Questions on Environmental Action


1.        Describe “no impact man.” What did he (and his family give up)? What benefits did they get from it. Was this a worthwhile endeavor?

2.        What 4 things did David Sirota give up during “low-impact week?” Describe one of the lessons Sirota learned during this week?

3.        Explain the objection that attempts to reduced personal pollution harm environmental causes because they make conservation a purely individual effort. Assess this claim from your own point of view.


4.        Why does Derrik Jensen tell us to “Forget Shorter Showers?” Is he right? What does he think about “personal solutions” to environmental problems and living simply as a response to those problems?

5.        Do you agree with Jensen that “the industrial economy is killing the planet?” Do you agree with him that we must “act decisively to stop the industrial economy” and that the “role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems?”

6.        Explain why Jensen thinks simple living as a solution to environmental problems accepts the idea that we have become consumers rather than citizens? Why is this a problem?


7.         Describe the four cases Peter Singer gives to help explore the question of the morality of law breaking. Which of these cases were justified in your view? Which not? Why?

8.        Describe a case where lawbreaking to protect the environment led to environmental protection. Describe a case where lawbreaking to protect animals let to the protection of animals.

9.        What does Singer think about the suggestion that the ends can never justify the means?

10.      Is it always morally wrong to break the law? (Think of Oscar Schindler.) Is it always morally wrong to break the law in a democratic society? (Think of Martin Luther King.)


11.      In Wendell Berry’s Speech Against State Government, what practice is he objecting to?

12.      In your opinion, do our governments encourage environmental destruction? If so, give an example. Do you agree with Berry that money seriously corrupts politics?

13.      Does Berry think that in the face of great violence retaliatory violence is a good solution? Do you agree with him when he says “I do not believe in violence as in any sense a solution to any problem.” Does he advocate patience as a response to ongoing environmental destruction?

14.      What is non-violent resistance or insistence or obstruction? What is civil disobedience and how is it different from other types of lawbreaking (E.g., sabotage, terrorism, self-interested lawbreaking)? Is one easier to justify than the other?


15.      What are the reasons for thinking law breaking for env. goals harms the environmental movement? What are reasons for thinking it can help?

16.      If your favorite natural area (Yellowstone, Smoky Mountain National Park) was going to be destroyed (by development), would you be willing to break the law as part of a campaign to protect it? Could such activities ever be justified?

17.      If one believes animals have equal rights on a par with human rights, does it follow that one ought to break into research labs and release the animals? If one believes that fetus are persons with the same rights as you and me, then is it permissible to shoot abortion doctors?