Jamieson, Ch 7: Nature’s Future



1.       Nature is in trouble

          a.       Biodiversity is under siege

          b.       Climate is changing

          c.       Ozone hole not yet healed

                    i.        What is the difference between problem of climate change and ozone depletion?

          d.       Quality of human life at risk from

                    i.        New infectious diseases

                    ii.       Pollution of air, food, water

                    iii.      Loss of wildness and connection to nature

          e.       1000 scientists, four year study: “The ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted”


2.       Nature not a stable, equilibrium system, but a constantly changing one

          a.       Sometimes these changes dramatic:

                    i.        65 million years ago a giant meteor crashed into Yucatan Peninsula, killing off the dinosaurs and allowing the emergence of humans

          b.       Human civilization emerged in a relatively quite period of earth’s history

          c.       Human’s challenge not to preserve and protect stable equilibrium-seeking systems, but rather to cope with change

          d.       Humans must lean to live with profound changes we ourselves are causing.


3.       Climate change (and sea level rise)

          a.       Global warming will be faster at the poles

          b.       Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets already melting faster than most scientists though possible

                    i.        If they completely melt, sea level rise 70 meters

          c.       6 meter sea level rise would destroy much of Florida and Gulf Coast

          d.       1 meter rise inundate all major cities on East Coast of U.S.

          e.       Volume of oceans expand as they warm, and this alone will increase sea levels by 25 centimeters (10 inches)

          f.       Takes years for impact of GHG emissions to be felt

          g.       Rather than stabilizing GHG emissions, we continue to increase them about 3% a year

          h.       Continue on business as usual, can expect warming about 3 degrees centigrade (5-6 degrees Fahrenheit)

          i.        Last time earth this warm sea levels were more than 24 meters higher


4.       Humans are dramatically changing the planet

          a.       We have a profound ability to remake the global environment in ways we don’t understand

          b.       These dramatic anthropogenic changes are already well under way

5.       Vitousek’s 1997 article: We live on a human dominated planet

          a.       Between 1/3 and ½ earth’s land surface transformed by human action

          b.       30% increase in C02 in atmosphere since 1850

          c.       More nitrogen is fixed by humanity than all other terrestrial organisms combined

          d.       Over ½ of surface fresh water on planet is appropriated by humans

          e.       1/4 of earth’s bird species driven to extinction

6.       Vitousek’s 1986, NPP article: Humans appropriate about 40% of Earth’s terrestrial NPP

          a.       NPP = Net primary production - amount of biomass that remains after primary producers (e.g., plants, algae) have accounted for respiratory needs

          b.       Amount of biomass available for living organisms to use

          c.       One species (humans) using up 4/10 of this fundamental capacity of the earth!


7.       Ecological footprint analysis

          a.       A person/country’s ecological footprint = Amount of land area required to (sustainably? Yes) produce the resources consumed, absorb the wastes generated, given certain living standards and prevailing technology.

          b.       Orr on ecological footprint:

          c.       Calculate your own ecological footprint

8.       Commoner/Ehrilich’s IPAT formula

          a.       I = PAT

          b.       Impact (on env.) = population X affluence (consumption) X technology

          c.       Env. impact does not depend on single variable (e.g., population) but on how various variables interact

          d.       Different nations and people can have very different impacts

                    i.        E.g., average American impact is 4 times larger than global average


9.       Population

          a.       Population size is important, but only one factor in determining environmental impact

          b.       Population has exploded in 20th century

                    i.        1 billion 1802

                    ii.       2 billion, 1927 (125 years later)

                    iii.      3 billion , 1961 (34 years later)

                    iv.      4 billion, 1973, (12 years later)

                    v.       5 billion, 1986 (13 years later)

                    vi.      6 billion, 1999 (13 years later

          c.       Current (2006) 6.6 billion (China 1.3B, India 1.1 B, U.S. 300 million)

                    i.        Growing at rate double in 61 years

                    ii.       8 billion by 2025, 99% increase in developing world

                    iii.      8 of 10 largest pops in developing world

          d.       Much of 20th century pop increase due to decline in mortality rates

                    i.        Nutritional improvements, control infectious disease, and creation of public health systems

                    ii.       All very good things!

          e.       Fertility rates must decline

                    i.        To stabilize or reduce population rates in a morally acceptable way, need voluntary reductions in fertility (lifetime births per woman)

                    ii.       Been declining: 1960 average was 5, now 2.6

                              (1)     Many very poor countries have rates around 6 (Africa, Afghanistan)

                              (2)     China reduced rates from 6 to 1.73, India 6 to 2.73

                              (3)     Developed countries (U.S. 2.09, others 1.3 to 1.5)

                    iii.      Fertility rates controlled by economic factors, status of women, prevailing cultural values


10.     Affluence (consumption)

          a.       Climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions one way to track affluence/consumption

                    i.        In general, greenhouse gas emissions closely associated with national incomes

          b.       Large majority GHG come from rich countries

          c.       But China is now world’s largest emitter of CO2

                    i.        But China produces many of goods consumed in Europe and North America

          d.       Also, per capita, Americans emit 4 times as much as Chinese

          e.       Is China the world’s greatest polluter?


