Mark Sagoff has written an engaging and provocative book about the contribution economics can make to environmental policy. Sagoff argues that economics can be helpful in designing institutions and processes through which people can settle environmental disputes. However, he contends that economic analysis fails completely when it attempts to attach value to environmental goods. It fails because preference-satisfaction has no relation to any good. Economic valuation lacks data because preferences cannot be observed. Willingness to pay is benchmarked on market price (...) and thus may reflect producer cost not consumer benefit. Moreover, economists cannot second-guess market outcomes because they have no better information than market participants. Mark Sagoff's conclusion is that environmental policy turns on principles that are best identified and applied through political processes. Written with verve and fluency, this book will be eagerly sought out by students and professionals in environmental policy as well as informed general readers. (shrink)
Conservation biologists and other environmentalists confront five obstacles in building support for regulatory policies that seek to exclude or remove introduced plants and other non-native species that threaten to harm natural areas or the natural environment. First, the concept of “harm to the natural environment” is nebulous and undefined. Second, ecologists cannot predict how introduced species will behave in natural ecosystems. If biologists cannot define “harm” or predict the behavior of introduced species, they must target all non-native species as potentially (...) “harmful”. an impossibly large regulatory task. Third, loss of species richness may constitute harm to an environment, but introduced organisms typically, generally, and significantly add to species richness in ecosystems. If species richness correlates with desirable ecosystem properties, moreover, such as stability and productivity, as some ecologists believe, then introduced organisms, by increasing species richness, would support those desirable properties. Fourth, one may plausibly argue that extinction constitutes environmental harm, but there is no evidence that non-native species, especially plants, are significant causes of extinction, except for predators in certain lakes and other small island-like environments. Fifth, while aesthetic, ethical, and spiritual values may provide a legitimate basis for invasive species policy, biologists often cite concepts such as “biodiversity” and ecosystem “health” or “integrity” to provide a scientific justification. To assert that non-native species threaten biodiversity or undermine ecosystem health, however, may be to draw conceptual entailments or consequences from definitions of “biodiversity” and “integrity” that arbitrarily exclude non-native species or make the presence of exotic species a per se indicator of decline. (shrink)
In this paper, I adopt the view that if general forces or processes can be detected in ecology, then the principles or models that represent them should provide predictions that are approximately correct and, when not, should lead to the sorts of intervening factors that usually make trouble. I argue that Lotka–Volterra principles do not meet this standard; in both their simple “strategic” and their complex “tactical” forms they are not approximately correct of the findings of the laboratory experiments and (...) historical studies most likely to confirm them; nor do they instruct ecologists where to look for likely intervening factors. Evidence drawn from long-term case studies and other available data sets suggests that the populations of predators and their prey are not regulated by an interaction between them but are controlled by transient, contingent, and accidental events that affect each animal and each population individualistically. This paper argues that the presence of general forces or processes in ecology should be determined by comparing competing models of these forces not just to each other or to a null model but also to case studies that may challenge theoretical approaches with convincing individualistic causal accounts of the phenomena. (shrink)
Mark Sagoff draws on the last twenty years of debate over the foundations of environmentalism in this comprehensive revision of The Economy of the Earth. Posing questions pertinent to consumption, cost-benefit analysis, the normative implications of neo-Darwinism, the role of the natural in national history, and the centrality of the concept of place in environmental ethics, he analyses social policy in relation to the environment, pollution, the workplace, and public safely and health. Sagoff distinguishes ethical from economic questions and explains (...) which kinds of concepts, arguments, and processes are appropriate to each. He offers a critique 'preference' and 'willingness to pay' as measures of value in environmental economics and defends political, cultural, aesthetic, and ethical reasons to protect the natural environment. (shrink)
In this comprehensive collection of essays, most of which appear for the first time, eminent scholars from many disciplines—philosophy, economics, sociology, political science, demography, theology, history, and social psychology—examine the causes, nature, and consequences of present-day consumption patterns in the United States and throughout the world.
The essays in this volume apply philosophical analysis to address three kinds of questions: What are the implications of genetic science for our understanding of nature? What might it influence in our conception of human nature? What challenges does genetic science pose for specific issues of private conduct or public policy?
