Jamieson, Ch 1, pp. 12-25




2.       TECHNOLOGY: Role of technology (in causing and solving env problems)

          a.       Technology a major cause: Victims of our own success

          b.       Examples of high tech solutions to env. problems

                    i.        Geo-engineering as response to climate change

                              (1)     Gardner on geo-engineering

          c.       ***Why are high-technological solutions to environmental problems so attractive to many?

                    i.        Belief in the scientist and engineer as “can-do guy”

                    ii.       Promise solutions to env. problems w/o forcing us to change our values, ways of life or economic systems

          d.       Recent emphasis on “green energy” is a technological approach to solving env. problems


3.       ECONOMICS (Role of economics in causing and solving env. problems)

4.       Real solution to env. problems is changing economic incentives away from env. harmful to env. friendly behavior

          a.       Env harmful examples:

                    i.        One price for as much garbage as you can produce versus charging by the amount of garbage (size of trash can)

                    ii.       Also, cheap gas, free subsidized roads, subsidies for use of public lands (artificially low prices for grazing, timber, mining leases)

          b.       Env friendly examples: Tax credits for hybrid cars, subsidized inexpensive rail and bus systems

5.       Env good are inefficiently allocated

          a.       (That is, they could be redistributed so that some are made better off w/o making anyone else worse off)

6.       Env. goods inefficiently allocated because they are “public goods” to a significant extent

7.       Public goods:

          a.       Non-rival: one person consuming it does not diminish another person’s consumption

          b.       Non-excludable: Available to everyone and can’t exclude people from benefitting from such goods even if they don’t pay for them

          c.       E.g., national defense or a public park or clean air

8.       “Env. good are relatively non-excludable, but significantly rivalrous” (in many cases)

          a.       It is hard to exclude people from using them, but this use often diminishes another’s ability to use

          b.       Example: People’s use of env. goods (e.g., air as a pollution sink), diminishes their value to others (e.g., polluted air less valuable) without paying the full costs of their use

9.       Car example

          a.       If I want your car, I have to buy it from you (and this increases efficiency–we are both better off)

          b.       But I get to drive it away and spew pollution out the tailpipe, causing air pollution (and harming many innocent people) and global warming--neither of which I have to pay for

10.     Public goods like the environment will tend to be over exploited

          a.       Markets allocate privately owned goods (cars, houses) well enough, but

          b.       Public goods like the atmosphere will be over-exploited

          c.       Cost of consuming a public (environmental) good is “externalized” onto the entire community

                    i.        Full cost of using a public (environmental) good not reflect in its price

                    ii.       So public goods like env will be over-exploited

11.     Solution to internalize these externalities

          a.       By making the public goods/bads private

                    i.        E.g., End species sold to highest bidder, privatize national parks (harming them would be to violate private property rights)

                    ii.       E.g., force businesses who pollute to prevent their pollution

          b.       Example: Which is cheaper? $5.00 for recycled paper or $4.00 for virgin paper?


          c.       Or by regulating, taxing, or subsidizing externalities


12.     Objections to economic approach to solving env problems

          a.       Economic solutions can lead to env destruction

                    i.        “Clear cut economics”: If the interest rate in banks is higher than the growth rate of whales, it makes economic sense to stop harvesting whales sustainably and harvest them all and put the money earned in the bank

          b.       Those who don’t participate in markets are ignored:

                    i.        Animals, plants (nature at large), poor, and future generations (ignored except to extent valued by current people)

          c.       Use of discount rate to value effects on future generation is problematic (p. 19)

                    i.        The benefits or costs in the further future become trivial (worth almost nothing now)

                    ii.       Some economists think preventing the worst impact of a global warming that will be felt over centuries is not worth sustaining even a small loss to the economy today

                              (1)     Because discounting future costs makes them of little value today

          d.       Economic rationality can be morally irrational

                    i.        Lawrence Summer’s memo (need more pollution in developing world)

          e.       Some costs not compensable at all


13.     RELIGION/VALUES/IDEAS/WORLDVIEWS (role in causing and solving env. problems)


14.     Lynn White’s “Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis” argued that :

15.     Env crisis is fundamentally a spiritual and religious crisis

          a.       A rejection of both economic and technical explanations of env problems

          b.       It is people’s beliefs, values, and commitments that really matter

          c.       “Ideas have consequences”

16.     Source of this crisis is the exploitative attitude toward nature in the dominant strand of the Christian tradition

17.     “Christianity is the most anthropocentric (human-centered) religion world ever seen”

          a.       Bible quotes that support this interpretation

                    i.         Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness". . . So God created man in his own image . . . and God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."

          b.       In Christianity, God became man in form of Jesus

                    i.        This is anthropocentric! (= human centered)

          c.       A blasphemous idea to Judaism and Islam, which are “theocentric” rather than anthropocentric

                    i.        For both religions, God utterly transcends the world; as radically distinct from humans as from nature; God made them but they are not divine

          d.       In Buddhism and Hinduism, divinity is manifest in all living things (not just humans) and goal of spiritual practice is often to realize the divinity within oneself.

                    i.        One might call these religions Pantheism (divinity is in everything)

          e.       All these other traditions reject the anthropocentrism at the heart of the dominant form of Christianity

18.     Christian anthropocentrism gave rise to development of modern science and technology

          a.       Which are attempts to manipulate and control nature for human benefit

          b.       “Science and technology are themselves expressions of the dominant tendencies within Christianity”

19.     Science and technology have a central causal role to play in env crisis but the cause that underlies them is Christian anthropocentrism

          a.       The new forms of plowing, irrigation and logging that arose in the late medieval period were developed and adopted

          b.       Because of the new philosophy coming out of Christianity that nature is there to be managed by humans for human benefit

20.     While true that env. problems serious in non-Christian parts of the world,

          a.       Christianity is still responsible because even there it is the science and technology Christianity spawned that is causing the problems

21.     Environmentally friendly minority tradition in Christianity

          a.       Represented in 12th century saint, Francis of Assisi

          b.       Sees human transformation of the earth as expression of the sin of pride

          c.       For a modern day expression see Wendell Berry, "Christianity and the Survival of Creation"



23.     Jamieson is a pluralist about the nature, causes and solutions of env problems, which he thinks are multi-dimensional

          a.       Economic, technological, religious and ethical approaches are all useful and needed.

24.     Env. problems have an important ethical dimension

          a.       Env problems challenge our ethical and value systems

Study Questions, Jamieson, Ch 1, pp. 12-25 and Lynn White’s Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis

1.         In your own mind how important is technology as a cause of environmental problems and as a possible solution to them?

2.         In your own mind how important is economics as a cause of environmental problems and as a possible solution to them?

3.         Explain the following concepts and given environmental examples of each: public goods, externalities, internalizing externalities, discount rate.

4.         Do markets work well in allocating public goods? Why or why not?

5.         Why did Larry Summer’s argue that we need more pollution in the developing world?

6.         What did Lynn White argue is the source of our environmental problems (in the “Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis?”)? Do you agree?

7.         In what way is Christianity anthropocentric (human-centered) and Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism not?

8.         Does White think technology has nothing to do with the env. Crisis? How does he respond to the objection that non-Christian countries have greatly exploited their environments (and why might someone think this is an objection to his view?)

9.         In your own mind how important is religion as a cause of environmental problems and as a possible solution to them?

10.       Which (if any) does Jamieson think is key in causing and solving env. Problems: technology, economics, religion/values?