11.     Technology

          a.       Affects env. impacts many ways

          b.       E.g., Because rich countries have access to better technology, takes them fewer energy inputs to produce same amount of wealth

                    i.        More energy efficient, more env. friendly (in that respect)

                    ii.       U.S. 176 tons of carbon input to produce $1 million output

                    iii.      India 514

                    iv.      China 749 (in 1980, figure was 2,407)

                    v.       U.K., 116

                    vi.      Italy, 100

                    vii.     Germany 84

                    viii.    France 61

                    ix.      Japan 56


12.     Conclusion about different environmental impacts of different countries:

          a.       In determining the size of a nation’s ecological footprint (its affect on environment), the vast differences in affluence overwhelm differences in technology and even population.

                    i.        Eco-footprint of U.S. 2 (1.5) times China, and 6 (3) times India

                    ii.       Because our per person footprint is much larger (6-9 than Chinese, 12-24 than Indian person)

          b.       American footprint twice that of European person

          c.       American lifestyle: One person born in 1990s

                    i.        22 million pounds of liquid waste

                    ii.       2.2 million pounds of solid and atmospheric waste

                    iii.      4,000 barrels of oil

                    iv.      1.5 million pounds of minerals

                    v.       62,000 pounds of animal products (2,000 animals)

          d.       If an American wants to minimize his environmental impact, most effective thing he can do is refrain from having children

                    i.        He can drive around in an SUV, hang out at McDonald’s, take long hot showers and still have much less env impact that if he fathers one, good, green, nature-loving American child”


13.     Alternative ways to assess environmental impact (p. 189-90)

14.     If view nation/region as entitled to its natural wealth, then it is ratio of eco footprint to its natural wealth is better indicator of env. responsibility

          a.       A country’s rate of pollution/consumption can be higher and still env. more responsible, if it has greater natural wealth to consume from and absorb its waste

          b.       Rich countries like Canada/Australia do much better than poor countries like China and India

15.     If look at what proportion of their local NPP regions appropriate, North America does much better than South-Central Asia (23.7% versus 80.4%)

          a.       Reasons to think this is superior environmental responsibility: Leaving more biomass/land for nonhumans)

          b.       Or is this result of good luck in inhabiting a continent that is much more biologically productive?

          c.       Of course not just luck, but land use practices and environmental policy

          d.       But biological impoverishment of South-Central Asia affected by hisotry of exploitation and imperialism

          e.       Also, NPP appropriation that fuels North American and European lifestyle occurs offshore in developing world


          f.       South America (6.1%) and Africa (12.4%) have appropriated the lowest percent of their NPP

          g.       Europe (72.2%) is second highest.


16.     Conclusions about human impact on earth

          a.       “In late 1980s, humanity began to consume resources faster than Earth can regenerate them, gap is increasing every year”

          b.       Planetary impacts of highly consumptive lifestyles in industrialized world can’t be generalized.

          c.       Planet can’t stand many people who consume like Americans

          d.       Questions of justice raised



17.     Jamieson a “Social Ecologist”

          a.       Believes environmental and social problems (like poverty and injustice) in interrelated and must be solved together


18.     Global inequality and poverty: Differences in per person eco footprint of people in developed and developing countries expressions of global inequality and distribution of poverty

          a.       1/6 of world (including many in India and China) live highly consumptive lifestyles like most Americans and Europeans

          b.       2/6 face a constant challenge in meeting basic nutritional needs


19.     Because so many people live on edge, humanitarian disasters are predictable fact of life

          a.       Poor always harmed more by env. and other disasters (e.g., Katrina)

          b.       W/o aggressive action to mitigate climate change, 100s of millions of additional people will slip over edge and be of risk from hunger, malaria, flooding, water shortages

          c.       Most who will suffer will be poor in future generations



20.     Most claim they care about future generations

          a.       Some studies suggest it’s the primary motivation for env. concern


21.     Which future generations?

          a.       Those near us in time

                    i.        Directly related to (our children and their children)

                    ii.       Share circumstances and experiences

                    iii.      Can identify with them

                    iv.      After two or three generations, this concern fails

          b.       Further future

                    i.        These future people not identifiable individuals

                    ii.       With project we can identify

                    iii.      Live in a world difficult to imagine

                    iv.      They will, nonetheless, have to live with our nuclear waste and the climate change we are causing