In their fine paper, Evans et al. discuss the proposition that invasive non-native species are harmful. The question to ask is, “Harmful to whom?” Pathogens that make people sick and pests that damage their property—crops, for example—cause harms of kinds long understood in common law and recognized by public agencies. The concept of “ harm to the environment,” in contrast, has no standing in common law or legislation, no meaning for any empirical science, and no basis in a political consensus (...) other than might be drawn from the Endangered Species Act. As a generalization, the proposition that INS cause “environmental harm ”—since this concept is empty of legal, scientific, and political meaning—must rest on definition, diktat, or diatribe. As Evans et al. suggest, however, the idea of “ harm to the environment” is not always and certainly need not be arbitrary; it might gather significance in the context of a particular place through a political process that weighs economic concerns with cultural, religious, aesthetic, and other relevant beliefs, practices, and commitments that people who care about that place present. It is not clear, however, that adaptive management, which Evens et al. propose, will provide that democratic political process. (shrink)
This paper argues that the occurrence of a non-native species, such as purple loosestrife, on one's property does not constitute a nuisance in the context of background principles of common law. No one is injured by it. The control of non-native species, such as purple loosestrife, does not constitute a compelling public interest, moreover, but represents primarily the concern of an epistemic community of conservation biologists and ecologists. This paper describes a history of cases in agricultural law that establish that (...) a public authority may enter private property to destroy a tree or other species but only to protect a compelling public interest, such as the apple industry in Virginia or the citrus industry in Florida, and only if it pays all the costs including just compensation. The paper argues a fortiori that if a public authority enters private property to control non-native or “invasive” species it must pay all the costs and indemnify the owner—contrary to what many state laws contemplate and the Environmental Law Institute recommends. (shrink)
Libertarians favor a free market for intrinsic reasons: it embodies liberty, accountability, consent, cooperation, and other virtues. Additionally, if property rights against trespasses such as pollution are enforced and if public lands are transferred as private property to environmental groups, a free market may also protect the environment. In contrast, Terry Anderson and Donald Leal's Free Market Environmentalism favors a free market solely on instrumental grounds: markets allocate resources efficiently. The authors apparently follow cost?benefit planners in endorsing a specious tautology (...) that ?defends? allocative efficiency by defining ?social welfare? in terms of it. They make no attempt to show that allocative efficiency is a good thing or that it is consistent with environmental protection. By regarding pollution as a compensable external cost rather than as an enjoinable nuisance and by arguing that the government should auction rather than give public lands to environmental groups, moreover, Anderson and Leal offer far less protection of the environment than libertarians do. (shrink)
Earthcare: Readings and Cases in Environmental Ethics presents a diverse collection of writings from a variety of authors on environmental ethics, environmental science, and the environmental movement overall. Exploring a broad range of world views, religions and philosophies, David W. Clowney and Patricia Mosto bring together insightful thoughts on the ethical issues arising in various areas of environmental concern.
The productive services of nature, such as the ability of fertile soil to grow crops, receive low market prices not because markets fail but because many natural resources, such as good cropland, are abundant relative to effective demand. Even when one pays nothing for a service such as that the wind provides in pollinating crops, this is its 'correct' market price if the supply is adequate and free. The paper argues that ecological services are either too 'lumpy' to price in (...) incremental units, priced competitively, or too cheap to meter. The paper considers counter-examples and objections. (shrink)
Original paintings and forgeries are not sufficiently the same sort of thing to have many comparable aesthetic qualities. 1) many aesthetic quality predicates have the form of attributives: they are two-place relations between an object and a class of objects and have a semantic account which requires that the object belongs to the class to which it is related; 2) there is no useful semantic class which contains an original and its forgery and 3) therefore these paintings are not to (...) be compared in at least many aesthetic qualities. attention is given to style predicates, which are defined. (shrink)
David Steen and co-authors in this journal offer a philosophical argument to support an “Evolutionary Community Concept” to identify what they call “evolutionary communities.” They describe these as “unique collections of species that interact and have co-evolved in a given geographic area” and that include “co-evolved dependencies between different parts of a community.” Steen et al. refer to the coevolution of assemblages, collections, communities, dependencies, interspecific and abiotic interactions, and traits, but they do not define “co-evolution” or provide an example (...) in which co-evolution has been demonstrated. There may be as many ways to explain interactions among species as these interactions themselves; they may result, for example, from ecological fitting and phenotypic plasticity. In this paper, I argue that standard Darwinian Theory explains intraspecific microevolution or descent with modification within an interbreeding and potentially continuous population. The power, mechanism, or force that causes interspecific co-evolution, especially at the community scale, requires further explanation. (shrink)
Ecologists may apply their science either to manage ecosystems to increase the long-run benefits nature offers man or to protect ecosystems from anthropogenie insults and injuries. Popular reasons for supposing that these two tasks (management and protection) are complementary turn out not to be supported by the evidence. Nevertheless, society recognizes the protection of the “health” and “integrity” of ecosystems to be an important ethical and cultural goal even if it cannot be backed in detail by utilitarian or prudential arguments. (...) It is a legitimate purpose of ecological science, moreover, to describe and help society preserve ecosystem “health” and “integrity,” insofar as these are considered as privative qualities. (shrink)
In this essay I criticize the contigent valuation method in resource economics and the concepts of utility and efficiency upon which it is based. I consider an example of this method and argue that it cannot-as it pretends-substitute for public education and political deliberation.
