sunshine, photosynthesis, recycling of nutrients, etc
- Quality of human life declines as quality of natural ecosystems decline
- Hard to have healthy culture in sick environment
- So technosphere remains part of the biosphere in this sense
- ROLSTON'S VIEW OF HUMAN NATURE/HUMAN FLOURISHING: CULTURE/CITY IS ESSENTIAL TO HUMANITY OR IS ESSENTIAL
TO HUMAN FLOURISHING
- Rolston, Conserving Natural Value, pp. 12-13, 15.
- "The human habitat is village, town, city, which is another way of saying that human life is political, social, or more generally, cultural. . . . The city
is in some sense our niche; we belong there, and no one can achieve full humanity without it. Cultured human life is not possible in the unaltered
wilderness; it is primitive and illiterate if it remains hunter-gatherer or even if it remains at merely a rural level. The city mentality provides us with
literacy and advancement, whether through the market with its trade and industry, or through the library and laboratory. . . . Humans can think about
ultimates; they can espouse worldviews; indeed, they are not fully human until they do."
- Humans are animals, but political, cultural, city animals
- The city is in one sense our niche: we belong there
- One can't achieve full humanity without it
- Cultured human life is not possible in unaltered wilderness
- We need the advancements that the market, industry, library and laboratory of the city provide.
- People are not fully human until they espouse world views
- Where humans remain primitive and illiterate, or remain hunter-gatherer or even if remain at merely rural level: human flourishing is not what it could be
- Notice: Rolston's not a back to the Pleistocene environmentalist.
- Natives, rural, uneducated not fully human? (Or not flourishing as fully as they might)
- Native Americans weren't fully humans?
- Rural farmers aren't really human to the extent they are not civilized?
- He doesn't mind using "primitive" language, but many object
- Consequences for 3rd world development?
- They need cities, industry, and the market to be fully human and flourish?
- Distinguish between need for education, literacy, espousing worldviews and cities, industry, market?
- Rolston probably thinks can't have the former at any high level without the latter
- THREE TYPES OF ENVIRONMENTS ON EARTH: URBAN, RURAL AND WILD
- Urban is where culture dominates and wild were nature dominates and rural is where nature and culture blend.
- Rural is nature as domesticated and cultivated and generally managed
- where humans meet nature in productive encounter
- where we command nature by obeying her
- Values we prize in cities can't be modeled on values in nature, as no templates for towns in wild nature
- Values of cities are up to us and ought to be judged by culturing our native reason and conscience.
- Rolston will claim that values we prize in nature ought to be modeled on nature.
- Work and nature and wilderness (Rolston comments on 14-15)
- We tend to think of our relation to nature as recreational, since we go to wild nature to recreate and be at leisure (active leisure, but not economically
- Economists claim the valuing of nature by enviros (Sierrans, etc) are urban values
- Such evaluations of nature are had more by urbanites than farmers, loggers, etc
- Only city folk, comfortably fed, clothed and housed with produce from rural areas recreate in wilderness or go bird watching
- But these urban folks who value the city find a need for contact with the wild : deprivation of the city awakens a sensitivity to the wild
- Rural people caught up in laboring over nature and still having some wild nature in surroundings can forget or take for granted these values
- Discussion of need for and terribly tragedy of development (15-16)
v. Environmental Values and Human Rights (to a livable decent quality environment)
- Humans have a right to environment with integrity and quality and decency
- Protection of air, soils, waters, essential bio processes, biodiversity, against toxic substances access to natural resources essential to live, and maybe
access to public lands/commons
- New right only being recognized because only lately threatened
- pop increase, more powerful technology, escalating desires, lead to drastic modification of life support systems and threaten peoples basic
interests and so such rights claim develop
- Right legally embodied in some laws, UN documents, and should be in state constitutions
- Right to nature (a decent environment) might be a natural right in the sense of a privilege we possess just by being born on Earth
- Rights to instrumental natural givens, part of human ecology, to which we have a birthright
- Humans have no right to dispossess other people from this natural heritage
- Different from property rights (to local sites of land one can use as long as not substantially damage)
- Rather these are rights to landscape in an ecological sense
- These rights threatened by pollution and other land degradation
- But people do not degrade their natural env except in course of pursuing cultural values they desire (as a result of mining, farming,
manufacturing--labor that resourcefully uses the natural env to make artifacts).