22.     Reasons to be skeptical that we have strong duties to those in further future

          a.       They will be progressively better off and so no sacrifice makes sense (is something economists typically assume)

                    i.        They will benefit from investments of those before them

                    ii.       Any sacrifice we make for them is a transfer from those worse off to those who are better off

          b.       Can’t anticipate the preferences of those who will live in further future

                    i.        Will they be interested in whales or wilderness rather than virtual reality or some other source of satisfaction we can’t now imagine?

          c.       They will have substitutes: Sacrificing to preserve energy sources or limited commodity stocks (minerals) is foolish if tech changes result in cheap substitutes for them

          d.       Asymmetry of our relations with them undermines reciprocity

                    i.        We have enormous causal power over them, they have little power over us (except perhaps messing with my grave)

                    ii.       Undermines reciprocity (I have a duty to you only in so far as you have a duty to me)

                              (1)     We gift them accumulated capital, yet we receive nothing in return

                              (2)     Groucho Marx: Why should I do anything for posterity? What has posterity even done for me?

          e.       Unclear how to think about whether the world we create for the future will be good or bad for those people

                    i.        Parfit’s non-identity problem:

                              (1)     Because whether we pursue environmentally responsible or environmentally irresponsible policies will determine which people exist (because it determines how marries whom) and so as long as future people have lives worth living, hard to see how they can complain about any policies we have followed (p. 192-93)

                    ii.       Manhattan (NY City) analogy with past argument

                              (1)     Was the transformation of Manhattan island from rich natural paradise to the vibrant, architecturally impressive, culturally rich and diverse city it is today good or bad for Jamieson (who lives in NY city)

                              (2)     Much of what makes his life go better/worse presupposes the way the city is today

                              (3)     How compare his life today with life he would have lived in the wilderness of Manhattan?

                              (4)     If this question can’t be answered, then can’t also answer whether future people will be better or worse off in possible worlds we create for them


                              (5)     Maybe argument works when compare NY city with wilderness, but would not work if compare wilderness with starving, aids-ridden, environmentally polluted communities in Africa today

                              (6)     If we give the future something as different from today as NY City is from a wilderness and it is something good (like NY City), his worry makes sense

                              (7)     Does not make sense if what we give them is horrible living conditions.

23.     Response to non-identity problem (Consequentialism not deontology)

          a.       We can stop worrying about whether future we create is good or bad for the particular people that come into existence then and ask instead is this a good or bad future (is this a world that is a positive world when compared to alternative worlds we could create?)

          b.       This is assessing the future in consequentialist terms (how much good we produce) rather than in deontological terms (do we fulfil our duties to specific individuals)


24.     Jamieson accepts duties to those in further future

          a.       “Despite these arguments, most of us think we do have duties to those who will live in the further future, even if our motivation sometimes flags”


25.     Garrett Hardin’s life boat ethics argument against feeding the hungry (pp. 193-94)

          a.       Tragedy of the Commons: Each herder has an incentive to add an extra animal, because the herder individually gains all the benefit while sharing the cost with all other herders. Result is degradation of the pasture

                    i.        Tragedies of Commons source of most of our env. problem (pollution, land degradation, fisheries collapse)

          b.       Instead of seeing us as on a spaceship sharing the resources and fate of the planet together and resulting in tragedy of commons

          c.       Suggests lifeboat analogy

                    i.        60 max capacity, 50 people on board now, 100 in water who will drown if they can’t get in.

                    ii.       Could put all in boat and all drown

                    iii.      Could let in 10, lose boat’s safety factor and face question of whom to let in

                    iv.      Could admit no one to boat and fight off those who try to get on (is this like closing our boarders to immigrants looking for a better life?)