This paper argues that the new biotechnologies will affect the natural environment primarily in two ways: by bringing relatively “wild” areas, such as forests and estuaries, under domestication, and by forcing areas now domesticated, such as farms, out of production, because of surpluses. The problem of the safety of biotechnology—the risk of some inadvertent side-effect—seems almost trivial in relation to the social and economic implications of these intentional uses. The paper proposes that we should be more concerned about the successful (...) uses of biotechnology than about the possible mishaps or failures. (shrink)
Ecologists may apply their science either to manage ecosystems to increase the long-run benefits nature offers man or to protect ecosystems from anthropogenie insults and injuries. Popular reasons for supposing that these two tasks are complementary turn out not to be supported by the evidence. Nevertheless, society recognizes the protection of the “health” and “integrity” of ecosystems to be an important ethical and cultural goal even if it cannot be backed in detail by utilitarian or prudential arguments. It is a (...) legitimate purpose of ecological science, moreover, to describe and help society preserve ecosystem “health” and “integrity,” insofar as these are considered as privative qualities. (shrink)
At the forefront of international concerns about global legislation and regulation, a host of noted environmentalists and business ethicists examine ethical issues in consumption from the points of view of environmental sustainability, economic development, and free enterprise.
Surplus-not simply scarcity-provides a reason to preserve the natural environment. Although advances in biotechnology have made it possible to manipulate, alter, and replace ecological and evolutionary processes in order vastly to increase the production of economically valuable commodities, e.g., seafood in estuaries, the huge surpluses likely to result threaten fishing communities with the same economicdepression and social dislocation that farming communities have already experienced. In this context, protecting the biological status quo not only expresses an admirable affection and respect for (...) nature, but also makes economic sense by taking unneeded resources out of production. (shrink)
President Obama’s recent memorandum calling for an overhaul of White House regulatory policies provides an opportunity to revisit our reliance on cost-benefit analysis as a fundamental regulatory principle.
In this article I discuss the proposition that ecologists may place restrictions on the kinds of plants and animals and on the kinds of systems they consider relevant to assessing the resiliency of ecological generalizations. I argue that to restrict the extension of ecological science and its concepts in order to exclude cultivated plants, captive animals, and domesticated environments ecologists must appeal either to the boundaries of their discipline; to the idea that the effects of human activity are rare and (...) unusual enough to count as ceteris paribus conditions; or to the nature/culture divide. The boundaries of their discipline, however, are practical, not epistemological. The effects of human activity are ubiquitous and profound. And the nature/culture divide, as far as I know, has been infra dignitatem in the natural sciences at least since Charles Darwin and John Stuart Mill. Ecologists may reason, moreover, that organisms and systems that have the kind of history that interests them must as a result possess a kind of organization or some other general biological property that distinguishes them from those that do not. This is to commit a genetic fallacy. (shrink)
Richard Stopford, in criticizing my defense of purist restoration, attributes to me and refutes a metaphysical view I do not have concerning the identity and persistence conditions of an art work. I took for granted the ordinary idea of identity as continuity-in-space-and-time-under-a-sortal-concept, such as statue. I argued that Michelangelo’s Pietà remained the same statue after it was disfigured but that the damage was irreparable. By fixing molded prosthetics to the ruined work of art, the Vatican introduced a macaronic element into (...) one’s aesthetic attitude toward the Pietà by making one attend simultaneously, without any visual guidance as to which is which, to parts of the statue that were completed by Michelangelo’s hand and intended to be a work of art and pieces added in the twentieth century for an different purpose, e.g., to make viewing the statue less disconcerting than a recognition of the damage would demand. An integral restoration, in contrast, allows one both to envision the art work as created and to grieve for what has been lost. (shrink)