- Pollution an undesired byproduct of quest for some cultural good
- Pollution a byproduct that threatens a natural value important to life-support system of culture
- This disvalue falls involuntarily on many who aren't parties to business transaction resulting in pollution
- These rights claims constrain the kinds of labor that are acceptable in culture by identifying thresholds of env. quality below which we don't allow
cultural development to push us
- Humans may have a right to development, but not to development that imperils these fundamental natural values
- All humans have a right to those values and this right constrains development that threatens those values.
- Discussion of nature of rights, as claims to treatment on part of other humans, culturally developed but possible to be directed in content at nature, though in
duties only to other humans.
vi. Future Generations
- A mature self is able to envision itself at any moment as only a slice of a temporally extended life, including a river of life including future generations
- This more enduring community is that from which the self takes its identity
- Juvenile and immature to value present so as to devalue the future
- The "now" has no favored status in value; immature only think future counts for less
- Notwithstanding economists discounting future
- Paradoxically the reproductive urge which is good in the present context needs to be controlled possibility even curtailed.
- Need to limit future generation to the carrying capacity of natural systems
- Controlling population isn't simply (or at all?) a matter of curtailing cultural values in favor of protecting natural values
- Typically, what is good now for the environment is also good for the human future
- Environmental ethics and intergenerational ethics intertwine
- Concern for future generations what sparked many to early involvement with natural conservation
vii. Environmental Policy
- Discussion of Rio's balancing of cultural values (development) and natural values (environment) and of NEPA
viii. Balancing Natural and Cultural Values: Ten (consensus?) rules of thumb (26-33)
- Emphasize nonrival cultural and natural values
- Where there is a win-win solution (cultural goods that coincide with environmental goods) insist on it and take care of them first
- For example? Ecotourism? Birdwatching? Nonconsumptive uses as opposed to consumptive uses.
- Be careful about compromises
- There is both good and bad features of compromise
- Bad features: Compromise may seem to balance the values on both sides but not so when the situation is already unbalanced or when the value is
- Half a loaf is better than none; true for bread, not horses or necessary habitat for endangered species (spotted owl habitat, saving half the old
growth may lead to extinction)
- Wilderness designation: If 2% is now wilderness and we compromise on the other 2% (1% each) we end up with development winning 97 to 1
- Compromise often means those who are most noisy and best at pursing their interests get most; but this isn't the same a optimizing values.
- Good features: Often positive values are on each side and compromise can optimize these values; compromise can be fair and equitable; compromise
might bee good when complex issues, values on both sides, decision can't be postponed as postponing looses for both sides
- Uncompromising purity can be a sure route to defeat, while compromise can win something.
- Protect minority values
- Democratic simple majority rule fails to protect rights of minorities
- Given 98-2 ration bad idea to declassify wilderness for logging given a 51-49 simple plurality vote
- Complement economic frameworks with ecological analyses
- Consider all values and not just economic ones easily quantifiable
- Enough is enough!
- Optimize (the best) is better word than maximize (the maximum)
- Consumer oriented society makes it hard to know when to say enough
- Identify all affected parties
- Well organized minority who have lots to gain or loose can outgun a diffuse majority who overall may loose more but individually less; if no rights
violated or no injustice, then should go with the diffuse greater gain overall.
- Nonhumans have no voice in environmental policy; don't vote, can't sue in courts, yet residents of the landscape and env. policy affects them
- Include their perspective in decision making and not just the human values involved.
- Baxter's reply?
- Affirmative action for nonhumans (30) as disadvantaged, endangered, powerless, no standing in courts, no voice
- Insist on sustainability
- Soil, air, water forests ought to be in as good condition 500 years from now as they are now or were 500 years ago--all agree in principle, subvert in
- Avoid irreversible change
- The longer the impact, the slower we should proceed
- Avoid irreversible mistakes; make policies that allow us to redeem mistakes
- Leopold's intelligent tinkering idea
- Recognize a shifting burden of proof
- The burden of proof has shifted from 300 years ago
- Now up to those who wish to introduce changes to prove that their changes will optimize the mix of natural and cultural values
- Rather than diminishing, as our competence has increased so have the risks of our activities Easier to make a new chemical and use it than to
predict its effects on ecosystems and where it will end up
- In some way, our ignorance outfaces our knowledge
- Make latent value judgments explicit
- Env. values are often implicit and we don't see how much they matter to us until we loose them
- Multiple-use values now prevail and seem like they need not be argued for, while natural nonuse values can be seen as radical, new needing argument