                              (1)     Harden advocates last option

          d.       Food aid to hungry displays flawed logic of unregulated commons: Gives benefits to individuals w/o imposing responsibilities

                    i.        Results in population receiving food aid breeding up to the next crisis point, where again require food aid.

                    ii.       Cycle repeats until people can’t or won’t provide any more food aid

                    iii.      Then population will starve and the more food aid provided the more will starve (as more people brought into existence by food aid)


          e.       Critique: Food aid is charity but what we need is redistribution of wealth which is a matter of justice

                    i.        Poor country/peoples entitled to resources and rich are wrong not to respond

                    ii.       Hardin admits current world order based on injustices, so not providing aid would be unjust, but it is still the right thing to do as more people will die if we give this aid.



26.     History of env. movement in 80s an 90s

          a.       1983 U.N. Commission on Environment and Development led to 1987 Brundtland Commission report “Our Common Future”

          b.       Defined sustainable development:

                    i.        “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”

          c.       In 1980s Soviet lead Mikhail Gorbachev and Senator and presidential candidate Al Gore leading environmental movement

                    i.        Gore wrote in Earth in the Balance: Ecology and Human Spirit: “We must make rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization”

          d.       Resulted in 1992 Rio Earth Summit (in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

                    i.        Largest gathering of national leaders ever held; thousands went

                    ii.       Expectations this would change the world toward env. sustainability

          e.       Some success, but overall disappointment

                    i.        Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted

                              (1)     American and Russian opposition prevented binding commitments on emissions reductions

                    ii.       Convention on Biodiversity adopted

                              (1)     U.S. refused to sign it and when later signed by Pres. Clinton, U.S. Senate refused to ratify it

                    iii.      Attempt to create a global convention to protect forests failed due to opposition by developing countries.

                    iv.      Agenda 21–impressively detailed program for integrating env. protection and development adopted, but was non-binding and has been ignored

                    v.       Couldn’t agree on an Earth Charter (new global code of ethics governing humans relations with nature), instead adopted an incoherent and fairly innocuous set of principles called the Rio Declaration

                    vi.      Population problem never on the table because a coalition of U.S. and Muslim, Catholic and developing countries

          f.       Possibility in the 1980s and early 90s for serious world action on environmental problems never came to fruition


27.     Jamieson’s three scenarios for our environmental future

                    i.        Environmental catastrophe

                    ii.       Continuing and increasing global inequality and environmental degradation

                    iii.      A change in way of life of world’s most privileged people


                    iv.      These may intermingle

                    v.       Jamieson thinks one of these three (or combination) must happen, but others might deny this

                              (1)     For example they might believe

                                         (a)     All could live as Americans do with not env. catastrophe

                                         (b)     We could leave inequality and env. degradation at its current levels


28.     A catastrophe for we humans and other living things, not the planet

          a.       “Save the planet” language is misleading as planet will go on no matter what we do

          b.       Ned thinks life will go on no matter what we do, not just the planet

                    i.        It is human life and the life of the current species we that exist with us now that is in jeopardy

                    ii.       For human it is the quality of their life in jeopardy, not the existence of the human species


29.     Whether we are currently experiencing an environmental catastrophe depends on where one lives, who one is, and one’s values

          a.       Everyday environmental problems cause death and destruction to vast numbers of humans and other animals

          b.       If one depends on the Aral sea for one’s livelihood one is living through an env. catastrophe

          c.       If one is a Great Ape being hunted for bush meat in Africa, env. catastrophe

          d.       If one is a tony (=rich) suburb of U.S. or Australia, doing just fine



          e.       Many ecologists think that species extinctions and biodiversity loss under way now are early stages of environmental catastrophe

          f.       Other’s deny biodiversity loss matters:

                    i.        Rush Limbaugh on endangered Northern Spotted Owl: “If the owl can’t adapt to the superiority of humans, screw it”

          g.       Even with many species extinct, many people will continue to have quite good lives in their own eyes


30.     But a catastrophe is likely (and perhaps undeniable) given the increasing number of people in developing world leading the life of affluence of those in developed world

          a.       If everyone lived as average American (energy consumption, meat production, automobile ownership)

          b.       We’d need 5.3 planets with resources of earth


31.     We prevent env catastrophe implied by everyone living in same way as average American by making sure they do not:

          a.       Rich continue to be rich and poor continue to be poor

32.     Morally indefensible

33.     Not a viable long term strategy: Preventing third world development not likely to work

          a.       Would struggle against their development prospects being intentionally thwarted to protect quality of life in developed countries

                    i.        But given the imperative for global economic consumerism, not plausible to think we are (or will) try to stop this....

34.     Developing world in a position to do a great deal of damage to rich countries and what we value

          a.       Weapons of mass destruction proliferate

          b.       Ozone: 9 developing countries still manufacture ozone depleting chemicals, if don’t stop ozone depletion will again take center stage as most threatening env problem.

          c.       Biodiversity: Custodians of much of world’s biodiversity; and w/o their active cooperation, much will be lost

          d.       Climate: If China does not get more env friendly technologies, it will fuel its development with vast coal reserves (500 new coal powered plants on being developed)

                    i.        Would be devastating to global env.

                    ii.       Not what China wants, but prefer it to remaining poor.


35.     Deal possible: Rich countries set an example and help developing world develop in env friendly way

          a.       Developing countries develop in a way that leapfrogs polluting, resource-intensive way Europe and America developed

                    i.        Move to highly efficient, sustainable technologies of future

          b.       Developed world will–to a large extent--have to develop, provide and pay for this new technology

          c.       Rich countries will have to set an example by reducing own consumption and moving towards sustainability


36.     Europeans seem to be willing

          a.       Committed themselves to reduce GHG emissions and put themselves at a competitive disadvantage with respect to U.S. which refuses to control own emissions

          b.       Adopted important env laws

                    i.        Germany’s law requiring manufacturers to be responsible for products through life cycle (take them back when consumers done with them)

                              (1)     Like a bottle bill for everything!

                    ii.       London’s congestion pricing system reduced traffic and air pollution


37.     Will Americans reduce consumption, increase efficiency and move towards sustainability?

38.     Reasons for being pessimistic

          a.       President Bush (2nd) tells us to go shopping to defeat terrorism

          b.       President Clinton “it’s the economy stupid” mantra that led to his success

          c.       President Reagan: “Conservation means that we’ll be hot in the summer and cold in the winter”

          d.       President Bush (1st) at Rio Earth Summit: “The American way of life is not negotiable”

          e.       President Carter, the most env friendly president, told us we are going to have to change (“too many of us are obsessed with consumption”) and result was he was thrown out of office.

          f.       We are remarkably materialistic; obsessed with wealth

          g.       Economic and growth indicators permeate our lives

                    i.        Env concern loses out because seen as inconsistent with economic growth and supposed comforts it brings


39.     Europeans (unlike Americans) have been willing to give up some economic growth for other values

          a.       (Are win-win synergies between economic growth and env protection)

          b.       Greater leisure, more equality, less poverty, greater provision of public goods (e.g., opera houses, universal health care)

          c.       In many ways they are better off than we are

                    i.        Europeans work about 20% less than Americans and many have legal right to one month paid vacation

                    ii.       Average American takes 2 weeks, sometimes w/o pay


40.     American’s obsession with economic growth and wealth is foolish as

41.     Wealth is not good indicator of happiness

          a.       Past a basic level wealth does not make people happy (rather love, companionship and meaningful activities do)


42.     John Stuart Mill’s argument for stationary state economy and more simple living (and anti-materialism) as key to happiness (p. 201-202)

          a.       Necessary for wildness

                    i.        Continuous economic growth will wipe out the wildness of nature, we will live in a world with no spontaneous nature and solitude in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur will be gone

          b.       Stationary economy (lack of economic growth) does not entail lack of human improvement

                    i.        Lots of room for all kinds of mental culture and moral and social progress; much room for improving the Art of living and much more likely it will be improved


43.     American materialism is a recent phenomenon: Celebration of consumption is a departure from main themes of American life and history

          a.       Founders of this country emphasized virtues of thrift, prudence and simplicity

                    i.        Ben Franklin: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing”

          b.       Many in 60s took pride in minimal rather than conspicuous consumption

          c.       1970s environmental slogans “Small is beautiful” “Live simply so others may simply live”

          d.       We were global leaders in environmentalism until 1980s.


44.     Serious difficulties in moving American toward reduced consummation and increased efficiency

          a.       High resource loads built into almost everything consumed in U.S.

          b.       Recycling and volunteerism are not enough

          c.       Political barriers to change exist

                    i.        Cost of present lifestyles pushed onto future generations, other nations, or onto nature

                    ii.       Those who would lose from transition to sustainability are well organized and well represented while those who would benefit are not


45.     Possibility of hope

          a.       People power movements that brought down communism caught people by surprise

          b.       Ban smoking in public places exploded years after it was known to be a serious problem

          c.       Maybe prospects of environmentalism can have such a dramatic change


46.     Action at many different levels needed

          a.       Individual action important in part because it’s a signal to politicians

          b.       Churches, env groups, media, are important in mobilizing change

          c.       Government action is necessary

                    i.        Via regulatory power

                    ii.       Ability to alter market behavior

                              (1)     Markets extremely important